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When You’re Embarrassed to Start Having “The Talk,” Listen to Our Doctor

Few (if any) parents relish the opportunity to talk about sex with their teenagers. But talk we must, if we want our teenagers to practice safe sex—and, in general, develop a healthy approach to sexuality—says a recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Medicine.

The authors write: “Youth want to hear from their parents and overwhelmingly say that parents matter.” They note that parents can “exert significant influence on adolescents’ sexual attitudes, values, and beliefs regarding risks.”

But what to do if the talk is just way too awkward for you? Our expert has some ideas on how to talk to teenagers about sex.

Transcript:

Some parents will never reach the comfort level of being able to have all these conversations with their kids. Then, prep the pediatrician. Say, “Can you make sure you talk to them about wet dreams? And erections? And all of the things that I’m having a hard time talking about at home? Or, have a conversation where you can teach me, live time, how to have that conversation with him.”

Some people ask if it ought to be the dad or the mom who has that conversation. It doesn’t matter. It’s equally embarrassing for the kid and potentially the parent no matter which gender the parent is. It’s whoever tends to have those conversations more readily or wants to stretch their parenting skills to start that conversation, or whoever gets into the pediatrician’s office.

If your pediatrician doesn’t do a lot of talking about what’s normal, and prevention, and healthy messaging, then it’s fair game to: one, ask the pediatrician for the info. Say, “Can we have a discussion about that?” Two, if the pediatrician really is out of their wheel house on that, then that’s why God invented adolescent medicine docs. You can find us all over the country, and all over the world. We are here exactly to help answer those troubled questions.

Dr. Ellen Rome

Dr. Ellen Rome is the head of the Center for Adolescent Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.