October is a time of slowing down to enjoy the changing leaves and pumpkin lattes, but it is also a time to intentionally talk to your teen. All year long, we use teachable moments to talk to our teens about bullying, substance use, depression, relationships, and the list goes on. These yearlong conversations are important to connect with your teen. Research shows teens connected to caring, supportive adults are healthier and happier.
In October, we must stop and have a serious conversation about sex, hopefully over a pumpkin latte. Teens report the biggest influence on their decision to have sex and to use contraception, is their parents/caregiver. Sometimes this conversation can be hard, our sweet little pumpkins that were once toddlers dressing up for Halloween as lions or Doc McStuffins are now going as Harley Quinn or a shirtless firefighter. It’s hard to accept the reality that our kids are growing up, making their own decisions and developing their sexuality. But they need you now as much as they did when they were a cute toddler; their brains and bodies are under complete transformation and navigating societal pressures while your body is completely changing is tough.
They need you to be open, honest and support healthy decision making. Be sure to help them process sexual decision making; make sure they know if they want to have sex or not, before they are being pressured and make sure you and your teen have a plan. How do they get out of situations that they think might lead to sex if they want to be abstinent? Do they know they can ask you for help in navigating birth control and condoms if they make the decision to have sex? If not you, who are the people you trust you want them talking to. It is hard to accept, but our teens need other adults beyond us that are trusted and represent our values. These trusted adults can help our teens when they are too embarrassed to ask us. Discuss who is in the circle of trust. Let them know that you are there to support them regardless of their decision or circumstance. If they do not start the conversation, you can. Learn more at connectspartanburg.org/sexual-health-parents or at factforward.org/resources/parents
Project Director For Connect Spartanburg at Spartanburg Regional Healthcare Foundation