There comes a time in every teenager’s life when they realize that they weren’t dropped on their parents’ front porch by a stork.
In the past, teens sat down with their parents or trusted guardians and had the dreadfully uncomfortable “birds and the bees” talk. Through this rite-of-passage conversation, parents discussed sexual intercourse, often referring metaphorically to bees pollinating flowers and birds laying eggs as a basic introduction to sex.
But today, many teens skip “the talk” with their parents and rely on friends, older siblings, TV, movies, social media, and the Internet to learn about sex.
Senior Makala Soeur never had “the talk” with her parents but was told to be smart and careful whenever she decided to have sex.
“I learned about sex from TV shows and movies…then once I got to high school, it became a common topic among everyone,” Soeur said. “After seeing it on TV, I learned more about sex from conversations with my friends and I took sex ed into my own hands by looking stuff up on the Internet.”
Junior Josh Argayosa never had the traditional “birds and the bees” talk with his parents, but in middle school, his dad explained the importance of safe sex and condom use.
“My dad is really open with me and I feel like I can talk to him,” Argayosa said. “He told me enough about sex so I didn’t feel like I had to search for information by myself.”
Although he never received “the talk,” Argayosa says he feels comfortable enough talking to his dad if he has any questions or concerns about sex.
“I would want to give my kids the talk so they don’t have to rely on the Internet to get information,” Argayosa said. “[By having the talk with them] I hope to have a closer connection with them.”
In “The New York Times” article “Why Parents Should Have the Sex Talk with Their Children,” North Carolina State University assistant professor of psychology Dr. Laura Widman encourages parents to make sex a comfortable conversation with their children. In a 2015 study of 600 young people between the ages of 12 and 15, nearly one-third of the kids had never talked to their parent about sex before.
Widman found that kids who talked to their parents about sex were also more likely to have better communication with their sexual partner and were more likely to use a condom. She uses her study to encourage more parents talk to their kids about sex and safe sex practices.
“We know that being able to communicate with a partner about condom use is one of the best predictors of whether teens use condoms or not,” Dr. Widman said. “So providing kids with the language they need and getting the message across that the subject [of sex] is not off-limits or taboo can make a difference in their behavior.”
Counselor Lee Vue did not have the talk with his parents when he was growing up and, similar to many students today, learned about sex from sources like his friends, school and TV shows.
Vue’s relationship with his high school son differs from the relationship he had with his parents as he tries to make intimacy and safe sex a more comfortable topic.
“As a parent now, I do feel responsible to make sure my own children are more informed and prepared for their journey ahead,” Vue said.