Talking about sexuality

Sexuality   ›   Talking about sexuality

Discussing sexuality with your child can be awkward for many different reasons, but there are different approaches you can take to help you feel more comfortable. Follow these tips to learn how to broach the subject and answer the tough questions.

Why is it so Difficult to Talk About Sexuality?

For several reasons; as adults, our level of ease can vary greatly when talking to teenagers about sexuality.


We might be comfortable talking about sexuality in general, but have difficulty discussing it with our own children, as we feel emotionally involved in their education.


Plus, we might be comfortable addressing certain topics but not others (i.e.: I’m comfortable talking about STBBIs, but not about heartbreak). Everyone is different, and it’s okay not to be comfortable with every subject.


Everyone has their own sexuality, and our experiences shape our views. As a parent, you might have experienced personal challenges that prevent you from feeling comfortable discussing the subject. That is perfectly normal!


You might also simply be uncomfortable talking about sexuality, and struggle to find the right words to discuss it.

A Few Tips for Feeling More Comfortable Discussing Sexuality

The Importance of Tone

Although our teenager’s sexual behaviours, or questions, might catch us off guard or make us uncomfortable, it is best to choose a friendly, yet firm and reassuring tone. If this is unsettling to you and you feel you have been closed off, remember that you can always go back and open the discussion again!


If, however, your teenager is acting in a way that goes against another person's rules or boundaries, it is appropriate to act with greater authority and intervene the same way you would as for any other behaviour you consider unacceptable.


Look Beyond Sexual Relationships

Remember that talking about sexuality is not limited to genitalia and sexual relationships. Quite the contrary! When you teach your child to assert themselves, to express their feelings, and to understand how their body works; when you talk to them about love, interpersonal relationships, respect, and biology, that is also sex education. Chances are, you’re already doing it without realizing it!


Tune in to Yourself

Be conscious of your own limits. You do not need to be a specialist or be comfortable discussing every topic out there. Answer the questions you’re most comfortable with and, if needed, direct your child to additional resources for more information (i.e.: books, the Tel-jeunes website, another close adult whom your child can trust).


Admit that you Don’t Have All the Answers

A great answer when asked about sexuality could be: “thank you for asking me, it’s great that you want to discuss it with me. I’m not quite sure how to answer that, but I’d love for us to find out together!”. This shows your child that you are willing to help them find accurate and reliable information, while telling them that it’s normal not to have all the answers!


Turn to External Resources

Use situations outside your child’s life to address certain topics, like: watching a show that deals with romantic relationships in order to open up a discussion, talk about a couple you know, or about the romantic relationships of their friends. External situations in media or everyday life are often great opportunities to start a dialogue, observe your child’s point of view on a situation, and deliver messages you deem important.


No Right or Wrong Answers

Remember that when it comes to discussing sexuality, there are rarely any right or wrong answers. Beyond the cookie-cutter responses, the goal is to get your child to reflect critically on various situations pertaining to their romantic and emotional relationships, to sexuality, sexual relations, and more. This allows them to make informed decisions regarding the choices they have, knowing they can count on you to talk when they need to.


Openness: a Powerful Resource for your Teenager

During their first sexual relationships, young people experience a great deal of insecurity and have a number of questions. Remember that if they need information, they will find it, either in books, online, from their friends, their brothers and sisters, you, a specialist, or their partners. The more accurate information you provide them with and the more open you are to discussions, the more likely your teenager will be to turn to you in their time of need.


Examples of Questions to Begin a Discussion

  • What do you think of the relationship between these characters in the show?
  • Your friend is heartbroken. How are they taking care of themselves right now?
  • Your aunt and uncle are separating, which is causing a lot of conflict. It must be very difficult for your cousins. What do you think about it?
  • I read that many teenagers are into sexting. What do you and your friends think about it?
  • What do you think makes teenagers send sexts, despite the risks?
  • When I was your age, we didn’t know the first thing about contraception. I feel like things might be different today. Am I right?


How to Send the Right Message at the Right Time

Take Advantage of their Questions

If your child makes remarks about sexuality (“what’s oral sex mean?” “Condoms are gross”), it’s a sign that they’re showing interest. This is a great opportunity to discuss it with them! If you don’t know what to say, you can choose to answer with a question. For example, “where did you hear about oral sex?”, or, “what makes you curious about the subject?”.


Rely on Existing Messages

Since sexuality is everywhere today, in magazines, newspapers, on television, the Internet, and in ads, why not use that to start a conversation about sexuality with your teen? This provides an opportunity for them to voice their opinion and for you to discuss values with them, as well as the meaning these messages convey to society.


Discuss Contraception

When your teenager starts to become curious, it’s a sign that it’s time to discuss contraception. But many teenagers are hesitant to talk about sexuality with their parents. If this is the case, you can rely on a television show, a book on the subject strategically placed in the living room, etc. You can also give them condoms or offer to book them a doctor’s appointment for hormonal contraception.


Suggest Reading Material

Give your child informative books on sexuality that they can consult at their leisure. You can also refer them to the Sex section of the Tel-jeunes website, which is full of useful information on sexuality, first times, contraception, STBBIs and more.

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