The Importance of Sex Education

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You understand the importance of sex education. But don't count on classroom instruction alone. Although the basics may be covered in health class, your child might not hear — or understand — everything he or she needs to know. That's where you come in. Awkward as it may be, sex education is a parent's responsibility. By reinforcing and supplementing what your child learns in school, you can help your child make good decisions about sex.

Sex is a staple of news, entertainment and advertising. It's often hard to avoid this ever-present topic. But when parents and children need to talk, it isn't always so easy. If you wait for the perfect moment, you might miss the best opportunities. Instead, think of sex education as an ongoing conversation. Here are some ideas to help you get started — and keep the discussion going.

Seize the moment. When a TV program or music video raises issues about responsible sexual behavior, use it as a springboard for discussion. If a good topic comes up at an inconvenient time, say you'd like to talk more about it later — then actually do so. Keep it low-key. Don't pressure your child to talk about sex. Simply broach the subject when you're alone with your child. Sometimes everyday moments — such as riding in the car, putting away groceries or sharing a late-night snack — offer the best opportunities to talk. Be honest. If you're uncomfortable, say so — but explain that it's important to keep talking. If you don't know how to answer your child's questions, offer to find the answers or look them up together. Be direct. Clearly state your feelings about specific issues, such as oral sex and intercourse. Present the risks objectively, including emotional pain, sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancy. Explain that oral sex isn't a risk-free alternative to intercourse. Consider your child's point of view. Don't lecture your child or rely on scare tactics to discourage sexual activity. Instead, listen carefully....
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