When I was in high school, my dad sat me down to tell me that if I ever got pregnant, I should feel comfortable coming to him and my mom. I mumbled, “Okay,” blushed intensely and immediately thought to myself, “Nice try dad. But if I ever get pregnant, I’ll deal with it alone.”
I knew my dad meant well and that he was doing what parents were supposed to by making himself available–but still, the thought of telling him something so intimate and personal just seemed utterly impossible.
I was thinking about this not too long ago as I was teaching a girls’ health class. The topic of talking to parents about sex came up, and I was curious to hear what they had to say about the subject. Maybe in the intervening years, kids and parent had somehow bridged the communication gap?
From what I heard, that didn’t seem to be the case.
Sure, some claimed that sex was a regular part of conversation at home, something they talked about over dinner, but a lot of others made gagging noises when they thought about bringing up the topic with the adults whose roof they lived under, and some hadn’t really considered that talking to mom and dad about this stuff was an option.
Keeping in mind my own teenage reaction to my father’s attempts at conversation, I asked my class if there was anything their parents could do to make them more comfortable talking about sex. Some said “no” flat out, but a few others offered these suggestions:
- Don’t just bring up the topic out of the blue. Make it seem normal to talk about sex.
- Don’t bring up sex or puberty if anyone (including dad) is around. Make sure there is privacy.
- Don’t act weird about it.
That didn’t give me a ton to go on, but it did remind me that while those who oppose comprehensive sex ed often say this topic should be discussed at home, in a whole lot of cases it just isn’t. So unless the sex ed opposers are able to tap into something in the parent child divide that I’ve been missing, then good sex education in schools seems as important as ever.
What do you think? Do you talk to your folks about sex? If not, why? If so, what makes you comfortable doing so?