A common concern that I hear from parents about sex education for teenagers, is that they just don’t want to hear what they have to say.
I was recently asked this question by a parent: How do you talk to your teenage son about sex when he says he doesn’t want to hear about it, as he says he learns it all at school?
I’m afraid to say, but there comes a time when your kids just don’t want to talk to you about sex. And usually it is in their early teens. They seem to either be not listening or they tell you that they are learning about it at school.
Or worse yet, they think they know everything. (NB I have been working and studying in this area for 25+ years and I still don’t know everything – I don’t think I ever will!)
If you’re not a reader, you can find a video answer about sex education for teenagers here.
You’ll find more information about sex education in my Sex Education 101 page.
The research tells us that even though teens say that they aren’t interested in hearing it from us and/or they appear to not be listening, that they actually are listening.
We also know that teens want to be able to talk to their parents about sex.
Sex education for teenagers research tells us that nearly nine out of 10 teens say that it would much easier for them to delay sex and to avoid pregnancy if they could talk with their parents about it.
More sex education research for teenagers, tells us that nearly half of all teens say that their parents are the most important influence when it comes to making decisions about sex. But still, many teens wish they could discuss these issues more with their parents. Nearly two-thirds of teens say they wish they could talk to their parents more about relationships.
So the sex education research for teenagers tells us that teens crave these conversations with parents, even if they don’t always act like it.
When it comes to sex education for teenagers, there are a range of strategies that parents can use. What used to work in the past, or with a particular child, may not work anymore. So it is very much a case of using a range of different strategies.
But you also need to come across with an everyday, casual approach. You don’t want to sound as if you are giving your teen a lecture. It needs to sound as if you are talking about something as mundane as the weather!
Teachable moments are where you find everyday situations and turn them into an opportunity to teach something, like something that you are watching on tv, a song on the radio, or even clothes shopping.
Once you start looking, you will find opportunities for sex education for teenagers everywhere.
Another opportunity for sex education for teenagers is to strike up a conversation whilst you are both doing something together, like – driving in the car, kicking a ball, sweeping up the leaves in the yard, cycling together.
You have to find your golden opportunity and grab it!
This is your opportunity to talk about your experiences of growing up – that first kiss, being the geek, having parents who were strict, your first love and maybe even your first sexual experiences!
Trust me, your teen will listen and hopefully realise that you do understand. And you never know, it may strike up a conversation!
This can be something as simple as ‘Hey, I want to talk to you tonight about a sex thing’ (and do make sure that you follow up). It pre-warns them and can sometimes make them more receptive to talking.
Send them a casual message or write a note about something, like – ‘left condoms in the top bathroom of the drawer’, ‘ring me if you need a lift home from the party tonight’, ‘don’t forget our code if you need an excuse to come home early tonight’, or ‘don’t drink too much’.
Books can date pretty quickly but there are some great resource books out there. Check out what the current best sellers are in your favourite online bookshop! There are also some great websites out there that can answer questions and provide good information. You can find some great books on sex education for teenagers in this book review site.
When it comes to sex education for teenagers, don’t give up – sometimes you have to try a strategy a few times before it strikes up a conversation.
The trick is to use a few different strategies so that you keep on sounding as if it is everyday stuff that you’re talking about.
And remember, it isn’t necessarily what you are saying, but the fact that you’re open to talking, that is important. Your teen needs to know that you’re open to talking about sex stuff. And by talking, you are giving them permission to come and talk to you anytime!
And don’t forget to talk about your values and beliefs ie eg don’t just talk sex but also how you feel about when first sex should happen.
And if you’ve never spoken about sex stuff before, just start off slowly – the more you talk, the easier it gets.
The most important thing though, with sex education for teenagers, is to just keep on talking – as they are listening!
I'm Cath, a sex educator living in Australia with my husband and 2 kids. I help parents to talk about sex (with less cringe and more confidence) and empower their child to make smart sexual decisions. To find a better way to talk about sex, you can join my community of parents and visit my shop for helpful resources.