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How to talk to your kids about sex and drugs

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Recently I was on the Today show discussing how to talk to your kids about sex and drugs because we want parents to feel encouraged to have what many people expect to be a difficult conversation. Try to think back to when you were first experimenting with drinking or thinking about having sex—it’s a lot of pressure for a teen and yes they need their mommies and daddies to help them out!

So here are my three tips for how to have the conversation with your kids:

Tip Number One–Hear them out:

When your kid starts talking about what they have been doing, don’t interrupt them or you might miss something important! They might tell you what they did, how they did it, who they did it with, and when and where it happened. If you lose your cool and start flipping out before they can finish the story, you will never get to know what your child is really doing. So be cool, and just listen until they’re finished talking. Don’t worry; you’ll get your chance to weigh in on all of it when they’re done talking.

Tip Number Two–Gauge how they feel:

It’s still not your turn to talk yet! Before you respond to what they share about what they’re doing, try to find out how they feel about what happened. Are they happy, disappointed, stressed, or worried? Knowing how they feel about what they are doing should influence your response. You want to empathize with them, not alienate them, so your approach will differ depending on whether they are on the verge of tears about it, or if they are so proud that they want to go out and get a t-shirt declaring they are no longer a virgin.

Tip Number Three–Share information:

Now you get to talk! Talk to them about the risks and consequences of their behavior. You want them to have a realistic idea of what they are up against when they are having sex or doing drugs. You also want to talk to them about the context in which these things happen. Talk to them about peer pressure and what it’s like to be in a relationship. Make sure that they know the different between love and sex, and that having sex with someone doesn’t mean that person isn’t also having sex with someone else. Break it down for them! They need you to tell them how life really works. If they want to do grown up things, then they have to be prepared to meet the grown up consequences. As their parent, you’re the grownup who can warn them of the consequences. Whatever you do, don’t minimize their feelings. This stuff is their world and sometimes their whole life revolves around it. Try to figure out how these things are impacting them and give them the tools to use to cope with these challenges.