How To Start The Talk Yourself
by Tony

Parents are pretty important in the scheme of things. They love you and care about you, and will probably give you better information, advice, and support than you could get anywhere else. But talking to them can really be difficult - how do you start?

"Uh, mom, can I get birth control?"

Yeah, right. Unless you've warmed her up a little, this may come across like a baseball bat, and you probably won't get the answers you were hoping for.

Here are a few of the biggest reasons teens don't want to talk to their parents about sex, relationships, puberty, and that sort of thing - and some techniques for starting a conversation smoothly.

"I'd be too embarrassed."
First, decide which parent is easier to talk with. Sometimes you'll be more comfortable discussing one subject with your Dad and another issue with your Mom. If you're feeling tongue tied, start with something a little less personal. Try: "I have a friend who got her period while she was at school. She didn't know what to do!" Or use a book or a magazine as a jump off point. "I read about someone who used the rhythm method to keep from getting pregnant. Does that really work?"" Still nervous? It's okay to say so! Break the ice with something like, "This feels weird for me to talk about and it may be for you too, but I need to know..."

"My parents don't like to talk about this stuff."
It helps if you can get your parents used to talking about personal things with you. You can pave the way by talking with parents about less embarassing topics before you have a pressing need. An open-ended question like, "What was your life like at my age?" can get the adult in your life talking more freely about puberty, sex, and relationships. People almost always like to talk about themselves, and you can lead them to a specific topic by asking questions about their experience, like, "How old were you when your body started changing?" or "Did you ever like two guys at the same time?" It's likely that your parents have been through some of the same things that you're experiencing now. And once they're talking, you can ease the conversation toward whatever's on your mind.

"My parents will just lecture me."
Yep. This is a real fear. If your parents go off on a one-sided rant, let them know what they're doing. They may not even realize that they've started lecturing. The point of the conversation should be for you to get your questions answered and to have an opportunity to explore your thoughts and feelings on the subject. Tell them. Let them know that you care about their views, but that you really just wanted to talk. Then hang in there and keep trying.

"My parents always seem too busy to talk."
Everyone's lives are busy, and if your mom or dad isn't ready to concentrate on what you have to say, the conversation won't be very satisfying. You can give your parents a heads-up by planning your talk in advance. Just say something like, "Can we have a private talk tonight?" This will let your mom or dad know that something is on your mind, and will give him or her a chance to finish cooking dinner (or whatever) before sitting down to talk with you. Or, start a conversation some time when you and a parent are in the car alone. Some people find intimate conversations easier in a car since there are no distractions, you're sort of stuck there together, and you don't have to make eye contact.

"My parents will be furious if I even bring up anything remotely sexual!"
Okay, you know your parents well enough to know whether they can handle the discussion you have in mind. (You may have tried to start a conversation like this before.) If they're really going to freak out and get angry with you, you may have to turn to another adult - an aunt, a grandfather, a friend's parent, or a school counselor. Sometimes these people can be more objective than your parents. It's important that you find someone you trust other than a peer. Peers can be great supports, but adults have access to information, experiences, and perspectives about sex, puberty, and relationships that young people may not have.

If the topic is really important (for example, you're pregnant) you should tell your parents unless they would absolutely not support you. If this is difficult, you can start by talking with another trusted adult first, to help you collect your thoughts and cope with your feelings. Then you can go to your parents with a little strength and self-assuredness. They may surprise you by being better able to handle a crisis -- and more willing to offer you help and support -- than you thought.

It may not always be easy, and your parents may squirm, but talking about sex, puberty, and relationships with your parents is important. It's great to have an adult nearby with whom you know you can discuss any questions and concerns you may have.

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