As parents it can be awkward and difficult to talk to our children about our sexual expression. If we could broaden our own outlook on how we view our own sexuality it will help us to talk to our children/teenagers about what it means to be a sexual human being. Our sexuality is an essential/natural part of who we are – it is our zest for life, it is how we can show love to ourselves and how we can share that love with another in a loving relationship. As with all parenting keeping the lines of communication open is vital for us to help our children to make good choices for themselves and to take responsibility .
- Be under no illusion if there is no discussion about sex it does not mean it is not happening. Knowledge and understanding gives us the ability to make more informed choices. To know how to physically stay safe is vital e.g. safe sex, contraception etc. but to be able to do this in a real way it is also vital to be able to emotionally mind ourselves. To learn this through fear will not help our teenagers’ self-esteem.
- As our children grow up they will ask questions it is important to answer those questions in an age appropriate way. Be honest and only answer the question asked. Let your child take the lead so that as they get older the questions keep coming!
- Create the safety for your child/teenager to ask the questions. Safety is created by listening unconditionally. Teenagers will pick up cues on we how react or response to TV programmes, newspapers, books etc.
- There are enormous hormonal changes and we see this in how much their bodies change throughout the teenage years. We need to understand as parents that part of a teenagers’ life is to push boundaries and it is our job as parents to help then to do this in a way that is respectful for themselves and others.
- We need to keep the lines of communication open in all aspects of our lives. If we don’t talk about the everyday stuff how will they be able to come to us with a question about sex.
- Be available to talk about sex. We are enabling our teenagers to view their sexuality as to how they feel and view themselves. They then can make choices around how they can mind and respect themselves when they begin to explore their own sexuality.
- Discuss alcohol misuse and that when we drink we say and do things we would not do when we are sober. Responsibility around alcohol use is also very much tied up on how we feel and see ourselves.
- Don’t invade their privacy. We all need our privacy and our own space and we need to give our teenagers the space to separate out from us to become independent young adults.
- Listening to our teenagers enables them to make good choices and we are also showing them that we trust that they can make those good choices for themselves. They are also more likely to come to us for support if they have a problem or dilemma they need to sort out.
- Peers are very important for teenagers and we need enable our teenagers to know their own minds particularly within the peer group so that they will not do something because of peer pressure.
This ’10 ways’ tips for parenting was written by Carol Byrne, Relationship Mentor and Tutor with One Family.