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Talking About Sex with Your Teen

Studies show that almost half of America’s teens have had sex by age 18. Educating kids about sex is something all parents need to do.

Be prepared to help your teens make sense of the changes in their bodies and their emerging sexuality. Otherwise your teen could be risking:

  • Emotional chaos

  • Pregnancy early in life

  • Sexually transmitted diseases

Your talks with your teen should come naturally. So it’s important to build an open, trusting relationship with your kids while they are still young.  A good relationship with your child is a great foundation to have effective conversations with your teenager.  If your child is maturing early, topics related to sex and sexual activity may need to be discussed sooner than the teen years.

Be alert to warning signs that could mean there is a problem related to sexual activity. Some of these signs include:

  • A drastic change in eating or sleeping habits

  • A sudden loss of interest in school

  • Strange statements such as, “I think I might need to see a doctor”

How can you find ways to approach the tough subject of sex with your teen? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Look for openings. Use current events as an icebreaker. Imagine you are watching the news on TV, and a story about teenage pregnancy comes up. That can become a natural way for you to use that news story to begin a more personal discussion of sexual issues.

  • Make the first move. In most cases, it’s better to bring up the subject of sexuality yourself, rather than waiting for your child to seek you out. Why? If your child has questions, you want the answers to come from a mature, caring adult, and not from the child’s peers who may or may not have the facts straight.

  • Sort out your own values first. If, as a parent, you decide that sexual activity is OK, then you should be clear about what behavior and boundaries you expect from your teenager. It is a good idea to have a discussion with your family healthcare provider about how you’re going to handle issues such as pregnancy and disease prevention.

  • Talk with other parents. Talking with parents who have already raised teenagers can often turn out suggestions that will help you communicate better with your own kids.

 

Medical Reviewers:

  • Ballas, Paul, DO
  • Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN