Childhood is a brilliant time of exploration. Imagination runs wild, and innocent questions or quips likely pepper your dinnertime conversations — and probably at other times, too, such as:
- brief conversations about “private” parts
- explaining how girls and boys are different
- answering the infamous “Where do babies come from?” question
Let’s be honest, these conversations only get more complicated with time, and as your child approaches adolescence, they are probably becoming more curious about themselves and others. Instead of evoking a belly laugh, these questions may now produce some well-placed anxiety that your child is growing up rather quickly, and now there’s this whole other part of growing up you need to teach them about: sexual wellness.
You care about your children, and you know this is important. Adolescents who begin having sex early –under 14 years old – are at greater risk for academic failure, sexually transmitted infections, unplanned teen pregnancy and other health concerns. Below is a snapshot of what that looks like in Washoe County:
The following question may be How do I do this? Not only that, but how do you do it well, in a way that’s safe and informative yet also includes your family values?
At Northern Nevada HOPES, we provide a program called Families Talking Together, which is an evidence-based workshop for parents to practice having these conversations. Here are a few tips from the program:
- When is your child ready? Children become increasingly curious about sexuality as they get older, especially right before puberty. It’s important to note that you can never have these conversations too early, so long as they’re developmentally appropriate for your child, but we do recommend beginning these conversations no later than 10 years old.They’ll let you know, though! Be it through questions or behaviors, just be on the lookout for some of those more awkward moments.
- Choose a time to talk when it’s just you and your child. This can be when you’re driving home from soccer practice, making a grocery run, or taking a walk together. It’s meant to be part of your everyday routine, but confidential enough that they can ask questions if they are comfortable. Even if you have kids close in age, try to give them individual time and attention for these conversations.
- How do you bring it up? You can be clever here, so it sounds like their idea. If you’re listening to a pop song, chances are it includes something about relationships or subtle sexual references; ask your child what they think about it. The same goes for steamy movie scenes or even innocent cartoon kisses.
- What adolescent doesn’t like to give advice? Use either a real or a made up scenario about a coworker’s child or somebody you read about online and ask what they would do in that situation – you can gauge their level of maturity, interest and what topics you need to cover based on their answer.
A little extra education can’t hurt, can it? If you are still feeling like you want to sharpen your skills, join us for a Families Talking Together workshop.
About Northern Nevada HOPES: HOPES is a nonprofit community health center in downtown Reno that offers integrated medical care and wellness services. We welcome patients, wherever they are in life, and provide them with compassionate, high-quality healthcare. Call (775) 786-4673 or visit us here.