Sexual Health

Talking to Your Teen about Sex

Most parents are nervous, to say the least, about having “The Talk” with their teen daughter or son – the one-on-one, heart-to-heart talk about sex and sexuality. And yet, many teens insist they want to hear more from their parents on this topic.

“Sometimes parents say that they don’t know where to begin, that they don’t want to encourage sexual activity or that their teen has probably already heard just about everything, but that does not mean we shouldn’t be having these conversations with our kids,” said Dr. Donna Block. “It is important for kids to hear this information from their parents, to listen to your perspective, and to know that they can come to you with questions and concerns.”

The following tips can help prepare you for the initial talk about sex and those to come:

  • Make it an ongoing conversation rather than a one-time talk. You don’t have to say everything all at once, which can create more drama and less learning and open conversation. Consider discussions when the topic crops up on TV, in celebrity gossip or in the news (which gives you many opportunities to weigh in).
  • Don’t wait until your child is in a relationship. Sometimes parents choose to delay this conversation until their kids are in their first serious relationship, but ideally, the first conversation should take place with adolescents, who may actually be more open to your input and less embarrassed because the conversations aren’t as personal or imminent. If you have waited, however, you can simply acknowledge, “you’ve grown up so fast and we should have talked about this before, but I’d like to start now.” Essentially, it is never too early or too late.
  • Let your child know it is ok to ask questions. Determine what your son or daughter knows about sex and reproduction and let them know that it is always ok to come to you. Likewise, if they have questions you can’t answer immediately, let them know that you will get back to them – it is helpful for kids to see that you are human, too.
  • Consider facts and feelings. It is important to share factual information and details on safety and risks, and it is important to consider all of the feelings involved in relationships. Talk about healthy relationships, the benefits of protection against pregnancy/HIV/STDs and the importance of communication.

“It can be hard not to lecture or judge when it comes to such a sensitive issue, but try to consider your daughter or son’s point of view and do your best to listen as much as you talk,” Dr. Block suggested. “While these discussions can be tough for everyone, they are incredibly valuable as your child matures physically and emotionally.”

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