Talking with Your Teenager about Sex

September 22nd, 2009
  1. Speak directly to your teen, using simple language to describe both feelings and activities.
  2. Start conversations about sex early with discussions about biology, language your child may hear outside the home, and messages around sex in the media.
  3. Remember that sexuality is confusing for teens. Talk with them about the extremes in our cultural attitudes toward sex, from Victorian embarrassment to sexual exploitation.
  4. Talk about your feelings and lessons you’ve learned without describing specifics. Explore stories about other teens and ask your child for his or her opinion and ideas.
  5. Maintain an ongoing dialogue, and communicate morals, values, and examples.
  6. Understand that all teenagers have sexual lives, whether with others or through fantasies. This is an important part of adolescence that helps them to discover and develop their individual sexual identity, a vital part of one’s overall identity.
  7. Recognize that adolescence is about taking risks, sexually and in other ways. Encourage your teen to talk with other trusted adults about sexuality.
  8. Look out for red flags to dangerous sexual risk taking such as unprotected intercourse, repeated exposure to victimization in unhealthy or dangerous sexual relationships, or a history of sexually abusing others. Other more general psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, self-mutilation, and clusters of unhealthy risk-taking might occur at the same.
  9. Educate yourself about the spectrum of adolescent sexual behaviors. Enforcing rigid gender roles or sexual orientation can be extremely damaging.
  10. Be aware of how you speak and act concerning sexual and gender issues in front of your teens. Adolescents respond best to suggestions rather than directives, highlighting the importance of the parent’s role as guide during these crucial years.