Parents often ask, "How do I talk to my teen about sex?" I often reply with, "Honestly and openly." But, if you haven't done that already, you likely won't have much luck it can be difficult to begin or find the right words. There is a solution, however, and that is BOOKS!
Whether you're a seasoned communicator, or a nervous parent, books offer the solution you need for a few reasons: (1) Books don't lead your teen down a web trail into porn; (2) Depending on the book, the information in it is better than what google can provide or even what you can provide; (3) The teen can access the information when they want in the privacy of their own bedroom.
Parents DO NOT need to be sex educators. I am a professional adolescent sexual health educator and have an advanced degree in adolescent sexual development and even I do not have all the current information about sexual health that a teen would need today. As parents, we can listen to our kids' and provide space to dig deeper when social problems or something else seems to be troubling them. As a valued trusted adult you can discuss YOUR sexual values around abstinence, relationship commitment, sober vs. intoxicated sex, etc. But your teen's sexual values may end up looking very different from yours and your most important job is to communicate and help them find resources to make healthy choices. The only sexual concept that you need to communicate is your comfort discussing bodies and sex, so they will be comfortable. But not knowing something technical (e.g. what an IUD is or what Tanner stages are)? No problem. There's a book for that. 1. It's Perfectly Normal- This book is the gold standard from the best children's book author on sexuality, Robie Harris. It's timeless, comprehensive, and inclusive.
2. Sex, Puberty, and All That Stuff- This one has lots of random information in it and is organized in such a way that it can be used as a reference book. Pretty digestible information on sexual abuse and sexual orientation as well.
3. Changing Bodies, Changing Lives- A wonderful book that integrates sexuality-related issues with other realities of teen life. It covers HIV, eating disorders, gang violence, rape, and substance use.
4. S.E.X.- A more contemporary guide from the creator of Scarleteen. I love Scarleteen and this book because the content is very much teen-derived, making them more relevant and engaging for youth.
5. The Underground Guide to Teenage Sexuality- This is one of the more factually accurate books out there for teens. Written by an expert in public health, there is lots of information and resources, but not a lot of cultural commentary.
6. Consent- A much-needed guide on an incredibly important, but messy topic. Although I don't think there is enough emphasis on talking through sex as it is happening for consent in real-time, it's a great start! And this is the best book for teens on consent that I'm aware of.
7. Celebrate Your Body- Although I am not typically a fan of the "girls only" or "boys only" approaches to sex education, there are some resources that just nail it. If you have a tween or teen girl in your life, they will love this book. It's so uplifting and fun.
8. Guy Stuff- Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys by Dr. Cara Natterson. From the author of the bestselling Care & Keeping of You series! This book will provide you with the answers that will help you take care of yourself better, from hair care to healthy eating, bad breath to shaving, acne to voice changes, and everything in between. With tips, how-to's, and facts from a real pediatrician, it's the perfect book to help you learn about your body's changes. 9. Vaginas and Periods 101 by Christian Hoeger & Kristen Lilla. Vaginas and Periods 101 by Christian Hoeger and Kristen Lilla is a simple pop-up book that will help to prepare young tweens for growing up. 10. Breaking the Hush Factor: Ten Rules for Talking with Teenagers about Sex by Dr. Karen Rayne. A go-to guide for parents who are looking to prepare their pre-teens or teens with information and support to create sexually healthy lives. 11. The Girl’s Body Book and The Boy’s Body Book by Kelli Dunham, R.N. "What is happening to my body?" "How do I fit in?" "Why is everything different?" These questions, along with others, leave preteen girls feeling confused and parents wondering what to do next. From periods to peer pressure, puberty is hard! The newly updated fifth edition of The Girl’s Body Book helps prepare girls and their parents for the ups and downs of puberty, middle school, and everything in between. This guide for preteen girls addresses issues like changing bodies, personal hygiene, self-confidence, leadership, school safety, and #MeToo 12. Sex Is a Funny Word, by Cory Silverberg. A comic book for kids that includes children and families of all makeups, orientations, and gender identities, Sex Is a Funny Word is an essential resource about bodies, gender, and sexuality for children ages 8 to 10 as well as their parents and caregivers. Much more than the "facts of life" or “the birds and the bees," Sex Is a Funny Word opens up conversations between young people and their caregivers in a way that allows adults to convey their values and beliefs while providing information about boundaries, safety, and joy 13. Talk to Me First by Deborah Roffman. We live in a time when kids of all ages are bombarded with age-sensitive material wherever they turn; "sexting" and bullying are on the rise at an increasingly younger age, and teen moms are "celebrified." What is a concerned--and embarrassed--parent to do? With wit, wisdom, and savvy, Deborah Roffman translates her experiences gleaned from decades of teaching kids and parents, and as a mom, into strategies to help parents navigate this tricky terrain. Talk to Me First is for any parent who wants to become and remain the most credible and influential resource about sexuality in their children's lives. 14. Tell Me About Sex, Grandma by Anastasia Higginbotham Patiently forthcoming with lessons your parents redacted, this book about sex for kids starts a necessary conversation that stresses consent, sex positivity, and the right to be curious about your body. The dialogue focuses on the dynamics of sex, rather than the mechanics, as Grandma reminds readers that sex is not marriage or reproduction, and doesn’t look the same for everyone. Instead, each person’s sexuality is their very own to discover, explore, and share if they choose. 15. Everybody, Every Body! by Emmalinda MacLean is a celebration of the bodies we live in and the wonderful feelings they can give us. It explores the importance of respecting other people's bodies, and introduces the concept of consent in a child-appropriate way, encouraging both children and adults to ask before touching and to respect the boundaries of others.