If you need evidence of mistakes parents make when talking to their kids about sex, consider this: Most of us didn’t have much of a conversation with our own parents about sex. If you’re like me, you were probably left to figure out a few things on your own—which is never good. The great news is we get to leave a different legacy for our kids.
By engaging our kids in conversation about sex, we can actually guide them and help them navigate the dangers and pitfalls of it. There’s a lot to discuss about sex, but let’s make sure we understand what not to do. Here are the 5 biggest mistakes dads make when talking to their kids about sex.
1. Leaving the Conversation up to Someone ElseLet’s not abdicate our responsibility to have tough conversations with our kids.
Let’s not abdicate our responsibility to have tough conversations with our kids. These conversations may be difficult and awkward, but you’ve been given a significant voice in your kid’s lives. Also, if you put this conversation off until your kids are 12 years old, you’ve probably waited a few years too late. By waiting, you leave the conversation up to someone else (and my guess is that someone else doesn’t know nor care about your kids as much as you do!). Take ownership of this conversation and guide your kids.
2. Thinking One Talk Is All It Takes
Another big mistake is believing it’s a “sex talk.” This leads us to believe it’s one conversation and that’s all it takes. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s an ongoing conversation, spread out over many years. When you start having the conversation, always leave it open to further discussion. Our kids’ maturity levels and stages of life change. At 10 years old, our sons may not be interested in the opposite sex or dating, but at 16, it’s another story. Easy times to have a conversation are when watching TV together and something sex-related is shown, in the car while driving, or when your kid really begins to notice the opposite sex.
3. Not Including Your Kid’s Mother in the Conversation
A big mistake we make when talking to our kids about sex is not sharing the same voice on sex and related topics as our wife or child’s mother. This certainly leaves kids feeling confused and creates rifts within the family. Be sure you and your kids’ mom discuss how you will approach the conversation with your kids. Your spouse may not be present for every conversation, but both Mom and Dad need to have a unified voice, with both sons and daughters. A unified front as parents helps tough conversations with our kids go smoother.
4. Assuming Kids Know What You’re Talking About
When kids are young, we need to remember everything is new to them and they simply don’t have the same life experiences we do. When you assume they know what you’re talking about, especially when they don’t, they can get confused or feel embarrassed that they don’t know and try to find answers to their questions elsewhere. We need constantly to check with them to ensure they understand what we’re talking about and we should use straightforward terms and not slang. But with teenagers, the opposite is true! Don’t assume you know what they’re talking about. You should ask them, “What does that mean?” and use phrases like “Help me understand what this means.”
5. Believing It Can’t Happen to Your Kid
As I’ve worked with many students over the years, one unfortunate recurring mistake I see parents making, especially with teens, is believing their kids would never (fill in the blank). Please engage your kids in these conversations and assume they are going to struggle with sex. This could mean with relationships, pornography, or something else. By openly conversing with your kids about these topics and following up with them from time to time, you give them ample opportunity to open up to you and have a conversation. A great question to ask your kids repeatedly is “What’s your biggest struggle right now?” Don’t forget about the importance of the first 10 seconds of your conversation and be ready to listen and have a great talk with them.
Sound off: Are there other mistakes parents make when talking to their kids about sex?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What’s your biggest struggle lately?”