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17 Helpful Hints For Talking about Sexuality

1. Reflect on the messages you want to share beforehand.
Try to determine your basic values and what kind of information you are comfortable talking about so that should the subject sexuality come up you are ready. Ask yourself: What are the main messages I want to communicate? How do I feel about different issues about sexuality?

2. Be a good role model by living the behaviour you want the others to have.i.e.: if you feel that you want to lose weight, do it positively, don’t put yourself down, crash diet, etc.

3. Make time for your child / youth. We live in a world where everything has to be fast – fast food, drive-thru, express lanes – if you want your child / youth to ask you questions, you have to be there. If your child / youth asks you a question and you are in a rush, take time later in the day to answer his or her question.

4. Encourage self-confidence & decision-making skills. Give youth the chance to make decisions for themselves in all areas of their lives so that they have experience to build on when they make decisions surrounding sexual readiness.

5. Remind them that you care about them. Reassure them that you love and care about them no matter what happens or what they may tell you.

6. Be patient. Sexuality is a difficult subject for anyone to talk about and it might take someone a very long time to say what he or she needs to say. Awkward as it may feel, don’t jump in and finish sentences or speed them up. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge when you are embarrassed or uncomfortable with the topic.

7. Be there for them. If your child / youth comes to you with questions, do your best to help them –no
matter how uncomfortable it may make you feel. They have reached out to you because they trust you & feel you can help. If you don’t help them, they may not ask anyone again.

8. Listen & ask them what they want to know.
It may seem obvious, but really listen to what they say or ask. It may be something much deeper than what it appears to be or it may be something very innocent, needing a short yes / no answer.

9. Never assume you know how your child is feeling. We often tend to assume that we know how others feel, but this will often lead to miscommunication.

10. Encourage questions. Use encouraging remarks such as: “This is a great question, thank you for asking me.” “How are you feeling about this right now?” “What do you think of…?” I’m truly happy that you’ve asked me this question.”

11. Assure them that they are normal. Children, youth and even adults are often terrified that they are the only ones who feel/act/experience awkwardness & difficulties. Reassure them that they are not.

12. Tolerate differences. Your child / youth is a unique individual. Your job is to guide them to be healthy individuals by encouraging them to think of the consequences of their actions and make decisions that are good for them.

13.Use resources that already exist. Use books and videos, from Planned Parenthood offices, health departments, libraries, etc. You don’t have to do this on your own and you aren’t expected to know everything!

14. Foster positive feelings about sexuality.
Do not use scare tactics; rather give them the true facts. Encourage young people to be comfortable with their own sexuality: we are sexual beings from the day we are born.

15. Don’t be afraid to set limits. When setting limits, they need to be reasonable for the child’s age. Help them understand what are appropriate and inappropriate behaviours.

16. Don’t wait for them to approach you, use teachable moments. If you see something happen or overhear something, take advantage of it and make it a learning experience.

17. Keep your sense of humour!

Resources / Books

Bain, Dr. Jerald. So Your Child is Gay. Harper Collins Publishers Ltd., Toronto, 2000.

Bartle, Nathalie & Susan Lieverman. Venus in Blue Jeans: Why Mother & Daughters Need to Talk About Sex. Dell Publishing, New York, 1998.

Bell, Ruth. Changing Bodies, Changing Lives: A Book for Teens on Sex and Relationships.

Gordon, Sol & Judith Gordon. Raising a Child Responsibly in a Sexually Permissive World. Adams Media Corporation, US, 2000.

Gravelle, Karen & Jennifer Gravelle. The Period Book: Everything You Don’t Want to Ask (but need to know). Walker and Company, New York, 1996.

Gravelle, Karen with Nick & Chava Castro. What’s Going on Down There?: Answers to Questions Boys Find Hard to Ask. Walker and Company, New York, 1998.

Haffner, Debra W. From Daipers to Dating: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Children. Newmarket Press, 2000.

Harris, Robie H. Changing Bodies, Growing up, Sex & Sexual Health: It’s Perfectly Normal. Candlewick Press, Massachusetts, 1996.

Kivel, Paul. Boys Will Be Men: Raising our sons for Courage, Caring and Community. New Society Publishers, B.C., 1999.

Stinson, Kathy. The Bare Naked Book. Annick Press Ltd., Toronto, 1997.

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