Talking about Sexual Behavior

Research suggests that by tenth grade, 44 percent of adolescents nationwide report having had sex. Many parents find this a difficult topic to bring up with their children, and once they have the "birds and the bees" talk it can be tempting to consider the job done. However, Christopher Houck, PhD of the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center, says, "keeping an open dialogue is critical to addressing the developmental changes that are inherent in discussions about sexual behavior. A series of conversations about sex can begin when a child is young and continue throughout their teens."

The key to these conversations, Houck says, are to plan ahead. As a parent, you must feel confident and comfortable. You might want to rehearse what you are going to say, so that you feel comfortable with the terminology and ensure that your statements do not sound judgmental or even awkward. Know the goal you hope to achieve with your conversation. Is it to have a discussion about values? To gauge how much your child knows? To stress the importance of protection and safe sex? Knowing your goal will focus the conversation for you an your child.

Remember that although an honest conversation about sexual behavior may be difficult or uncomfortable, it is ultimately in the best interest of your child's health development.