Be clear about your own sexual values and attitudes.
Talking to your children about love, sex, and relationships will be more successful when youíre clear about how you feel about them. You are the strongest influence in your childís life. Share your values, but understand and accept that your child may not have the same attitudes and values about sex.
Talk with your children about sex early and often.
Forget about "The Talk." Kids need more than a one-time lecture. They need to develop values, morals, and beliefs. Be on the look-out for "teachable moments." Use television, movies, magazines, or real-life situations like a friendís pregnancy to talk about sex, love, and relationships.
Get to know your children.
Itís hard to talk about sex with someone you never really talk to. If you start early and have ongoing conversations with your children, talking about sexuality will be a much easier conversation.
Donít assume that if your child asks questions about sex, he or she is necessarily thinking about having sex.
Some parents believe that talking about sex will lead adolescents and teens to have sex. In fact, research shows that teens who have talked to their parents about sex are more likely to postpone sex. Your child needs accurate information now to help protect them from pressure to have sex, unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases in the future.
Set a good example.
Children are constantly watching and listening to you. Is what youíre doing or watching consistent with the values you want your child to learn?
Itís not just the birds and the bees.
Donít limit your conversations to just sex. Talk to your children about abstinence, the male and female reproductive systems, pregnancy, birth control, love, sexual orientation, emotional consequences of having sex, the effects of alcohol and other drugs on decision-making, rape, and sexual assault.
Donít rely solely on the schools.
No matter how good the sexuality education is at your childís school, itís unrealistic to believe that schools can completely cover the complex issues of love, sex, and relationships.
Leave age-appropriate articles or books about teenage sexuality around your home.
These can help spark conversations between you and your child or help with an issue that is particularly sensitive or hard for you to talk about. Visit your library for help on books that deal with adolescent sexuality or visit your local health department for brochures and information on sex issues such as pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Donít wait for your child to start the conversation.
Many adolescents wish they could talk to their parents about sex, but feel uncomfortable asking questions. They may end up getting all the wrong information from their friends and the media.
Reassure your child that not everyone is having sex.
Teenagers often believe that all their friends are having sex or overestimate the percentage of their peers who are sexually experienced. Let them know itís okay to not have sex, and that the decision to be sexually active is too important to be based on what their friends think or do.