7 Tips for Talking to Teens About Sex

Get Over the Embarrassment

Talking to teens about sex causes embarrassment
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Most parents - and teens - don't feel comfortable discussing sex. But avoiding the topic simply because you feel uncomfortable ins't helpful.Teens who lack information and guidance are more likely to engage in riskier sexual behaviors.

Nearly half of all high school students report being sexually active. And many of them aren’t getting the information they need to protect themselves against unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. It’s essential that parents talk to teens about sex to give them the information they need.

1. Exchange “The Talk” for Ongoing Conversations

Talk to teens about sex
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One conversation about “the birds and the bees” at isn’t sufficient. Your teen’s interest and curiosity in sex will change over time. The facts and information you provide may need be discussed multiple times.

A 13-year-old's interest may be in the biological aspects of sex, while a 16-year-old teen may have more questions about the emotional aspect of a physical relationship. Frequent conversations will ensure that your teen feels comfortable asking questions over time.

2. Talk About Values

Talk to teens about sexual values
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Sometimes parents avoid talking about sex because they think discussing it will grant teens permission to become sexually active. But, teens often make the opposite assumption - if their parents aren't telling them not to do it, becoming sexually active must be OK.

You can give your teen facts about sex while also stressing the importance of not becoming sexually active. Explain the underlying reasons why you think it’s important to wait while also providing facts about the potential consequences of becoming sexually active. Instill healthy values about sex by holding frequent discussions, establishing rules, and setting limits.

3. Talk About More than Just Biology

Teenage sexuality
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Teens need to hear about the biology of sexual activity, but it’s equally important to discuss healthy relationships. Talk about dating violence, jealousy, peer pressure, and the emotional and social implications of becoming sexually active. 

4. Acknowledge How the Digital Age Has Changed the World

Dating and Sexuality have changed over the years
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Saying things like, “I remember what it was like to be a teenager,” or “I dealt with all the exact same issues,” isn’t accurate. After all, sexting, twerking, and selfies are just a few of the issues today’s teens face. The digital age has revolutionized the way teens approach sexuality and it’s important to acknowledge that you didn't experience the same problems that your teen may face.

Ask curious questions such as, “What is it like to get approached by people online who say sexually explicit things to you?” or “Is it common for high school students to share nude photos of themselves?” These types of questions can get your teen to open up about the issues young people face today.

5. Use the Media to Your Advantage

Media and Sex
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Movies, TV shows, advertisements, and music lyrics are filled with sexual content. Your teen sees and hears these messages multiple times every day. Use popular media as a way to start a conversation about sex.

When watching a commercial that tries to use sex appeal to gain customers, point it out to your teen. When listening to music, ask your teen about the underlying message in the lyrics. Help your teen recognize when movies try to make sex appear “cool,” or when magazines glamorize behaving in a sexually provocative manner.

6. Talk About the Positive Aspects of Sex

Talking to teens about relationships
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It can be tempting to stick to talking about all the negative aspects of sex. But, trying to convince your teen that “sex is bad,” can create more problems. When your teen hears other teens talking about the positive aspects of sex, your teen will assume you have no idea what you’re talking about and will tune you out. Acknowledging the positive and the negative aspects of sex will help you build credibility with your teen.

Provide the message, “Sex can be great, but only if it is at the right time with the right person.” That can help your teen understand that being sexually active at an older age with a caring partner is healthy. 

7. Admit When You Don’t the Answer

Talking about sex to kids
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Don’t be embarrassed to admit you don’t know everything. Whether your teen has a specific question about an STD, or wants to know about a new form of birth control if you don’t know the answer, simply say, “I’m not sure but I will get back to you about that.” Conduct your own research – there are plenty of credible online resources – and report back to your teen with the information. 

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