What to Do if THEY'RE Uncomfortable

Anya Manes
by Anya Manes

I’ve seen videos of kids covering their ears or running away.  Some of you have told me similar stories – that your child refuses to listen or flat out tells you not to talk to them about sex.

So what do you do when they are more uncomfortable than you are?

The ball is in your court.  You, the parent, the adult, have to decide if this is important to you.  I know it is, or you wouldn’t be interested in my work and reading this blog post.

Your child is telling you that they are uncomfortable, and that’s a boundary to be respected.  My previous blog post was about respecting children’s boundaries.  This is no different!

So how do you respect your child’s boundary, but also educate them about sex?  Here are some things to try:

Acknowledge that it’s uncomfortable.  Empathize.  Admit that you’re uncomfortable too!  Model doing something important even though it’s uncomfortable.  Maybe you can tell a story about when you or someone your child admires stepped outside their comfort zone for a good reason.  Encourage your child to stretch a bit.  We grow the most when we expand outside our comfort zones.  Rising to that challenge is where we find real pride in ourselves and in others.

Create safety.  Ask what would make the conversation more comfortable.  They’re refusing you now – would another time be better?  Next week?  Next month?  Sometimes being able to anticipate something difficult makes it more comfortable.  There’s safety in knowing what’s coming.  Ask if your child wants more privacy.  Plan to talk when everyone else is out of the house, or take your child on an outing for just the two of you.  Perhaps your child will say they want to have the discussion with the other parent or a different adult.  Find out what needs to happen for your child to feel safe while learning about sex.

If your child doesn’t consent, don’t have the conversation – yet.  By respecting your child’s boundaries, you build some extra trust.  Let it go for a while, and bring it up again in a few weeks.  Remind your child that they said no, and you’ve respected their feelings, BUT it’s still a really important conversation to have.  So…how are they feeling now?  Ask for consent again, and brainstorm how to make the conversation comfortable.  Just because your child said no today, doesn’t mean they’ll say no next month.  But if they do, repeat this process until you get a YES.

Boundaries, especially emotional ones, move and stretch as we grow.  Comfort zones expand with time.  Let your child know that you’re ready to talk about sex with them, and if they’re not ready, let it percolate.  Try again another time.

When you demonstrate that you respect their boundaries, you earn their trust.  It might take a while, but eventually your child will get used to the idea and curious about what it is you want to say.

Hope this helps.

Anya

P.S. Check out this resource you can give to your teen to make sure they have reliable information at their fingertips, even if they aren’t ready to talk with you.

About the Author

Anya Manes grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, attended Columbia University, and spent 11 years teaching high-school science. When talking about the human reproductive system, Anya’s biology class also became a sex-ed class.  She came to understand what kids knew and what they didn’t, and what kinds of social skills her students lacked. Anya did her master’s coursework in education and completed the Interchange Counseling Institute’s year-long training program, gaining experience as a counselor.  With her background as an educator and her skills as a counselor, Anya launched her coaching business, teaching parents to talk to their kids about sex and relationships.  Anya’s goal is to help families teach their kids the skills they need to have safe and healthy sexual relationships, from the start. Learn more at talkingaboutsex.com or at Anya's Facebook page.