Talking About Sex
My 14-year-old son typically doesn’t have access to Internet but I fell asleep last night and he used my phone. This morning when I checked the Internet history I found that he visited three different porn sites. What do I do now? We have had the "sex talk" and I don't want to discipline him simply for being curious.
Everyday experiences create the best opportunities for important conversations. Whether your child is 14 or 4, I’m all for seizing the moment, especially with mature topics like sex, drinking alcohol, and cigarette smoking.
The key to this conversation is to present information so that is easily understood by your child and conveys, in a matter-of-fact way, your family’s values. Rather than a one-time “talk,” think of it as ongoing discussion that grows as your child broadens his experience. Imagine it as a dinner table conversation. The content needs to be engaging, free from intense emotions, not too embarrassing, and consider different point of view. Humor always helps.
Think about your parenting goals. There are times when you will want to convey your point of view directly: “Sex is between two people who have a committed relationship in which value, respect, and love each other.” Other times, you might want to encourage your child to make decisions in his best interest: “What do you do if you get pressured to do something that goes against your values?” Factual information can also be helpful: “Unprotected sex is tremendously risky and can change your future.”
Consider how your comments and answers will need to differ based on the age of your child. The response to your child asking: “What is sex?” at ages 4, 7, 10, and 14 year old ideally builds a consistent theme. You will want to discuss these topics with your parenting partners and to make sure that you are all communicating the same priorities and values.
I chose to discuss the underlying question of “how to” before “what now” with regard to the porn site because each of these moments happen in the context of our ongoing relationships. And a history of “dinner table” conversations makes it much easier to address these larger issues.
Gone are the days of the Playboy under the mattress. With wireless laptops and phones, access is unrestrained. Be clear about your limits and have consequences with explanations. “It is okay to be curious, but there are videos out there that I wouldn’t want you to see and that I would want to see. The rule is _____ and the consequence is ________.” As with toddlers consistency is essential.
Communication is critical. What do you want your son to know about respecting his body, women, mutual respect, safety, intimacy, teenage pregnancy, etc? It is essential that he knows your point of view and learns to apply his critical thinking skills to reality television, an Internet site and peer pressure situations.