Having “The Talk”
Parents often worry about having to talk about sex and sexuality with their child. The good news is that there are a great many more resources available to parents today than there were in our own parents' generation. While the information is readily available, it can also feel overwhelming at times. The basics are always a really great place to start.
You should look at the topic of sexuality as a series of discussions, rather than one lengthy conversation. There are many resources available for having these discussions. Some of the resources available are for teens and some are for parents. Talk to other parents to see what they recommend. You may also get a good recommendation from your son's health care provider.
Teen boys may try to avoid checkups with the doctor, even when the doctor is not a pediatrician. The reason? It's not cool. Talk to your son about the importance of checkups, and be sure he gets his annual checkups throughout his teen years.
It is natural for children to have questions beginning at a very early age. Make sure you understand the question before you launch into an explanation. When your son asks, “What is birth control?” he may not be asking where to buy condoms, but simply for the definition of the phrase. It's easy to scare teens with too much information.
The opposite is also true. Parents can certainly provide too little information. This means that your resourceful teen son will find the information through his own sources. The bad news here is that these sources may be inaccurate and lack your values and judgment. Even though the questions may be frightening for your son and uncomfortable for you both, do not hesitate to talk to your son.
Testicular cancer is most common between the ages of fifteen and thirty-nine. Your son needs to know how to perform a testicular self-exam. You can get brochures on how to perform a TSE from your health care provider or online.
Circumcision may become a question at this point. Some boys are and some boys aren't. They may begin to notice the differences about now. If you haven't discussed your decisions regarding circumcision before, now is an appropriate time. Be sure to discuss the proper care of his penis and penile health in general.
If your son is not coming to you with questions, take the initiative. A good subject to start with is simply changes in his body, preferably before they happen. Discussing what puberty can do to his mind and body will help prepare him for the changes and give you the chance to start the conversation on a safe note.
From this point, you can move on to other topics. Remember that some issues will be more comfortable than others. Try to start with what you are comfortable with. Some possible topics to discuss with your teen son include, but are not limited to:
The male body
The female body
The mechanics of sex
Emotions and sex
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
Alternatives to sex
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 62 percent of the HIV/AIDS diagnoses between 2001 and 2004 were for young men between the ages of thirteen and twenty-four. This is a huge problem and something that you cannot ignore.
There is a right time to talk to your son and many bad times. Do not start a conversation in front of his friends or siblings. Try to find a time that you are both in a relatively good mood.
Set the ground rules for the discussion. Remind him that you are there to help him and admit when you do not know something. Just let him know that you will find out the answers to his questions. As long as you are honest and open, you will establish a solid foundation with your son. Remember, he hasn't done this before either.
The only mistake you can make is not talking to him and letting him attempt to figure matters out for himself; this will increase the possibility that he will find incorrect information or jump to incorrect conclusions. If you find that you simply have trouble talking to your son, try to find someone to role-play with you.
Using instant messaging or e-mail may be a good trick if he seems incredibly embarrassed or if you are. This may help him be more open and honest. This should not be how all conversations are held, however, as it may convey the belief that sexuality is something to be embarrassed about.
One of your jobs as a parent is to prepare your son to be a healthy sexual human being. This is a complex matter, involving many concepts from the physical to the mental to the emotional. As a teen, your son may find it difficult to integrate all of this information, which is where parents come in.
Sexuality encompasses the whole body and mind, including the genitals, but it is more about the giving and receiving of pleasure than the mere act of sex.
A person's sexuality is largely affected by surroundings, and parents often influence a teenager's surroundings. Other factors that can influence sexuality include values, attitudes, behaviors, physical appearance, and spiritual beliefs.