October is “Let’s Talk Month” -- a month that encourages parents and caregivers to talk with the teens in their lives about sexual health. But did you know that teens can also start the conversation themselves? Chances are teens have the same concerns as their parents or caregivers:
“Should I talk with them about it?”
“Will this be awkward?”
“How will they react?”
No matter how weird it might seem, these are conversations worth having. Adults have tons of wisdom and experience to share, so if you feel safe talking to them, here are some tips on how to start the conversation. If you don’t feel safe or comfortable talking to your parents, you can talk with another trusted adult like an older sibling, family member, your friend’s parent, a mentor, a coach, staff at your school. These tips will work with them, too!
Think About Timing and Location
Finding the right time to talk is critical. You want to choose a private setting, somewhere where both you and your parent/s are comfortable and can talk without any interruptions. You can also think about times where you’re talking next to a person instead of looking directly at them, like when you’re in a car, walking the dog or washing dishes. This can make things feel less awkward because you’re not looking your parent in the eyes.
You and your parent might have different views on sex and the topics that surround it and that’s perfectly fine. It is important to listen to one another, as well as acknowledge each other’s views and concerns. Try your absolute best to be polite, to listen, not speak above one another, and to be honest. Listen to what your parents have to say; you may learn something from their point of view.
Try a Conversation Starter
Talking about sex with your parent shouldn’t be a one-time thing– it’s an ongoing conversation. To start things off you can use the world around you, like referring to things in the media or stuff your friends have said. Consider these as possible conversation starters:
- “I saw _____ in a (movie, show, web page), what is that?”
- “Did your parent/s talk with you about sex?”
- “How/When did you first learn about sex?”
- “____ started using birth control, what do you think about that?”
Teach Your Parents
A teachable moment is when someone uses what is going on around them to teach a lesson. For example, if you see something on TV or in a movie, ask your parents what they think about it. If your parent uses a word of phrase that is not accurate, let them know and talk to them about why it is not accurate. For example,, identities and words for identities are constantly changing. If your parents use a word or phrase to refer to a group of people that you know is outdated, you can nicely let them know what word would be better and why. If you are not sure why, you can you can look it up together.
Your parents care about you and the decisions you make. At the end of the conversation you may find that they are glad and relieved that you are being open and came to them with your questions. That can go a long way. You can also direct your parents to Talk With Your Kids, a website where they can get more information about how to start a conversation with you or your sisters and brothers.
Remember: It’s ideal to have a trusted adult with you when you get health services- including birth control and STD testing but it isn’t required. As a teen in California, you have a right to access confidential health care with or without a parent. Here’s a website where you can find a clinic near you for care.