Article written by Michaela Madden
Did you know February 13-17 is Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Week? The week is celebrated annually to promote education and awareness around sexual and reproductive health issues and help reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – and for parents, it serves as the perfect opportunity to start thinking about “The Talk.”
Maybe you call it “The Talk”, or even “The Birds and the Bees” – regardless of the name, it’s important to find time to talk about these topics with your kids. Nearly 60% of 15-24-year-olds in Canada have reported ever having sex, and according to the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, there’s been as much as a 1768% increase in certain sexually transmitted disease rates. Based on these statistics, it’s easy to see how having “The Talk” is more essential now than it ever was before.
However, separated and divorced parents may face more difficulties than the average family when beginning to prepare for these conversations. Questions like “Do we do it together?” or “Should just one of us sit down with them?” are bound to come up, in addition to making sure both parents are on the same page when it comes to age and timing. If you find yourself asking these questions, or needing some general guidance navigating sexual health conversations with your kids while co-parenting, this article is for you.
Start the Conversation with Each Other:
Before talking to your kids, the first and most important step is having a conversation with each other as co-parents. This is the time to chat through logistics, including the when, where, and what of it all. Regardless on if you decide to have the talk together or separately, there are two things you need to do together to prepare:
First, you need to align on when you’ll have the talk – and it’s never too early or late to start when it comes to education. Second, you’ll want to discuss your values around love, sexuality, and relationships as co-parents to show a unified stance on the subject – the last thing you want to do is to confuse your child with conflicting information.
When co-parenting, it can be difficult to get on the same page when having these discussions. Remember to give yourself grace and remind yourself that both of you are acting in the best interest of your children, even if your opinions differ. And as always, compromise is key in these situations.
Come Up With a Co-Parenting Plan Ahead of Time:
You probably already know this as parents, but you need to expect the unexpected. Even though you’ve come up with an ideal timeline to prepare for the situation, it’s very possible your kids have a different one in mind. Maybe you agreed to have “The Talk” when they turn 12, and their young, inquiring minds end up asking a question at 10.
Instead of sending yourself into a panic, simply come up with a plan. Chatting with your ex-partner ahead of time about a backup plan is beneficial to both your co-parenting relationship, as it eliminates a potential argument, and your parent-child relationship as well.
Be Open to Answering Questions:
It’s true: Kids say the darndest things, and sometimes they come from completely out of left field, even if you think you’ve covered your bases. Co-parents can only prepare so much communication ahead of time, however, that doesn’t mean you should avoid answering questions outside the scope of what you initially talked about together.
Being open to answering questions around sexual and reproductive health is essential to any parent-child relationship. They’ll ask you these questions out of the blue because they trust you, and answering these questions builds the foundation for trust in your relationship moving forward. Plus, it prevents them from going and Googling topics, which could lead to them finding much more than they are ready for.
If your child asks an unexpected question, answer it honestly, and then be honest with their other parent about what was said. An open line of communication ensures all parents are on the same page, and also gives them the opportunity to share their point of view on the topic at hand.