Ten Things Not to Tell Your Teens About Sex

How do you feel about sex and are you comfortable talking to your child or teenager about it?

Countless studies have shown that children who feel they can talk with their parents about sex, because their parents speak openly and listen carefully to them, are less likely to engage in high-risk behavior as teenagers than children of parents who feel uncomfortable talking about the subject. So before you embark on any discussion about sex, explore your own feelings first lest you send the wrong signals to your son or daughter.

Unlike their Western counterparts, Filipinos often regard sex as a taboo subject at home. While some schools have already integrated sex education into their Health subjects, there are still many aspects, some of them the most basic, that are not covered.

Dr. Emma Llanto, a specialist in adolescent medicine at the Asian Hospital, says it is erroneous to believe that not talking about sex means that your child does not or will not engage in sex. Local studies, according to this head of the Adolescent Service of the Department of Pediatrics at the Philippine General Hospital, have shown that by the age of 20, 50 percent of Filipino male and female teens have already had their first sexual experience. Even more dangerous, Llanto adds, is the fact that more often than not, a boy’s first sexual encounter is not with a girlfriend but with someone he has casual sex with.

And in an age where AIDS, herpes and a whole gaggle of sexually transmitted diseases abound, not knowing the dangers posed by casual sex is a major health risk among the youth. The ideal is of course to wait until marriage, Dr. Llanto concedes, “but with the growing trend among the young to delay marriage, how long can one realistically remain abstinent?”

To address such concerns, the school health committee of the Philippine Pediatrics Society has launched an SSS (sex education, substance abuse and sexually transmitted disease or STD) program. Dr. Cynthia Cuayo Juico, who chairs the PPS school health committee, says the project tries to bring both public and private schools together to educate the youth on the dangers posed by premarital sex and promiscuity. Juico, head of the Manila Doctors Hospital’s Department of Pediatrics, acknowledges however that not all schools are ready for the program. Not surprisingly, she adds, the most resistance has come from a number of private schools. Which firmly puts the burden of educating children on sex on the shoulders of the parent.

So, what’s a parent to do? Here are some “don’ts” that Drs. Llanto and Cuayo would like parents to know:

1. Don’t clam up or wait for your teener to ask you about sex. It’s always a good thing if they do ask you questions—but if they don’t and you feel that the discussion is age-appropriate (often when they have entered adolescence), then by all means take the initiative. Surveys have shown that children would still, as much as possible, like to get the facts straight from their parents.

2. Don’t talk about sex with malice. Your attitude will immediately be picked up by your children and will leave a negative impact on them.

3. Don’t just have one big conversation about the birds and the bees. Keep the communication lines open. There are many teachable moments when you can talk about sex—while watching television, or when you read or hear about something that has happened to a friend or a classmate. Be alert to those moments when you can introduce sex education.

4. Don’t let your discussions on sex focus only on the negative aspects, such as its dangers and prohibitions. Also highlight the positive aspects, but within the proper context.

5. Don’t just talk about abstinence. Discuss peer pressure, as this is very real, especially for boys. With girls, talk about empowering themselves, how to stand up and say “no.” You may also opt to talk about protecting themselves later on, still in the context of, ideally, a monogamous relationship.

6. Don’t skip the basic facts just because you think all the information can be found in the media. Not everything that your child reads is true or good. It is best to educate yourself as well so you’re always ready to answer your child’s questions.

7. Don’t say that sex is bad. Your child needs to understand that a sexual relationship involves caring, concern and responsibility. By discussing the emotional aspects of a sexual relationship with your child, he/she will be better informed to make decisions later and to resist peer pressure.

8. Don’t say that sex is irrelevant. Clarify that sex is an important outlet of emotion and not solely confined to the sexual act itself.

9. Don’t tell your child that sex will automatically lead to disease. Yes, highlight the dangers of unwarranted sex but you need to explain that unprotected sex or having multiple partners will place him/her in a very high-risk position of getting STDs or AIDS, for which there is as yet no known cure.

10. Don’t tell them to simply say “no,” but teach them the nuances of negotiating relationships. Girls, especially, must be aware of how to duck the usual ultimatum posed by boyfriends about giving in to prove their love.

Written by Cathy S. Babao-Guballa

Comments

  1. This is a refreshing approach to a subject so life-changing yet so taboo. Parents need open-minded and evidence-based information like this so they can effectively help their children navigate adolescence. Hope to read more!

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