• Relax and create an open environment for talking (and listening). Your child can tell when you’re uptight. In order to foster an environment that’s conducive to meaningful discussion, you need to be calm and confident. Encourage your child to ask anything he wants (and thank him when he does). If you don’t, he’ll probably seek an answer somewhere else. Don’t overreact to something he says, even if it’s not what you expected to hear. The goal is to make your home the preferred place for discussions. Don’t just talk. Ask questions. Listen to his responses.

• Give accurate, age-appropriate information. Listen closely to the questions you’re being asked. Don’t get lost in details if your child asks a very general question. Consider his age and what’s appropriate for him to know, but also remember that kids today experience puberty earlier than ever. Kids are also exposed to sexual imagery and vocabulary more freely and at a much younger age.

• Don’t be afraid to say, "I don’t know." Admitting to your child that you don’t know the answer to his question could be the one thing that helps your relationship thrive. He needs to know you have limitations. Rather than letting this slow you down, use your lack of knowledge as an opportunity to research the issue in more depth together.

• Anticipate the next stage before it happens. It’s always better to be proactive than reactive. You can be an even stronger advocate for your child by preparing him for what’s ahead. Being proactive gives you the opportunity to discuss with your child appropriate responses to a variety of situations that might arise.

• Be aware of your actions. As you become comfortable talking with your child about sexual issues, be careful about bringing up discussions during what might be an embarrassing time for him (such as when his friends are around).

• Teach your child how to develop healthy relationships. As you talk to him about the importance of saving sex for marriage, it’s important that you provide him with alternatives on what to do with his emotions and physical desires. Learning how to develop strong friendships is a skill every child needs. Many young people grow up without learning about healthy friendships, so it’s no surprise that when they begin to seek a relationship with the opposite sex, they skip the friendship phase. Teach your child what healthy friendships look like. Also, encourage him to develop healthy relationships with adults other than yourself. These individuals can serve as great role models, resources for questions, and support for your child’s psychological and emotional growth.

• Integrate your family’s faith and values in the discussion. Never underestimate the power of faith when it comes to your child making a decision about becoming sexually active. According to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (the largest study of adolescent behavior ever), students who reported having taken a pledge to remain a virgin were significantly more likely to delay their sexual debut. In another poll, teens cited religion as the second-strongest influence in their lives, just behind their parents.

• Love your child unconditionally. Remind him how much you love him – for who he is, not what he does. And if he blows it, don’t take his mistakes personally. Step up to the plate and help him through the crisis.

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Used by permission of Fleming H. Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, copyright © 2005. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Baker Publishing Group. http://www.BakerPublishingGroup.com.

 

Melissa R. Cox is a vice president with Cox Creative, Inc., a full-service marketing firm in Denver. The former director of marketing and public relations for the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, Melissa also serves as the editor of Focus on the Family's Physician magazine and as the managing editor of the best-selling Complete Book of Baby and Child Care. Melissa, her husband, Alan, and their two sons live in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.