Having “the talk”

by Brittany Lafirara, Youth Advocate, H.O.P.E Works

I am not a parent, but as a young twentysomething, I can remember sitting down and having my mom have “the talk” with me. She talked to me about changing bodies and what growing into a young woman involves. She even checked out books from the library. I remember being embarrassed and basically listening enough to get the information and leaving as quick as possible. As far as I know this was a onetime event (or I blocked the others out)!  We talked about it in a very scientific and developmental way. I often wonder what it would be like to have been more comfortable talking about human development and sexuality with an adult figure.  These conversations are so hard for adults and youth, but they can actually help prevent sexual abuse and also teach children and youth the language, tools and foundation to reach out for help if they need to.

When working with youth I try to find a way to connect hard conversations with the world around us. With Bill Cosby and the Duggar Family being in the news recently, I believe it is a perfect time to start a conversation with our children.  By asking youth what they think about what is happening, adults can show they are capable of talking about subjects that are typically taboo. It breaks the ice and provides a supportive environment for youth to get answers and possibly disclose abuse in a safe way.

Tips on having hard conversations with youth:

  1. Try talking in the car.  Sometimes not having direct eye contact can make things more comfortable and they might be open to asking more questions. They are also a captive audience at this time!
  2. Let them know you want to answer any and all questions they have. Often youth feel uncomfortable asking questions they feel are silly or are just too embarrassing. By reassuring them that all questions are welcome it will put them at ease.
  3. Do your research. Keep informed on what is happening in the news that youth might be exposed to so you feel ready to answer questions or talk to them if something comes up. It’s better they get the information from you than from someone that hasn’t done their homework!
  4. Know your resources! These conversations are HARD! Contact your local Network program about talking to kids about sexuality and sexual violence (like how to respond to seeing offenders in the news). Advocates at your local program will be able to give you some information about what to say or answer any questions you might have.

For more information about talking to your kids about sexuality and development visit:

Planned Parenthood:  Talking to Kids about Sex and Sexuality

Advocates for Youth:  Parents Sex Ed Center