Most parents had the awkward talk with their kids about the birds and bees or sex – awkward but noted as being the rite of passage.
Today, those same kids are having to talk to their adult parents about sex, especially if they’re a single and sexually active. These kids are needing to let their parents know to use protection and be sexually responsible.
It’s certainly a role reversal children never expected to be in. However, the conversation topic is becoming more and more common. That’s because a generation of people are living much longer and are healthier than before.
People are outliving their spouses and dating once more – be it in the retirement home or wherever they meet someone. And, for many of these folks, it’s the first time in years they are single. With a plethora of treatments offered for sexual dysfunction, it’s never been easier to have an active sex life late in life.
While some older patients will ask their doctors about protection and screenings, it’s really family members that need to offer practical advice to their parents. How can you talk to your parents about sex?
When a person has been married for decades and never had to worry about STDs, they’re not going to know everything they should about how to prevent STDs. They won’t know where to go, which is why children need to be the starting point. They need to ask the difficult to hear questions of whether or not their parents are dating and having sex again.
One way they can ease into the conversation is by bringing in some light humor. If your parents are happy about something, they’re liable to share it with you and the other people they love when they feel it’s appropriate. Or, you can be direct, asking them if something serious is happening between your parent and this other person.
People’s views of STDs and sex has changed significantly since your parents were single (before you came along). And, your parents’ view of the topic have affected them. Most people think that they’re a decent person, and they’ll never get an STD, but STDs happen to good and bad people. They happen because people are not using protection right or at all.
You need to educate your parents! While there are many older patients asking the right questions about STD screenings, there are others who are not so concerned but should be. Rather, they’re concerned about the STD stigma.
It may be just asking your parents if they’re using condoms while having sex. After all, they grew up in the era where condoms were used mainly to protect from unwanted pregnancies.
It’s an awkward conversation to have with your parents, but it lets them know that things are not the same as when they were younger. You need to let them know that they don’t know a person’s sexual history even if they think they know that person well enough. Make sure they know that everybody is responsible for reducing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases – naming a few of them.
Older adults may partake in oral sex due to vaginal dryness and erectile dysfunction, and you need to let them know that they can still catch an STD that way.
The key thing is to stay positive during the talk. Inform your parents that STD treatments today are far better than times’ past and most are treatable when caught early.
Once you’ve reached your comfort level of talking about sex with your parents, you need to encourage your parents to see a doctor for medical assistance. Doctors offer patients a safe place to go for topics such as sex. If your parents want you to come along, you can do this. However, this may be the time for you to back out and say no. This is the time for them to be open and honest – similar to how parents should approach their teens in their sexual years.
By talking with their doctors, they can know what screenings they need, get the lowdown on sexual protection, etc. Of course, you need to start talking with your parents to ensure their sex life stays active and healthy.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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