Discussing safe sex is a rite of passage for parents and their teens: one that’s gained such a reputation that it’s often referred to simply as “The Talk.”Indeed, getting into the details of the birds and the bees isn’t a parenting moment that’s often looked forward to with enthusiasm.
But as strange as it may feel talking about sex with your teen, it’s a significant milestone that calls for a thoughtful approach. Here are some ways to prepare.
Choose the Right Time
There’s probably no time when you’ll broach the subject of sex without encountering a bit of pushback from your teen. But certain moments are better than others. For example, it isn’t a last-minute conversation you’ll want to attempt when they’re preparing for a date, or are overwhelmed with school stresses.
Ideally, the conversation should take place in an informal setting: while doing chores, making a meal, or going for a drive together. It may be helpful if something you see or hear together sparks the conversation organically, but don’t feel as if you have to wait for a catalyst. Keep in mind that as their parent or guardian, it’s your job to initiate the conversation, and that many teens feel too awkward or nervous to do so even if they’re curious and want your advice.
Keep It Factual
It’s okay to let your teen know that you’re anxious or uncomfortable talking about sex with them, but don’t stop there. Focus on the facts first: discuss how unprotected sex can lead to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy. (A side note to bear in mind: one in four sexually active teens will contract an STI, while 90% of teens who don’t use contraception will become pregnant within a year.) Let them know that certain STIs come with painful or lifelong complications — and pregnancy can also be a lifelong commitment — but both are preventable.
Refrain from lecturing by keeping the conversation informal and judgment-free. It’s a simple fact that half of teens report being sexually active, and it’s normal to begin exploring sexuality during these years. So now is the time to introduce options for protection, including birth control. Explain that while birth control is effective for preventing pregnancy when used as directed, it won’t prevent against STIs, so another measure (like condoms) should be used, too.
You’ve hopefully been teaching your child about consent since they were little. Saying “no” when someone tries to touch them in a way that’s unwanted or unacceptable is a skill all children should learn. You can remind them now that no still means no — especially when it comes to any unwelcome touching or comments of a sexual nature, which qualifies as sexual assault just as much as forcing someone to perform sexual acts they don’t want to.
Teens should understand the importance of engaging only in sexual activities that all parties consent to. Urge them to speak up if there’s ever an instance of sexual assault, too: not only should the perpetrator be held accountable, but victims should be tested for STIs and pregnancy (if needed).
Having The Talk isn’t always a one-and-done activity. As your teen goes through different stages and relationships, they may have new questions or concerns about sex. Maintaining a judgment-free zone for conversation will make your child more likely to come to you each time instead of turning elsewhere. Rather than prying, simply remind them that you’re always there to listen, to support them, and to help when needed.
One important aspect of sexual wellness for teens is scheduling your daughter’s first gynecological appointment. If your teen is due for hers, request an appointment with one of our providers online or by calling 770-487-9604.