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A Top Ten List for Talking to Teens About…Well, You Know

Stop talking! Start listening! Know yourself first -- and seven other suggestions for parents who know they need to talk about sex with their teens.

1. Know yourself.
What are your expectations, your hopes, and your fears about your
teenager’s sexual and romantic development?  You’ll have far more
control over yourself and your interactions if you have a full
understanding of these things.

2. It’s not about you. Your
teenager is, in fact, discovering sex for the first time.  They don’t
want to hear about you and your sex life or your path to discovering
sex.  They want to talk about their current exciting, overwhelming
path.  So let them!  That’s how you’ll get to know your teenager – and
that’s now one of the primary goals of your parenting.  (If your
teenager directly asks you about your own experiences, well, that’s a
different matter for another time.)

3. Stop talking! As the parent of a teenager, you
are in the business of trying to get to know your teenager, not to give
information.  If you’re talking, you can’t hear anything your teenager
is trying to tell you.

4. Start listening! Stop
talking.  Start listening.  They’re different things, really.  Far too
many parents remember to stop talking, but they haven’t learned how to
really listen.  Remember what business you’re in?  And that can’t
happen if you don’t really, really listen.

5.  You only get one question. You’d better make
it a good one that can’t be answered with a yes or a no.  Feel free to
spend some time mulling over it.  You can ask it when you’re sure it’s
a good one.

6. Do something else.Anything
else.  Many teenagers, especially boys, will have an easier time
talking about sexuality and romance if you’re doing something “side by
side” like driving, walking, or playing a game rather than sitting and
looking at each other.

7. Pleasure and pain. You
have to talk about both.  If you don’t acknowledge the pleasure
associated with sexuality, you’re teenager will think you’re completely
out of touch.  And so you will be completely out of touch.

8. Be cool like a cucumber.
It is only when you manage to have a calm, loving demeanor that your
teenager will feel comfortable talking with you.  Avoid shutting your
teenager down by being angry, reactive, or opinionated at all costs! 
Because you’re in the business of getting to know your teenager.  The
only way to do that is if your teenager keeps talking.

9. Bring it on! Your
teenagers have tough questions.  Some of them quite specific and
technical.  If you’re able to answer these questions with honesty,
humor, and no judgment, your teenager will feel much more at home
coming to you with increasingly difficult emotional decisions.

10. Never surrender. There may be times you feel like quitting.  Like the millionth time
when you’ve tried to have an actual conversation with your teenager –
about anything, much less sex! – and your teenager has once again
completely avoided eye contact and has not even acknowledged your
existence.  But you can’t quit.  You’re still doing good by being
continually present, so keep going.  Trust me.

This post first appeared on Adolescent Sexuality, Dr. Karen Rayne’s blog.