Before You Start Talking – For Parents and Adults
We heard from many young people, including those who had been estranged from their family, that they thought learning about sex and safety from family is the best way to get important information – even if this was not their experience. 100 Conversations is filled with good ideas and questions to help you have the best conversation possible, but without a proper foundation, you might scare off the young person you most want to talk to! If you do not regularly have conversations with your family about sensitive topics, jumping in right away might not get you the best results. So here is some information to help you lay that foundation. Keep in mind that 100 Conversations is designed for young people age 13-24 and the supportive adults in their life.
Opening the channels of communication takes both intention and practice
The young person in your life has to understand what you can offer in regards to communication. Do they know what you feel is important to talk about together? Do they know what things they can always come to you to talk about, ask questions, or get advice?
Think about: Sharing your Intentions
- What do you want them to know about talking to you?
- What are your values around sharing information about sex and safety?
- What are the things you hope they can learn from you?
- What are the things they can always say to you without getting in trouble? (an example could be: If you are in an unsafe situation and need a ride home, you can always call me, even if you are not where you said you would be.)
- What are ways you can say this (and re-say it)? What are opportunities when you can re-state your intentions, values, and hopes for communication? How will you know if they have heard you? What cues will you see that let you know that what you’ve said has sunk in?
Think about: Practice
- What are ways you can start having open conversations right away?
Are there less-sensitive topics you can start with? Can you practice asking their opinions and viewpoints? How will they know that you are listening to what they are saying? How can you express that through your words and actions?
- Are there things that you are afraid for them to tell you? You can think about the things that make you nervous to talk about, and practice your response. What if, during a conversation, they:
- come out to you as gay?
- say that they are sexually active?
- say they are afraid they are in an unhealthy relationship?
These are big topics to discuss and you may not be prepared to respond to these or similar questions. You can always let the young person in your life know:
- You want to hear their thoughts and feelings
- You are so glad that they shared this question or information with you
- You may need to check in with some other sources to have the best answer for their question or comment - then let them know when you will follow up.