Sexual Health

How to discuss sexuality with your teen

My aunt and uncle decided that their 14-year-old daughter was too young for a frank discussion about sex and sexuality. Then they discovered that her best friend, who is only a few weeks younger, was pregnant. That's the mistake many parents make - assuming that it is always "too soon" to talk about sex with their teens. By the time they realize their mistake, it may be too late.

With me, my parents waited until I was already sexually active, and until they knew for sure, before beginning to open the lines of communication. That's another mistake that some parents make. Teens who become sexually active without being taught the proper precautions are opening themselves to a host of problems and issues in the future, including pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. How, then, do you discuss sex and sexuality with your teen?

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Start early, and allow your child to take sex education classes if they are offered at their school. My elementary school offered a class in the sixth grade, and some parents felt it was too early and their children were too young, so they refused to let them attend. Unfortunately, some of those same classmates began experimenting sexually in junior high. When a child expresses interest in or questions sexuality, then it is time to begin talking with them.

Seek outside help. If you feel embarrassed, just think of how your teen must feel. My own talk with my parents was mortifying, and they felt just the same way because they were unprepared. Think about what questions your teen might have, and try to find answers before talking with them.

Don't shout. You might discover that your teen is already sexually active, and shouting or forbidding them to continue the activity is going to have just the opposite effect. Teens are already feeling rebellious, so even if you try to make sex seem "dirty" or wrong, it will make them all the more interested in trying it. Explain the dangers and the risks they are taking, and explain that you wish they would wait, instead of yelling and simply telling them not to have sex.

Explain to your teen about birth control, and ask them to be honest with you about their possible need for birth control. Though you might feel uncomfortable taking your daughter to a doctor for the birth control pill or buying your young son condoms, it is one of the most important things you can do for a sexually active teen.

Remember that teens often report that their parents have the most influence on their sexual decisions. Teaching you teen about sexuality and the potential risks and dangers associated with sexual activity can help your relationship and save your teen a lot of pain in the future.

By Jennifer Eblin