Why You Should Talk to Your Teen About Sex

... and the Information You Need to Do It

Parent talking to teen
Allison Michael Orenstein

Some parents would rather do anything than talk to their kids about sex. The thought of their teens having sex is too terrifying to contemplate and they hope that by not talking about it, or by just talking about virginity, that their teens will never have any. Sadly, it doesn't work like that. Not talking about sex with your children doesn't stop them from hearing about it, it just stops them from hearing about it from you.

Wouldn't you rather know that the information they were getting was good, and accurate, and designed to help them make the best choices possible?

Talking to your kids about sex doesn't make them more likely to have sex. If anything, it could have the opposite effect. Comprehensive sex education has been conclusively shown, over and over again, to reduce teen pregnancies while not increasing sexual risk taking, so what could be better for your kids than to also talk about sex at home? Accurate, informative, realistic information is your best weapon in not only improving their sexual health and romantic relationships but also your relationship with your teen. Telling teens the truth about sex, rather than simply promoting abstinence, is more to cause them to trust you and listen to your advice when making decisions.

Talking With Teens

  • It's Called the Birds and the Bees (plural) for a reason.
    What's the real secret to talking with your kids about sex and getting them to listen? Not only talking with them about it once -- repetition isn't only the secret to comedy, it's the secret to good communication.

    The Virgin Question

    • Comprehensive Sex Ed
      Some parents and politicians aren't sure how they feel about the teaching of comprehensive sex education in schools. Although I agree that there's no substitute for talking to your teens at home, it's hard to argue with the efficacy of good school-based sex education. Here's all the information you need to learn that it works, how it works, and why even parents who would prefer their teens to avoid having sex should consider encouraging their teachers to stay away from abstinence only.
    • Virginity Pledges
      Virginity pledges seem like they should be harmless. What could be dangerous about encouraging a girl to sign a paper or wear an abstinence ring? You'd be amazed...
    • The Hymen: Myth or Maidenhead?
      People are under the misconception that having an intact hymen is synonymous with a girl being "pure," virginal, and safe from STDs. In reality, all it is is a piece of skin, and one that can not accurately be used as a barometer of either morality or sexual experience.
    • Sex With a Virgin Isn't Safe Sex
      If your sexual partner is a virgin it doesn't mean you can't get an STD. Just because a person is a "virgin" doesn't mean that sleeping with them is without risk.

    Getting Down to the Nitty Gritty

    • Why You Need To Talk About Oral Sex
      From the things kids hear on the news these days, it's not surprising that many of them don't think that oral sex is sex at all. Although parents may be hesitant to discuss specific sexual behaviors with their kids, it's critical that they do. Their kids may already be engaging in oral sex while having no idea that it is putting them at risk for various STDs.
    • Myths about Who Needs Safer Sex
      No one likes to think of themselves as being at risk for an unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease. Instead of simply choosing not to have sex or using condoms or other forms of contraception, they manage to convince themselves they're simply not at risk. Here are some misconceptions about who does, and doesn't, need to practice safer sex that are common in both teens and adults.

      Help Them Be Prepared

      • Safety and Self
        Preparing your kids to make smart decisions about sex is also preparing them to make smart decisions about life. Help them to become confident in their ability to stand up for themselves, make their own decisions, and act on them and they'll be ready to face the world.
      • Ignore What You Find in the Sock Drawer
        If you confront your kids over finding condoms in their sock drawer or book bag, do you really think it's going to stop them from having sex? It's far more likely that they'll simply stop buying condoms. Given that you can't control their choices, wouldn't it be easier if they were prepared to make safe ones?

        The HPV Vaccine : The More You Know

        • How the HPV Vaccine Works
          When the HPV vaccine first came out, a friend of mine told me that her students were asking if the vaccine, itself, could give them cancer. This is my explanation of how Gardasil works, and why that's not something they need to worry about.
        • Gardasil Safety Speaking of things that you don't need to worry about, the question of Gardasil safety has gotten completely blown out of proportion in the news. To understand why, you have to understand how vaccine safety data is collected in the U.S., and what the reports can and cannot tell parents and physicians.
        • Mandating the HPV Vaccine
          There is an ongoing question in political circles about whether or not states should mandate the HPV vaccine. Here's some of the information you need to know to weigh in on the debate

        Teenagers Aren't Just Little Adults

        • Transformation Zone
          Teenagers bodies are undergoing processes of great change. Height changes and development of secondary sexual characteristics are only two of them. These changes are important, and not for the obvious reasons. The process of how the cervix develops during adolescence actually puts teenage girls at increased risk of disease compared to adult women.

        Behind the Scenes: How The Science Works

        • Finding Out The Truth on Surveys
          If you can't get a straight answer from your teenager about what they did at school, how can scientists possibly expect to get accurate answers about more sensitive topics like sex? Well, it's not easy, which is why they spend so much time and effort getting it right.
        • Staying on Top of the Issues
          When scientists want to know something, just like other people, they want to know it now. However, they've learned that in order to get good answers, they need to ask good questions. The process of developing a validated instrument takes time, which is why it can sometimes seem like forever before data on the newest, hottest, scientific questions start to appear.