As any regular reader of this blog knows, I’m a big fan of talking about sexuality. Having lots of small conversations over many years works best, and there are all kinds of things in daily life that can give parents an opening.
But there is one time that the young adults I surveyed often mentioned as an awful situation: in front of a boyfriend/girlfriend/romantic interest. Yes, a date showing up understandably gets parents thinking about sex and romance. “Omg, he/she’s in a relationship! They’re horny teens! What if they have sex? Have I done enough to prepare my kid to wait/to be safe? Maybe I’d better review birth control….”
Problem is, your teen will not be receptive at those times. She’s thinking about the romantic partner and is (possibly) feeling sexual feelings, not so much thinking about those feelings. She does not want a parent’s energy/ideas about sex to mix in any way with her own energy/feelings/ideas about sex—that just feels yucky. This is her moment, not yours. If you indulge your impulse to talk about sex when the date walks in the door, you’ll come across as so tone-deaf and pushy that she’ll be hesitant to talk with you about it ever.
Worse, you’ll have ignored two of the key guidelines for talking about sex with kids: protecting their privacy, and keeping embarrassment to a minimum. A parent talking about any aspect of sex or birth control in front of a kid’s new honey is mortifying.
The best time to talk about sexuality and safer sex (contraception and avoiding STIs) is before your child starts dating (preferably starting long before). The next-best time is as soon as he starts dating—but never in front of his date.
So say hi to the guy or girl your kid likes. Be polite, hopefully friendly, and do your best not to do anything too embarrassing. The sex review can happen another time, when you and your child are calm and undistracted.