If there's one thing that nearly all parents dread in some way or another, it's having the talk. It can be difficult, awkward, and uncomfortable for all involved! But as parents, we are our kids' first source of comprehensive, age-appropriate education. It's such an important subject, and we all need to swallow our misgivings and make sure our kids have all the information they need to be healthy and safe.
Ideally, you'll be talking to your kids about body safety and consent from an early age. When you start young, you're able to lay the foundation for a good education! But some parents think that a one-time talk with their teens is enough. A new study suggests that talking to your teenagers about this once or twice isn't enough. Instead, it should be an ongoing conversation throughout their childhood and adolescence.
Brigham Young University family life professor Laura Padilla-Walker is the author of the study, which is published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Padilla-Walker evaluated parent-child communication among 468 14-18 year olds and their moms, as well as 311 of their dads. She made contact with participating families every summer for 10 years, to reevaluate their sex education communication. This evaluation included a 4-part questionnaire that she then used to measure the level of communication.
Padilla-Walker found that both teens and their parents reported low levels of communication, though teens reported lower levels than their parents did. The levels stayed fairly constant over the course of the ten years. Padilla-Walker also found that increasing this type of communication can help adolescents feel safer going to their parents with questions and concerns about sex. Additionally, ongoing education communication resulted in safer sexual activity at the age of 21.
The study highlights how important it is that we constantly and continuously communicate with our kids about this. We can't allow them to get their only information from their school's education program, or friends or the media. In order to keep them safe as they get older and become sexually active, we must arm them with the tools they need to make good decisions.