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General Guidelines for Talking About Sex with Your Children


Many fathers have a hard time articulating to their children both the clinical details and the values associated with sex. Overcoming the anxiety about these kinds of issues is the place to start, and here are some ideas about getting focused and organized to visit with your children about sex.

Focus on Your Overall Relationship. While dads often think about "the talk" as an infrequent experience, the truth is that the quality of our relationships with our kids is the best determiner about how well we communicate about sex or anything else. Focus your energies on spending quality time and developing an honest, trusting and open relationship.

Understand Your Own Attitudes and Values. This can be tough because our attitudes about sex are just not something we think about regularly. Before you initiate a discussion about sex, take some time and identify your values. Some dads I know take the time to write down 7 to 10 messages they want their children to understand about sex. This is a pretty good way of identifying your values. For example, such a statement might be " Sex is one important component of a permanent, committed and trusting relationship." Or "Teens that have sex must take responsibility for their actions." Just listing these messages is a good exercise in understanding what you think and feel about sex.

Put it in a Relationship Context. In the world in which we live, there are many messages about sex that tend to isolate it from its true context. A few episodes of Friends or Sex in the City suggest that media messages disassociate sex from relationships. Help your children understand that sex is not an isolated experience. It follows from commitment in a relationship.

Give Accurate but Age Appropriate Information. An important part of communicating with your children about sex is giving them accurate information. But it is also important to give information which is appropriate for your child's age. Giving clinical information about sexual arousal shouldn't be part of a discussion with a five year old.

Talk with Your Daughter About Sex. Dads and daughters can both feel a little awkward talking to the other about sex. But daughters need to hear their fathers' attitudes about sex and intimacy. It's OK to have mom there, but don't let gender differences stop you from having the conversation.

Relax. For some reason, dads tend to get a little nervous when discussing sex with their children. If you feel uncomfortable, prepare yourself and then take a few deep breaths. Remember that this is just a normal part of being a parent.

Talk About Responsibility and Consequences. Any discussion of sex should involve a discussion about responsibility. When you tell your son or daughter about sex, remind them that every action has consequences. This is not to scare them; rather it is to help them understand the end result of their choices. Any sexual contact has risks-things like pregnancy, disease, or strong emotional reactions.

Encourage Questions. Keeping the lines of communication open is critical in this process. Some of what you say may elicit clarifying questions. Their exposure to sexual information at school, in the neighborhood or in the media may generate some questions as well. Be open and communicative and ask them to ask you when they have a question.

Read more about talking to your children about sex.

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