Top 10 Tips for Talking to Kids About Sex

We just got our kitten spayed, prompting many fruitful discussions with our kids, ages 11, 9 and 6, about sex drive and the consequences of unplanned pregnancies. Even our youngest can now give a brief, age-appropriate talk on the joys and perils of sex. The recent news that one-quarter of teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease, along with the Eliot Spitzenfruede and the first photos of Jamie Lynn Spears "showing," got me wondering, yet again, why it is so hard for parents to talk openly, and productively, to their children about sex.

I found a teen health expert, Karen Lieberman Troccoli, who's also the mother of two kids ages 10 and 13, to help us out. Troccoli is a contributing author to the newly released book, Like Whatever: An Insider's Guide to Raising Teens and co-author of Like It Is: A Teen Sex Guide. She has worked in the field of teen pregnancy prevention for a dozen years, most recently at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, and has a Masters in Public Health degree from Johns Hopkins University. Here's her advice:

When it comes to guiding kids on most growing-up topics, parents rarely hold back. Typically we're eager to offer thoughts on every aspect of our kids' lives (think drugs, talking to strangers, and responsible driving). Except one: sex. Why? Some parents say they don't know what to say, how to say it or how to start. Others figure they can't compete with friends or the media; some worry that discussing sex will drive their kids to do it; many fear their kids will want to know about their own sex lives; and some parents are in denial that their kids are even thinking about sex.
Believe it or not, solid research says that parents have the greatest impact on kids' decisions about sex -- more than the media or even their friends. To best influence our kids' decisions about sex and relationships, we need to step up to the plate. Here are a few tips:
1) Talk early and often. It's not "THE TALK" but rather an ongoing conversation. From early on be open about body parts, relationships, privacy, etc. These themes, started when our kids are toddlers, can guide us to and through adolescence. Even when teens act like parents are the last people they want to hear from, research says we're the first.
2) Be prepared. If you answer some questions for yourself first it will be easier to answer them when your children ask. How do I feel about dating? What strategies can I suggest to my child to resist peer pressure? What question do I most fear being asked?
3) Look for teachable moments. They're everywhere: television and radio programs; Halle Berry's pregnancy; song lyrics; teens holding hands in the mall. The idea isn't to turn all these moments into sermons, but rather to be aware of opportunities to ask your child what he or she thinks and then go from there.
4) Make sex ed a dialogue. Talking with kids about sex shouldn't be viewed as a parent talking to a child. It's talking with a child. This means listening and answering questions openly, even if you feel uncomfortable. Talking about sex is a chance not just to impart our perspectives to our kids, but to hear what's on their mind and why. It also is an opportunity to clear up misconceptions they have -- accurate information is key to good decision making.
5) Delay sex by talking about sex. Many parents worry kids aren't ready to talk about sex, or that talking will drive them to have it. These are very personal issues. But research has found that kids whose parents talk with them about sex are more likely to delay having it than kids whose parents don't.
6) Say why. Don't just tell your kids what you think. Tell them why. They care and they want to understand. They might not always agree with our reasoning, but they'll see how information and experience can be used to make important decisions.
7) Don't forget the boys. Sons talk less with parents about resisting pressure and birth control than daughters do. But they need the information just as much. While girls feel the most pressure to have sex from their boyfriends, boys feel it from their friends.
8) Never give an untrue answer. It can be dangerous for children to have inaccurate information. It's much better to admit to your child you don't know and that you'll find out. Or better yet, work together to find the answers online or at the library.
9) Don't jump to conclusions. Just because your teen asks questions about sex doesn't mean he or she is having it; and if your kid doesn't ask, don't assume he or she isn't. All kids -- no matter where they are on the sexual activity continuum -- should be talking with parents about these topics.
10) Know that your sex life is your sex life: Many parents worry that once the topic of sex is broached, all topics are fair game. Not so. Most kids don't want to know about -- or even imagine -- their parents' sex lives. If they ask, it's for perspective and guidance. It's fine to tell them that some things are private but that you're glad to talk about what prompted the question.


Next week: Send me your Tips for Marital Bliss so I can include them in next Monday's Top 10 Tips.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  March 31, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Top Ten Tips
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First. For a moment, I thought I was on the On Parenting blog.

Posted by: rlalumiere | March 31, 2008 7:40 AM

These are all great suggestions. Here's another ten ways to talk to teenagers about sex that is more focused on how to react within the actual conversation:

1. Listen. If your teenager is talking about their romantic or sexual choices, shut up and listen to them!

2. Be cool like a cucumber. Nothing surprises you. You gain your strength and your stability from the depths of the ocean. You are in the zone. You are the embodiment of zen. When listening to your teenager talking about sex, never get worked up. The minute you get worked up, they stop talking. So let them talk themselves out -whether that takes two minutes or two hours. Then leave. Then get worked up and yell and scream and rage and cry at someone not related to you.

3. Pleasure and Pain. You must talk about the pleasure sex can bring as well as the negative sides. And you have to let your teenager talk about it as well. Yes, that means you have to talk about orgasms and hear your teenager use terms like "feels good." Teenagers know sex is at least partially about physical pleasure, so no worries. You won't be telling them anything they don't already know.

4. Listen. Once more, for the hard-of-hearing: If your teenager is talking about their romantic or sexual lives, shut up and listen to them!

5. It's not about you. You must always keep the focus of the conversation on your teenager's sex life (that is, that which has nothing at all to do with your own sex life). Teenagers feel like they are discovering sex. And in a way, they are. They're discovering their own sexuality. By talking about other people's sexual choices (yours, their older sibling's, their friend's, famous people's, whoever), you are reminding them that they did not, in fact, invent sex. This is not the time for you to do that.

6. Bring it on! You must always be open and welcoming when your teenager shows any inclination to talking about his/her sex life. Even if you're uncomfortable. Even if you feel like they're making horrible choices. The time to bring up those reservations is at a later time, when your teenager isn't opening up of their own volition and, more importantly, you have a bit more perspective and time to plan what you're going to say.

7. Do something - anything - else. The conversation will be easier if you don't have to look at each other. So, depending on your personal preferences and those of your teen, grab anything from your knitting to your golf clubs. Just get something (anything!) in front of your eyes and their eyes so you don't have to look at each other's eyes.

8. Listen. I just can't make that word bold enough or say it enough times. For those who have already forgotten #s 1 and 4, I'll repeat myself one last time: If your teenager is talking about their romantic or sexual choices, shut up and listen to them!

9. Ask questions. This is the only way you can violate rules #s 1, 4, and 8. This does not, however, give you permission to ask questions like "Was that really a good idea?" because that's not really a question, but a statement of "That was not a good idea." You may ask open-ended, non-judgmental questions like "Can you tell me more about that?" and "How did that make you feel?" Be sure your tone of voice is open and non-judgmental as well.

10. Sisyphus didn't give up, and neither may you! That's a picture of Sisyphus up at the top. He's the guy the Gods punished by making him role a huge bolder up a hill for eternity. What you're doing isn't as hard as that, it just feels like it. These may be some of the hardest conversations you'll ever have. Keep at it! If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

More about adolescent sexuality is on my blog: www.karenrayne.com

Posted by: karen.rayne | March 31, 2008 7:55 AM

The parents' moral compass can set a good example.

Posted by: gizmo | March 31, 2008 7:58 AM

My tip, you need to start talking about the actual mechanics and consequences of reproduction before the kids hit the teen years. At 10 or 11 they will listen to you (they may also squirm a bit.) At 13, forgetaboutit.

Tip #2.

When they are teens, buy whatever book you feel is appropriate and just leave it on the child's bed. Just pretend the magical sex fairy brought it. Don't mention it. The child will read it.

Posted by: fred | March 31, 2008 7:59 AM

Discuss friends in school who are having sex, and what the consequences mean to their hopes and dreams.
Or,
Have them get a job in a day care center. That is a real bucket of ice water.

Posted by: chemguy1157 | March 31, 2008 8:04 AM

Fred wrote: "When they are teens, buy whatever book you feel is appropriate and just leave it on the child's bed."

Even better, leave it someplace -- not TOO hidden, though -- where the kid thinks s/he has found it on his/her own! This worked like a charm on me when my mother left an issue of a major newsmagazine with a cover article on birth control methods lying around the house for a several weeks. By the time I'd re-read that article a few times, I understood contraception well enough even to answer schoolmates' questions accurately (since teens notoriously tend to spread misinformation re preventing pregnancy).

Fred, I hope Frieda's doing well these days. Please keep us updated, and relay our best wishes to her.

Posted by: mehitabel | March 31, 2008 8:12 AM

Top Ten Sax List

10.Think small! Easier to carry a sax than, say, a harp!

9. "Yakety Sax" just does not sound right played on a piccolo.

8. Practice in the dark, you develop better hand action

7. A hard case is good protection for your instrument

6. Sax is easier to spell than Omphaloskepsis

5. Keep your sax clean, it works better that way

4. Oh, you said sex, not sax! Nevermind....

3. The title of the chief executive of NY State is not "The Luv Gov"

2. Sax, how Monty Python pronounces sex.

1. Take sax lessons, not sex lessons from a certain former president

Posted by: fred | March 31, 2008 8:22 AM

Fred, I agree, but my starting age is waaaay younger. Start talking to kids about making babies and body parts before they can even notice you are embarrassed -- say four or five years old. Then you both will have lots of practice long before it "matters."

ChemGuy -- Your tip should be as standard as a driver's license or passport, required of all U.S. citizens over age 13. Mandatory day care service.

"Have them get a job in a day care center. That is a real bucket of ice water."

Changing 20 poopy diapers a day and wiping 20 noses gives you a good grounding in parenthood. If you still want kids after that, god bless you.

Posted by: leslie4 | March 31, 2008 8:44 AM

I refuse to talk about the pleasure of sex with my stepdaughter beyond the general acknowledgement that it feels good. Just not going there. We can talk about the mechanics 'til the cows come home but there is no need for me to be open and honest about what I like or don't like, etc. I think that's oversharing in a problematic way, particularly with a young person.

I do agree that it's important to talk frankly about protection, peer pressure, pregnancy, and so on. I think it also depends on your situation -- some kids are raised in an environment in which it's cool or maybe even almost normal to have a baby in high school, but that isn't the case everywhere. If I were a parent of a child in that kind of environment, I'd be talking to them from birth about waiting until marriage or adulthood to have a baby. Having a baby in high school sets a person back to the point they may never rise above poverty level.

One of the most fascinating (and bloody frightening) conversations I ever had with my stepdaughter was an extremely candid discussion about sex while she was in high school. That's when I learned about "friends with benefits" and the high rate of oral sex before intercourse, and how kids do it in school all the time. Parents who think "gee, my child never has the opportunity to have sex" are fooling themselves!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | March 31, 2008 9:01 AM

Leslie, I agree with you, I was talking about the actual mechanics.

mehitabel, Funny story, I think that my parents used to do the same thing sometimes.

Frieda is doing OK, nothing out of the unexpected for a chemo patient.

Posted by: fred | March 31, 2008 9:01 AM

I don't have anything really to add. Fred, I am sending good vibes your way and Frieda's way. Chemo can be a bear, I hope it helps to know that people are thinking of her and wishing her and you well. Don't forget to take care of yourself.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | March 31, 2008 9:07 AM

You can acknowledge that sex is really enjoyable without going into inappropriate territory. I've found you HAVE to in order to answer the question about WHY Jamie Lynn, or the kitten, or mommy and daddy do it in the first place. But you certainly don't need to go into details...

Posted by: leslie4 | March 31, 2008 9:52 AM

Regarding item 10: why is it OK that adolescents' sex lives should be a topic for open discussion, whereas the topic of parents' sex lives is "private" and therefore forbidden? More generally, what's the great fear about adolescents, who are physically mature, engaging in sexual behavior (apart from the risks of pregnancy and STDs -- which can easily be guarded against and which are therefore generally smokescreens for society's discomfort with teenage sex in general)?

Posted by: adm19103 | March 31, 2008 9:52 AM

Fred - I'm printing out your sax top ten and leaving a copy on both the boy's beds... And then wait for the laughter

Posted by: dotted_1 | March 31, 2008 9:58 AM

If you happen to be one of those parents that talks about sec with your child from the get go, be prepared for your 5 year old to express his/her new-found knowledge by telling a stranger, such as the waiter, "You have a penis. That's why you are a man." The look on the waiter's face after that one is garenteed priceless.

My family is pretty much open to discussions about sex. We even had a small "coming of age" celebration with our daughters which is more of a bonding event than anything else, but moreover, demonstrates that we parents are comfortable talking about sex with them. However, details aren't necessary unless it involves a medical aspect. Privacy should always be respected.

I also think that parental involvement in their child's sex lives can go too far and end up destructive. For instance, I'm aware of a few parents who provide contraception for the daughters. No way would I ever do that.

Posted by: DandyLion | March 31, 2008 10:01 AM

«Have them get a job in a day care center. That is a real bucket of ice water.»
«Posted by: chemguy1157 | March 31, 2008 08:04 AM»

«Changing 20 poopy diapers a day and wiping 20 noses gives you a good grounding in parenthood. If you still want kids after that, . . .»
«Posted by: leslie4 | March 31, 2008 08:44 AM»

Parenthood, fornication, is it fornication you are trying to discourage, or is it parenthood? Grandchildren, Abu Ibrahim means «father of Ibrahim», if I want grandchildren, why would I try to discourage Ibrahim from parenthood? Dirty diapers, runny noses, why would I tell Ibrahim, «children are all dirty diapers and runny noses»? Barrenhood, it is a curse, do you wish this curse on your children? Chemguy, all you Western guys, you go ahead, throw ice water on your children's wish for parenthood, you will have few or no grandchildren, there will be more room for our grandchildren.

Posted by: abu_ibrahim | March 31, 2008 10:25 AM

More generally, what's the great fear about adolescents, who are physically mature, engaging in sexual behavior (apart from the risks of pregnancy and STDs -- which can easily be guarded against and which are therefore generally smokescreens for society's discomfort with teenage sex in general)?

Posted by: adm19103 | March 31, 2008 09:52 AM

Oops! Your bias is showing with perjorative references to smokescreens and fear. You're not a parent yet, are you, LOL?

Adolescent females are physically mature by approximately 16. Your declaration to the contrary, adolescent males are physically maturing until they are in their low 20s. Few would argue that either is emotionally mature for some time thereafter. Were you?

If you're honest with yourself, you recall that it's extraordinarily common to over-value a relationship once you become physically intimate with anyone, e.g., he must be The One because the sex is good. I don't know any fearful parents, but I know many who are realistically concerned that an adolescent's life decisions should be focused on what is best for that adolescent and not what is best for that adolescent's sexual partner, high school boyfriend, or friend with benefits. Birth control, used as directed and not in the haphazard manner in which many adolescents use it, when they use it, at best addresses the physical consequences of intimacy. Addressing the emotional consequences is arguably more important.

The only thing I'd add to Leslie's and others' lists is that the conversations with kids should be broader than conversations about sexual activity. They should be conversations about relationships - with friends, with significant others - how you treat people, how you should expect people to treat you, what to look for in a partner, and what behavior is unacceptable. That's the context in which all of our conversations about sexual activity belong, it seems to me.

Off-topic to dotted: May the force continue to be with you.

Posted by: mn.188 | March 31, 2008 10:28 AM

Fred: Hope you and Frieda are doing well. We are sending our warm wishes.

My parents were always open and honest about sex. I think that is the best strategy. Not sure why this embarrasses parents so much.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 31, 2008 10:33 AM

growing up with older sisters and a mom who worked in healthcare, i knew LOTS of info about sex and it seemed like a perfectly natural thing to do. to me, it seems about normal for people to have sex in the 15-18 range, with their boyfriends/girlfriends. what seems really bizarre is for 11 year olds to be caught in stairwells giving oral sex. (or 15 to 18 year olds in the same situation, for that matter!)

sex is supposed to be an expression of love and a physical display of intimacy, like holding hands. sex has been removed from intimacy in public discourse, to the detriment of all.

if my 15-year-old loves her boyfriend and feels ready to have sex, great! she'll know all about condoms and we'll put her on the pill when it's time. if my kid thinks it's normal to go to parties where everyone has sex in the same room, clearly some counseling is called for.

(said as a non-parent who has YEARS to think about all this before the decisions will need to be made!)

Posted by: newslinks1 | March 31, 2008 10:49 AM

Leslie:
Younger daughter has a daily part time job at local day care center after school. The ratio is 6:1 in the newborn and toddler rooms, and there are plenty of other messes to cleanup (lunch, art projects, toys) plus diapers.

Abu:
Grandchildren are wonderful, but only by those with a fully formed adult mind. Ignoring STDs, our Western youth idolize babies as someone who will love them.

Too many children are having children, without regard to the consequences (the emototional and physical drain, the lost opportunity form the lack of support of a stable 2-parent environment).

If I ever become a grandparent, it will be the independent decision of my children and their significant others.

My only hope is that they are happily married first, with supportive spouses.

Posted by: chemguy1157 | March 31, 2008 10:53 AM

OT to MN: amazing weekend, eh? The only flaws were Davidson's last second loss and the Duke women's loss to A&M. And it even rained the whole weekend, making it easy to just do the bball thing the whole time.

On topic: We tried to distinguish between sex and love/emotion. How the sex drive confuses love thoughts and such. I have to admit, even with all the talking, I'm still terrified about a possible mistake.

Posted by: dotted_1 | March 31, 2008 10:54 AM

Good points -- once you've starting talking openly about sex, you need to explain to your kids that not everyone is quite so open. "Now, this is good for family talk, but not so good to talk about at school..." is something I say so much even our youngest can complete the sentence. "I know Mom, not at school!"

Posted by: leslie4 | March 31, 2008 11:35 AM

I do admit to some 'confusion' (err..disbelief) on the teenage girl/sexually transmitted disease statistics. There weren't that many girls in the study (< 900) and I can't see how such a small study could possible extrapolate to cover circumstances like age (13 is different that 19 yet both are teenagers), marriage (sortof like age in many ways), poverty/wealth, area of the country, ethnicity, urban vs. rural, education level, living at home, whether there are parents living at home, and such. The study pulls out race as affecting results, but this is just so much more than race. It seems like a headline meant to grab the eye more than anything else.

Posted by: dotted_1 | March 31, 2008 11:55 AM

Been lurking all morning, wondering what to say. Oh, well, guess I'll just say what we've been telling our own adolescents.

The mechanics and biology of sex have been well explained since they were old enough to understand. Started with the "gory details" probably about 8 or 9. (Family love and intimacy came before that.)

Newslinks, sex is supposed to be an expression of love and physical intimacy, but it's a lot different from holding hands because of the potential for emotional and physical ramifications, and the kids learned that. And having three kids hit the age of 15 so far, I'm not really sure about a 15-year old who "loves" her boyfriend. I've been 15, and three of my kids have passed that point, and "love" at that physical age just doesn't mean very much. It might seem to at the time, but...

They learned about methods of birth control, but they also learned that none of them is foolproof, even when used correctly. There's no such thing as 100% effectiveness (well, short of abstinence, but let's not go there right now).

They learned about STD's and the implications thereof - so they can understand those Valtrex commercials! :-)

They learned that oral sex *is* sex, protestations of a former President to the contrary. That's because there's generally an equivalent level of emotional involvement in it as there is with intercourse. And that while you can't get pregnant from oral sex, you can certainly catch an STD.

DS learned that if he gets a girl pregnant, he has no rights whatsoever but lots of potential responsibilities. No rights - zip, zilch, nada. If she wants to have an abortion, however he feels about it, she can have it and he has no say. On the other hand, if she wants to have the baby and make him financially responsible for it for the next 18-21 years, she can and he has no say. Her body, her choice. He has no rights whatsoever - and boys need to understand that.

Other than that, we've mostly focussed on the emotional involvement that's associated with sex. They've learned some of the implications from watching their own friends become pregnant or impregnate someone. They watched promising lives short-circuited.

One of the things we've really focussed on is resisting peer pressure. If they're not comfortable with something, it's okay to say "no" and their "no" is to be respected. They shouldn't go out and have sex just because all their friends claim to have done it, or because a boyfriend or girlfriend wants to. Truly, their own bodies, their own choices, and they need to have enough self-esteem to make their own choices.

There's lots more, but this ugliness called "work" keeps rearing its head. :-(

Posted by: ArmyBrat | March 31, 2008 12:00 PM

Troccoli's list of 10 is absolutely right-on. As kids get older, it's important to talk about the emotions involved in sex, how some of us sometimes use it in (the hope of) gaining affection we otherwise don't receive. Older kids can understand that there is an emotional component; they also can understand that there are responsibilities that accompany sex: parenthood, childcare, education, food, housing, and so on. Teenagers who understand that there are the responsibilities can give some thought to whether they are ready to shoulder those responsibilities (and in the process sacrifice some of their own "immediate" needs). I agree somewhat with Ibrahim: I don't want to discourage my kids from becoming parents (because I'd like to be a grandparent someday), but I do want them to postpone it until they have some of the "reality-based" necessaries of life in place: education, job, career, etc.

Posted by: markinirvine | March 31, 2008 12:17 PM

Get answers on the INTERNET? You've got to be kidding! I had breast cancer & ovarian cancer & in my quest for answers to medical questions kept bumping up against sites that wanted to show me sexy photos, etc. I wouldn't dare put in a topic like "vaginal dryness" into Google for fear of what I wd get back! No, it's off to the library, I'm afraid, because the I'NET seems to have been taken over by people int'd in sex for fun & profit, not for education.

Posted by: PatriciaRSweeney | March 31, 2008 1:03 PM

Patricia - taken over? First of all, see cancer.org for information from ACA. Second, when I type breast cancer into google...all I see are info sites (like breastcancer.org, NIH, etc..) Turn on a popup blocker, please. And taken over? It's always been that way, dahling...always.

Posted by: dotted_1 | March 31, 2008 1:13 PM

ArmyBrat:

Not to derail the conversation, but in that hypothetical situation where your DS got a girl pregnant and she kept the baby, your DS would have rights. He'd have visitation rights, custodial rights, the right to object to an adoption, etc. He might have to go to court and fight for those rights (just as she might have to fight for child support).

Posted by: jbs280 | March 31, 2008 1:21 PM

Patricia,

You need to set the preferences on your search engine. For some strange reason we have been looking at breast cancer sites also. We have not run into any such objectionable sites.

Here is a bit from Google:

Many users prefer not to have adult sites included in search results (especially if their kids use the same computer). Google's SafeSearch screens for sites that contain explicit sexual content and deletes them from your search results. No filter is 100% accurate, but SafeSearch should eliminate most inappropriate material.

You can choose from among three SafeSearch settings:

Moderate filtering excludes most explicit images from Google Image Search results but doesn't filter ordinary web search results. This is your default SafeSearch setting; you'll receive moderate filtering unless you change it.

Strict filtering applies SafeSearch filtering to all your search results (i.e., both image search and ordinary web search).
And finally...

No Filtering, as you've probably figured out, turns off SafeSearch filtering completely.

You can also adjust your SafeSearch settings on the Advanced Search or the Advanced Image Search pages on a per search basis.

Posted by: fred | March 31, 2008 1:25 PM

Get answers on the INTERNET? You've got to be kidding! I had breast cancer & ovarian cancer & in my quest for answers to medical questions kept bumping up against sites that wanted to show me sexy photos, etc. I wouldn't dare put in a topic like "vaginal dryness" into Google for fear of what I wd get back! No, it's off to the library, I'm afraid, because the I'NET seems to have been taken over by people int'd in sex for fun & profit, not for education.

Posted by: PatriciaRSweeney | March 31, 2008 01:03 PM

Interesting. What is it the makes you think the library, e.g., published books is chock-full of reliable sources?

Be a skeptic whatever your source of purported information. The more you read, and the more you vet your sources, the more informed you become.

Posted by: mn.188 | March 31, 2008 1:34 PM

MN and Fred - once again, you said it better than I do...

Posted by: dotted_1 | March 31, 2008 1:41 PM

Good discussion. Sounds like a good book.
Kids don't need nuts & bolts sex info from parents and prefer a benign example of keeping private matters private rather than getting a recital of parents' personal histories.
With the pope coming to DC watch out for sin-cerity. Remember William Blake: "Prisons are built with stones of Law. Brothels with the bricks of religion."

Posted by: lieberman88 | March 31, 2008 1:59 PM

Thanks, dotted:>)

I'm always puzzled by people who assert that, if it's in a bound volume it must be true, except then if you mention The Origin of Species, the South Beach Diet, or anything written by James Frey, the light begins to go on that publication is not synonymous with cap-T Truth.

Posted by: mn.188 | March 31, 2008 2:18 PM

One of the most interesting points Troccoli makes is that boys are pressured by their friends to have sex, and in turn they pressure girls to have sex. A domino effect. This makes sense -- just never thought about it that way. So it does really seem smart to talk to your kids about peer pressure as part of this whole sex ed dialogue, too.

Posted by: leslie4 | March 31, 2008 2:34 PM

«I agree somewhat with Ibrahim: I don't want to discourage my kids from becoming parents (because I'd like to be a grandparent someday), but I do want them to postpone it until they have some of the "reality-based" necessaries of life in place: education, job, career, etc.»
«Posted by: markinirvine | March 31, 2008 12:17 PM»

Marriage?

«Too many children are having children, without regard to the consequences (the emotional and physical drain, the lost opportunity form the lack of support of a stable 2-parent environment).
My only hope is that they are happily married first, with supportive spouses.»
«Posted by: chemguy1157 | March 31, 2008 10:53 AM»

Mrs. Norton, she says the same thing. High school seniors, high school juniors in Washington, Eleanor Norton is their delegate to US Congress, she visited their high school, they asked, who was her role model? She said, it was Mr. Holmes, her father. The students, she told them please, do not have children until married, it is not fair to the children that they won't have a father as she had one when she was growing up. A lawyer, Mrs. Norton is a lawyer, she is not a chemist, Chemguy1157 says, «stable, 2-parent environment», this is the same thing that Eleanor Norton told the seniors and juniors, lawyer and chemist agree.

Posted by: abu_ibrahim | March 31, 2008 2:38 PM

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Posted by: gizmo | March 31, 2008 3:04 PM

gizmo's sleeping through sex ed again... can't learn if you don't pay attention...

OT to MN: you crack me up! You mean you don't believe in the South Beach diet? I was going to try that one next.

Posted by: dotted_1 | March 31, 2008 3:08 PM

" (apart from the risks of pregnancy and STDs -- which can easily be guarded against and which are therefore generally smokescreens for society's discomfort with teenage sex in general)? "

I'd be interested to know what statistics you are working with in making this statement. No form of contraception is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy. Condoms and other barriers can help guard against STDs, but are far from perfect. Given the lifetime and life threatening implications, I don't think the risk of STDs and pregnancy can be so easily disregarded. Teaching kids about sex has to be accurate - saying they should have "safe sex" is not enough. They need to know what the risks actually are even with contraception. Not because they need to be filled with fear, but because they need to know what they are even making a decision about when they decide to have or not to have sex.

Posted by: LizaBean | March 31, 2008 3:21 PM

The point I've made to my nieces and am starting to make to my daughter that I think my mom left out has to do with what someone else called over-valuing the relationship. Basically I tell them that when you start having sex with someone, it changes the relationship and how you feel about them, and that gives the person more control over you (this will get a teenager's attention) and you need to be able to trust them. You need to be very cautious about to whom you give that level of trust and control.

Posted by: aallen1 | March 31, 2008 3:43 PM

Our autistic 15-y-o really benefits from having a 10-y-o brother. The younger one will ask any question that pops into his head, and the older one gets to hear the answers.

Yesterday in the car, DH told a mildly off-color joke: "I used to work at the zoo, circumcising the elephants. The pay was lousy, but the tips were big."

Younger son didn't get it. Not sure that older son did either, but because younger son asked, we had a discussion about circumcision. Neither boy is/was, but their father is, and both boys are aware of the difference.

I'm a little bit uncomfortable with these sorts of conversations, but if DH is, it never shows. And the conversations happen pretty frequently. I think we'll have a very long wait for grandchildren. Autistics rarely have relations at all, so if older son is ever lucky enough, he'll be well prepared with all the necessary information.

Younger son is a complete social butterfly, and will probably have to deal with the peer pressure in a few years. But I think he'll handle it. When we were watching "Juno" last week, he was drifting in and out of the room. He was kind of grossed out by the whole subject, but not so much that he missed our comments (and our subtext) about the movie's subject.

Posted by: sue | March 31, 2008 4:24 PM

OT to MN: you crack me up! You mean you don't believe in the South Beach diet? I was going to try that one next.

Posted by: dotted_1 | March 31, 2008 03:08 PM

Go for it, dotted, so long as you don't put your faith in its representations and guarantees, LOL! On second thought, why ruin a perfectly good last-weekend-of-the-season with some pesky diet? There's always baseball season.

Posted by: mn.188 | March 31, 2008 4:53 PM

jbs - I agree, but note that his rights would only kick in AFTER she's made the decision to have the baby, AND they would in all likelihood be closely correlated to major responsibilities.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | March 31, 2008 8:34 PM

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