04/08/2014 06:12 EDT | Updated 06/08/2014 05:59 EDT

How To Have the Dreaded Sex Talk With a Teenager

I posted on my teen blog this week about sex. I was completely comfortable with my post until I thought about parents reading it; then I got all squirmy. Isn't that interesting? I have no problem talking to the kids about sex, but talking to the parents about kids having sex gives me the heebie jeebies. It's a weird double standard, but as I consider talking to other parents, my objectivity becomes compromised. As parents, there's a part of us that resembles an ostrich; if we bury our head in the sand about our kids having sex, then everything will somehow turn out okay. There is a reason that the ostrich is not top of the food chain.

Sex is undoubtedly difficult to discuss with your teenager. I know this because I have teenagers; when I bring up the subject, they cover their ears and start humming. However, since I began the sex talks when the subject first came up naturally in middle school, I know that they already understand the basics. The best time to start talking to your kids about sex is when they bring it up. If that chance has passed, not to worry. It's better late than never. After all, if you don't answer their questions, they will go to their friends -- and who knows where their friends got their information. If you want to have an open communication with your teens about sex, here are a few tips:

1. Find a way to be comfortable talking about sex: Talking to your kids about sex is difficult, but the consequences of not talking about it are infinitely more troubling. I believe that the likelihood of them having sex is indirectly proportional to how much you talk with them about sex. Notice I said with, not to. The more you share your own views and values surrounding sex (staying aligned with your core family values), and then ask them to talk about the same information, the more likely they will be to ponder the act before they commit it. If you give them the choice to have sex or not, depending upon their own level of readiness, then they can choose abstinence. If they know that you will love them either way, the pressure to rebel against your "outdated" views disappears.

2. Whatever your views are, they had better be honest: If you were a horn-dog in high school and then try to preach abstinence until marriage, your kids will smell a rat. Then they will dismiss anything else you say. My views are that sex is a game changer. I have told my girls that sex is like getting a tattoo on your face; you have to be really sure it's what you want, because there's no return policy on the decision. When they're sure they love their partner (because sex should be the ultimate demonstration of love, not a form of cardio), then they must discuss birth control before they go forward. If they aren't comfortable enough to discuss birth control, then they sure as hell aren't ready to have sex with that person. This aligns with our family values of self-respect and responsibility for your actions.

3. Accept the fact that your teen could be sexually active: No matter how much we deny that our precious babies could be sexually active, the reality is what it is. No amount of wishing it away is going to change that fact. You're better off accepting reality and approaching them with love and compassion, than making their sex life about how good a parent you are -- or aren't. This is not about you; it's about them. If you can practice acceptance, then you may be able to talk to your teen about the choices that they ARE making. If they are having sex, an honest discussion about using protection is much more helpful than a diatribe about remaining a virgin at all costs.

The most important thing when discussing sex with your kid is to be truthful. If it makes you uncomfortable, say so. If you're scared about their answer, tell them. But also be sure to let them know that no matter how bad it gets, you are there for them. You love them enough to persevere, even when it's uncomfortable. Sex in today's society is confusing for adults; imagine how scary it is for teens. The rules are constantly changing. Images of sex saturate our media, with nary a discussion about the consequences of having sex. Sex in high school can be life altering, and your teen could really use your support. This is where the parenting rubber meets the road. When you can cultivate a relationship that includes the tough discussions, then you and your kid will develop a mutual respect that takes your parenting to a whole new level. So, buck up, take a deep breath, and go talk with your teen; you're both worth it!


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