The Talk

Menstuff® has compiled the following information on The Talk.

The Talk, Guys Version
When to have "The Talk"
How to talk to your teen: Tips for Better Communication

When to have "The Talk"


As adolescents enter their late teen years, they begin to date more regularly, and many become sexually intimate with a partner. For many, sexual drive is at its strongest during adolescence. More than half of teenagers will have had sexual intercourse by the age of 17. By the age of 18, 65% of girls and 68% of boys have had sexual intercourse.

Talking to your son or daughter about sex

Whether they are sexually active or not, teenagers need help to make responsible choices about sex. Talking about sex does not encourage sexual activity in teens; in fact, some studies show that talking frankly and honestly about sex can prevent teenage pregnancy and delay intercourse. Having an open, honest relationship with your teen will largely depend on the quality of the relationship you have built to this point.

Ideally, you should begin to discuss sex with your child while he or she is in elementary school. A good way to start is to acknowledge that talking about sex may be awkward, but that your child should never be afraid to ask you questions. Discussing sex and sexuality with your children is not a one-time conversation, however. As they grow and mature, children naturally have questions about their sexuality. The more you can give them guidance, the better prepared they will be to make responsible decisions.

If you are unsure of how to begin such a conversation, use everyday situations as an icebreaker. Use examples on TV or another teen's pregnancy to start a discussion about sex and dating.

Your local library, church or synagogue, or organizations such as Planned Parenthood will have information to help you talk to your kids about sex and family life issues. Planned Parenthood and other groups offer counseling and classes you can take with your teenager to discuss sex, dating, and other important issues.

Discussing contraception

Talking about condoms and other forms of contraception is often based on family values and attitudes. Nevertheless, it's essential to make sure your teen understands how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases, how pregnancy occurs, and how to avoid an unwanted pregnancy, be it by abstinence or the use of condoms and other contraceptive methods.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends several strategies to help prevent teens from getting pregnant. The AAP supports having programs in place that help teens delay becoming sexually active. The AAP also recommends that teens learn about contraceptive methods and be able to get them easily. This includes emergency contraception methods.2

Defining sex

Explain that sex does not just mean vaginal sexual intercourse. Oral sex is becoming more accepted for adolescents. Generally, adolescents do not think of oral sex as "sex." Many adolescents think of oral sex as a safe way to enjoy some of the benefits of vaginal sex with less risk of feeling guilty, getting a bad reputation, or going against their own values and beliefs.3 Also, some adolescents don't understand that it is possible to get a sexually transmitted disease or HIV from having oral sex.3 Anal sex is another sexual activity that some teens practice without fully understanding the risks of sexually transmitted disease and HIV.

Help your teen understand these risks as well as other possible effects from engaging in these and other sexual behaviors. For example, some teens may not realize the emotional aftermath that sometimes results from having sex. Focus on helping your teen think about what makes a relationship strong. Talk about what it means to truly care for another person.

Discussing sexual abuse and date rape

Giving your teen information about date rape is important. As many as 1 in 4 high school girls and 1 in 10 high school boys report having been physically or sexually abused.4 A history of sexual abuse puts teens at higher risk for sexual and physical abuse by a date or a peer.

Talk to your teens about the following:

Avoid places that are secluded. Go where there are other people, where you feel comfortable and safe. Don't go to a date's home or invite him to yours. These are the places where most acquaintance rapes occur.

Trust your instincts. If you feel vulnerable, you might be. For example, avoid parties where boys greatly outnumber girls.

Don't be afraid to be rude. If a situation feels wrong or you start to get nervous, confront your date immediately or leave as quickly as possible.

Avoid alcohol and drugs. They compromise your ability-and that of your date-to make responsible decisions.

Go on a group or double date. Especially at first, dating in groups may be more comfortable and less risky. When teens are with friends who are trustworthy, they tend to be safer, even when they break rules.

How to talk to your teen: Tips for Better Communication

A parent's view of speech development: it begins in infancy, blossoms in childhood, and stops dead in its tracks at adolescence.

A teenager's view of speech development: "My parents don't understand a word I'm saying."

You don't need a degree in communications to know that parents and teenagers seem to spend more time talking at and past one another than to or with one another. Chalk it up to different agendas, the stress of daily life, or familiarity breeding contempt. Whatever the reason, adolescents and their folks are as good at making conversation as the construction crew at the Tower of Babel.

But with a little give and take, a lot of patience, and a healthy measure of R-E-S-P-E-C-T, parents and teens may be able to remove the roadblocks hindering two-way communication.

To help understand talking with teens, WebMD interviewed two experts in adolescent development: Laurence Steinberg, PhD, Distinguished University Professor and Laura H. Carnell Professor of Psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia; and Carol Maxym, PhD, who counsels families in Honolulu and Washington, D.C.

First, says Steinberg, parents need to recognize that "although your child doesn't have the same level of knowledge, information, wisdom or experience as you do, he or she has essentially the same logical tools and can see through logical fallacies and lapses in what's sensible."

In other words, the "do-it-because-I-said-so" approach to talking with teens doesn't work anymore. "They can't be bullied around by power-assertive statements by parents that aren't based on any kind of logical reality," Steinberg says.

Teenagers have exquisitely sensitive B.S. detectors, agrees Maxym, who counsels families of troubled adolescents in private practice. "Parents need to be emotionally authentic. Don't try to act as though you are angry when you're really not. Don't try to tell your child 'I'm really hurt when you don't go to school,' when what you really are is angry. Kids know their parents really well and pick up on it, and as soon as you as a parent become inauthentic, you've lost any chance of real communication," says Maxym.

Research also shows that "the big barrier is in how parents and teenagers define issues," If the parent sees a teen's messy room as a moral issue, and the teen sees it as a matter of choice, they may never reach a mutually satisfactory solution, says Steinberg.

What can you do to communicate better? Our experts offer these tips both parents and teenagers:

For Parents

Don't lecture your teen, have a conversation. When parents complain "my teenager doesn't want to talk to me," what they're really complaining about is "my teenager doesn't want to listen to me." Conversation involves at least two people, Steinberg emphasizes.

Don't attack. "The conversation between any two people will break down if one of the two is put on the defensive and made to feel he's being accused of something," says Steinberg.

Show respect for your teen's opinions. Teenagers can be surprisingly easy to talk with if the parents make it clear that they're listening to the teen's point of view.

Keep it short and simple. Maxym urges parents to remember what she calls the "50% rule": "Almost every parent says at least 50% more than he or she should. Shut up. Remember when you were a teen and your parents lectured at you? And you thought, 'Will you please stop; I already got the point!' Stop before your teen gets there."

Be yourself. Don't try to talk like your kids or their friends. "You're an adult, so be an adult," Maxym says.

Seize the moment. A spontaneous conversation in the car or at home late at night -- any time when you're not rushed -- can make for some of the warmest, most rewarding moments, Steinberg says. "I think for parents, one of the key parts of having good communication with kids is being around enough to capitalize on these moments that invariably don't come up when you expect them to."

For Teenagers

Try to understand the situation from your parents' point of view. If your goal is to be allowed to stay out later on Saturday night, for example, try to anticipate what they are concerned about, such as your safety and your whereabouts.

Address their concerns honestly and directly. Try saying something like, "If I am allowed to stay out later, I will tell you in advance where I'm going to be so you know how to reach me," or "I'll call you to let you know what time I'm going to be home, and that way you won't have to worry about it."

Don't go on the defensive. If you feel deeply about the subject of the conversation -- clothes, friends, politics, sex, drugs, whatever -- stick to your guns, but listen to what your parents have to say.

Don't criticize or ridicule their viewpoints. Show them and their opinions the respect you want them to give you.

Make requests. Don't issue a list of demands.

Make "I" statements. Explain your concerns by saying things such as "I feel you're not being fair." Or, "I feel like you're not listening to my side." Avoid "you" statements, such as "You don't know what you're talking about."

Parents: Pushing Teens Too Hard?
Parenting -- it's the most competitive adult sport in today's world.

Parents are coaching kids in every detail of their lives -- academics, athletics, arts -- so the best colleges will take them, so they'll have the best chance for success. The result for many teens, experts say, is burnout, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

"I really think it's a major contributing factor in drug use, early sex, binge drinking -- kids feel pressured, they feel tremendous stress," says Alvin Rosenfeld, MD, author of The Over-scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-parenting Trap.

What's Going On Here?

Hyper-parenting -- a word that Rosenfeld coined - is increasingly becoming the accepted way to raise successful children. Some parents hire tutors for kids already getting A's, just to keep them on track. Some hire private soccer coaches for 9-year-old boys, just to give them an extra edge on the team. "There's no effort too extreme, no sacrifice too great," Rosenfeld says, especially "if it will help your child get admission to the leading colleges."

"Parents see that the workforce is growing increasingly competitive," he says. "Society has become more bifurcated -- there are the 'haves' and the 'have nots', and not much in between. Parents are anxious about kids staying on the gravy train. They want to be good parents. They think this is the way to do it."

The Positive Side of Pushing

Such diligence is not mean-spirited and sometimes pays off, helping an ambitious child reach his or her goals.

Nadine Kaslow, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University and chief psychologist at the Grady Health System in Atlanta, says she was a "pushed child."

"It was good for me," she tells WebMD. "There are lots of advantages to pushing teens. It gives them an opportunity to really excel in life. But I was the kind of kid who was temperamentally suited to being pushed -- it's probably why I'm a workaholic now. Every good thing has its downside."

The Risks of Pushing Too Hard

However, Kaslow agrees that many kids are not suited to being pushed, and too many parents ignore the cues their kids are sending. The results are starting to show up in college campus mental health centers.

One study at Kansas State University looked at 13,257 students seeking counseling between 1988 and 2001. Researchers found that the rate of depression among students doubled in that time, while the number of suicidal students tripled. Until 1994, the most common problems were what one might expect: relationship woes, according to the report in the February 2003 issue of the journal Professional Psychology: Research and Practice.

Hyper-parenting, says Rosenfeld, can damage a kid's self-esteem, detour the development of self-reliance, and make kids anxious. Kids feel under constant scrutiny, and begin to feel inadequate in their "unpolished" state.

These experts say many parents should take a step back, and assess whether their children are driven, or whether they themselves are caught up in the competition.

"This is not about meeting your needs, it's about your child's needs," says Kaslow. "If you have a child who drives herself (or himself), then it's OK to push them. But forcing kids to do things they hate isn't going to work."

Finding Middle Ground

Stepping back from the competition is not easy, Rosenfeld acknowledges. Parents feel social pressures to push kids. "If you don't overdo it, you're treated as a vastly neglectful parent. Just try telling another parent you're not going to let your kid play elite hockey because it means you all have to get up at 4 a.m."

So remind yourself that the qualities that have made America so successful -- creativity and innovation -- go unrewarded in a society where everyone crams for straight A's. "We've got a one-size-fits-all mentality. My kid must be president of the school class, etc., or there's no hope for his future," says Rosenfeld. But American history has proven that mentality wrong.

What should you do?

Kaslow suggest parents encourage their kids to try new activities and sign them up for six weeks of lessons. But if the child isn't enthusiastic after six weeks, back off. Let them focus on the few activities they like.

Advises Rosenfeld: "In my experience, what makes for a good life is doing one thing well and liking it. Satisfaction with life comes from the quality of our relationships, not what we have achieved. You see the evidence all the time -- the 'truly successful' CEO who didn't get invited to his daughter's wedding. It's all about how you define success."

The Talk, Guys Version

I don't know how many of you got The Talk from your parents. I suppose that there's more communication mother-to-daughter than father-to-son, if for no other reason than the beginning of the menstrual cycle.

I never got such a talk from my dad. In fact, my parents never said much of anything to me about sex. One of the benefits of this, I suppose, is that my information about it was so limited that I was not involved sexually at too young an age. But one of the drawbacks is that my parents simply trusted that my sexual education would take place in the classroom.

Which of course is stupid.

Like a lot of boys, I did not learn about sex from a teacher showing charts and slides. I learned about it - correct that, I learned something about it - from illicitly obtained materials circulated among my peers. I saw pictures, and R-rated movies like 10. This was junior-high; as the videocassette became popular, I was able to see videos in my later adolescence. I did not see a lot of them, but I knew enough to be able to carry on conversations about them, the way a casual sports fan could chat up a playoff race without seeming totally stupid.

Of course, what I learned was nonsense, fantasy. It had pretty much nothing to do with how people really relate to one another. And it certainly created certain ideas about women in our heads, ideas that again have little if anything to do with reality. There was a whole lot missing in this kind of learning; it was haphazard. Watching a film like KIDS is frightening not simply because of the ages of these sexually active children, but because they seem to have such really bad information. Maybe some kids learned about things like condoms, or STDs. No one ever explained to me what a "wet dream" was; even when the Beatles made reference to the term on Let it Be, I did not know. And since there was never any playing with baby dolls for us boys, of course there was no concern about matters like pregnancy, at least not until the Health Ed classroom in 11th grade. Then we got the clinical talks about all this stuff, which I could not really connect to whatever was going on with me (which, in fact, at that point, was not much at all, nerd that I was).

Would The Talk have helped me? Not in and of itself. What would have helped was a more clearly open line of communication, one which would have allowed me to ask questions. I could not have even come up with any questions in those days, I was so clueless. Somehow the lines of communication that seemed pretty good when talking about the game of baseball (literally) simply broke down when it came to the metaphorical baseball game. Maybe it's just what happens when you hit puberty; you stop talking to your parents. I am determined not to let that happen with my children, though of course, since they are daughters, they'll turn to their mother first. And mom, well, she's pretty direct about stuff, honest, clear.

The fantasies that have been spread to kids and sex have done a lot of harm, both fantasies that suggest pleasure and those that suggest pain (being turned into a toad or growing warts on your hands). The Talk has to be truthful. Would you rather have your child hear facts about sex from you or from a movie whose title makes puns of the female anatomy?
Source: by T.B. White,

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