What is “The Talk?”
The phrase “the talk” is used to refer to the conversation many parents have with their child or children about sex and sexuality, although it can (and ideally should) be more of an ongoing discussion rather than a single conversation. Topics covered during “the talk” can include information about what sex is, what risks and consequences can be associated with sex, why people have sex, how people make decisions regarding whether or when to have sex, and/or ways of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
Preparing Yourself for "The Talk"
Talking to your parents about sex can be nerve-wracking. However, your parents may be nervous as well. For this reason, having an idea about what you want to discuss before talking to your parents is a good idea - it is easier for them to answer specific questions such as “what are sexually transmitted infections?” or “where can I buy condoms?” rather than very general questions such as, “what is there to know about sex?” Think about your goals for the conversation: for example, do you want them to teach you basic sexual health information? Do you want them to share their expectations and values with you? Do you want them to take you to get birth control? On the other hand, you may simply want to tell them that you are, or are thinking about becoming, sexually active. In any case, it can be extremely helpful to write down a list of questions or topics beforehand in order to organize your thoughts.
How to Pick the Right Time
Timing and location are important factors in deciding when to bring up the topic of sex with your parents. Try to broach the subject while they are relaxed and not doing anything important; for example, while you are watching TV together, washing dishes, or in the car. Using relevant class material or the media can be a useful way of easing into the discussion. For instance, if you are watching TV together and topics such as sex, pregnancy, or contraception arise, you can engage your parents in a discussion about those issues. On the other hand, if you feel comfortable discussing sex with your parents, you may feel confident simply bringing up your concerns at any other appropriate time and location.
Listen to Each Other
Although you and your parents may have differing views about sexual topics, it is important that you listen to what they have to say. At the same time, it is important that they listen to what you have to say. The discussion may flow smoothly, or it could be difficult if you have differing opinions. In any event, if you behave maturely, they will probably do the same. Respect your parents' opinions; they have been through (whether male or female), first-time sex, and many other experiences about which you may be curious. However, in the end, the decisions you make about sex are your own. Although talking to your older, more experienced parents can provide guidance and valuable information, you will ultimately need to decide when and how you want to live your sexual life.
But What if I Can't Talk to My Parents?
In some families, parents are not open to talking to their children about sex and sexuality. There could be many reasons for this. Some parents may have been raised in a home where sex was a taboo topic and they never had “the talk” with their own parents. If so, they might believe it is unnecessary to have this talk with their children. Other parents may have strong traditional views that are accompanied by the expectation that their children abstain from sex until marriage. And some parents have a hard time accepting the thought of their child being sexually active and would rather avoid this topic altogether. Whatever the reason may be, it is important to recognize cues that indicate whether your parents would be open to having this talk with you before initiating such a conversation.
For example, if your parents have consistently told you that you are forbidden from watching kissing and sex scenes during movies because they are filthy and set a bad example for you, it would not beunreasonable to assume that your parents have a strict attitude towards discussing sexual topics with you. If you feel that bringing up a discussion about sex will upset your parents, lead to punishment, or create conflicts within your household, it may be wiser not to initiate “the talk” with them and instead seek information from another source. Perhaps you have another relative in the family you could trust to approach this topic comfortably with you. At school, there are many mature adults (such as teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, mentors, nurses, etc.) who could be a good resource for topics about sexuality, contraceptives, or any other questions you may have.
If you feel there is no one in your community you can reach out to for guidance there are hotlines you can call to get your questions answered. For example, certain Planned Parenthood clinics have a sexual health hotline you could phone to get guidance on issues such as birth control, emergency contraception, pregnancy options, STIs (sexually transmitted infections), and other topics about reproductive and sexual health.