9 Tips to Create a Safe Space for Teachable Moments

Gina Desiderio

Gina Desiderio

A teachable moment is a situation where opportunity knocks—a time at which a person, especially a child, is likely to be particularly disposed to learn something or to be particularly responsive to being taught or made aware of something. Teachable moments can make initiating conversation about sex and contraception easier and more comfortable for everyone involved.

With accurate information and adequate support, young people can make healthy and responsible decisions about having sex and using contraception. Adults can be most effective by providing the information and support needed to promote responsible decision-making in youth and help ensure transition to adulthood is safe and healthy.

Parents, caregivers, and youth-supporting professionals can take advantage of teachable moments to discuss sex and the use of contraception with young people. National Talk to Your Teen About Sex Month–observed every March–is the perfect time to get the conversation started.

Youth can sometimes be hesitant to talk with adults about sex. When young people are willing to discuss this topic, adults must be prepared to help by providing information and resources. When the interaction is positive, it is more likely that the youth will return to the adult in the future.

Confidentiality is the first step in creating a safe space, but you’ll want to try to build a safe space, to help build an ongoing relationship, in other ways, too.

9 Tips To Create a Safe Space for Teachable Moments

  1. Clarify what is being asked.
  2. Determine why the young person is asking the question.
  3. Affirm the young person for asking. It’s okay to talk about sex!
  4. Be aware of your own boundaries.
  5. Give direct responses.
  6. Use positive body language
  7. Be accessible for future opportunities to interact
  8. Bring it up! Open the door to conversation.
  9. Keep it private: Depending on the situation, a one-on-one conversation may be best.

Opportunity Knocks: Using Teachable Moments to Convey Safer Sex Messages to Young People is a Healthy Teen Network publication provided to help adults use teachable moments to talk to young people about safe sex. In addition to this resource, Healthy Teen Network has made available all the materials you need to conduct your own Opportunity Knocks presentation. The goal of this presentation is to educate and empower youth workers, unfamiliar with the field of sexual and reproductive health, to make the most of teachable moments with the young people they serve regarding safer sex and contraceptive choices.

In your experience, what has been helpful in creating a safe space to foster teachable moments with youth?

What opportunities, such as current events or pop culture, have you found to foster teachable moments with young people?

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