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Talking to Your Teen about Sex

With teens having more time on their hands this summer due to fewer sports and organized activities, it’s even more important to discuss with them pregnancy prevention. While it’s likely no parent wants to think their child may become sexually active, the reality is half of teenagers have sex before high school graduation, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many teens will wait to have intercourse if parents and caregivers have open discussions with them. Emphasizing that sexual interactions (kissing is a sexual interaction) are a normal part of many dating relationships, it is important to discuss with teens what is appropriate.

Letting teens know that it is never ok to feel pressured to engage in any activity that they are not comfortable with is key. If they aren’t ready to kiss someone, they shouldn’t. Another issue is that just because they have had some sexual interaction with their dating partner, doesn’t mean that this is expected each time. I often use an example to illustrate that teenagers understand: “Well, if you ordered a turkey sandwich for lunch yesterday, it doesn’t necessarily mean you want a turkey sandwich for every time you eat lunch.” So just because a teen has kissed their dating partner in the past doesn’t mean they should be pressured or expected to with each interaction they have.

In addition, it is important to give your teens guidance, making sure they understand that it is important to be in a caring, long-term committed monogamous relationship before engaging in sexual interactions.  Most teens aren’t necessarily ready for this type of relationship and feelings can be hurt if they engage in sexual activity without a solid foundation of a respectful and meaningful relationship. Acknowledging that teens might feel peer pressure is good for them to hear. Letting them know that just because peers might say they have had intercourse doesn’t necessarily mean they have, and it is not cool to “kiss and tell.” Some kids may think that “everyone is having sex” when in fact, approximately half of high school students report having sexual intercourse, which has been stable over the past 30 years.

Before your teen may become sexually active it is important to verbalize your expectations of protection from both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Studies show that early and frequent open discussions with their parents specifically help teens delay sexual activity and these teens are more likely to use condoms to protect themselves from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Even though these conversations can be difficult, things you can do to make them easier are to discuss them in the car (a private space where teens don’t have to make eye contact with you but they are a captive audience) or immediately after a relevant movie or TV scene. In addition, avoid over-reacting or getting emotionally charged while having these discussions. This will promote your teen understanding respectful relationships and safe choices.

If you are concerned your teen may be sexually active or is considering it, making sure they have condoms will help protect them from a mistake that could result in pregnancy or an STD. If you have any questions or would like your child to see their CPCMG pediatrician to discuss sexual health or contraception please call for an appointment. We will also discuss these issues privately with your teen during their yearly well appointments.