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  • Initiate the discussion – Finding the right time and place is essential—without phones, siblings, or other distractions. Talking while walking the dog, cooking, or riding in the car can feel less threatening.
  • Find and use teachable moments – Look out for TV shows, movies, podcasts, songs, or news articles that can springboard conversations about consent, healthy relationships, decision-making, and sex. Use the music of the moment by asking your child an open-ended question like: “What do you already know about…?”; “What have you heard about…?”; “What do you think about…?”; “What do your friends think about…?”
  • Empathize with your young person – It feels uncomfortable to talk about sex—for parents/ guardians and teens. Being honest about your feelings and using empathy creates a safe and supportive environment that opens the door for these critical discussions.
  • Listen without judgement – It is important to feel heard and not judged. Parents/guardians want to protect their teens, and teens want independence. This can cause conflict, but you are more likely to understand each other when you ask open-ended questions and listen. If your teen senses they will be teased, punished, or silenced for having questions, they may be less likely to come to you with questions or concerns in the future.
  • Plan ahead – Discussing risky situations before they happen allows the opportunity to talk about motivations for risk reduction or avoidance and think through ways to stay safe. Teens are more likely to make healthy decisions when weighing risks, pros, and cons beforehand.
  • Answer what’s asked, not what you think is asked – For instance, if your child asks if birth control is dangerous, ask what they have heard or already know to get more information about what they are asking. Please don’t assume they are asking because they want to use birth control.
  • If you sense there’s a question behind the question… – Go ahead and carefully try to give your emotional support. Don’t close the door – there’s usually a reason why the real question wasn’t asked directly, and your child may ask later if you indicate your openness.
  • Recognize what you don’t know – It is okay not to have all the answers. If your child asks a question that you don’t know the answer to, you can say, “I hear your question, and I don’t know if I have the answers right now. Let me try to find the best answer for you.” is a fantastic online resource for questions about sexual health. 
  • Be the louder and more influential voice – Please talk with your child about what media & social media portray and what you think about it. Please encourage your children to think critically about the streaming, music, and social media they see and how to set their own limits.
  • It’s okay to try again – No one always gets things right the first time. If you think you missed the mark or didn’t get across what you wanted to when talking about relationships or sexual health, it’s okay to let your child know and try again. Imperfect conversations are better than no conversations.
  • Leave the door open for future discussion – This isn’t just one talk! The goal is to have lots of small conversations over time, and every conversation is an opportunity. Let your child know you are a trusted support to them, no matter what their question or concern may be.

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