Middle school and high school
As children enter their teen years, they begin to have more
interest in dating, and many become sexually intimate with a partner. Almost
half of adolescents will have had sexual intercourse by 10th grade. And by 12th
grade, a little more than half have had sexual intercourse.4Teens face a lot of peer pressure to have sex. So if your teen is not ready to have sex, he or she may feel left out. Help your teen understand that many teens decide to wait to have sex.
Keep talking to your child about healthy relationships and safer sex. Studies show that when parents talk openly about sex, their teens are more responsible in their sexual behaviors.5
Planned Parenthood and other
groups offer counseling and classes you can take with your child to discuss
sex, dating, and other important issues.
It's important not to make
assumptions about what your child knows or doesn't know about sex. Your child
may know something or nothing about sex. He or she may or may not know what the
terms sexual activity and sexual intercourse mean. Start by explaining these
terms. Make it clear that sex does not just mean vaginal sexual intercourse.
Oral sex is becoming more accepted among children. In general, children do not
think of oral sex as "sex." They think of oral sex as a safe way to enjoy some
of the benefits of vaginal sex with less risk of feeling guilty, getting a bad
reputation, or going against their own values and beliefs.6 Also, some children don't understand that it is possible to
get a sexually transmitted infection (STI) from having oral sex.6Anal sex is another sexual activity that may take place without the child fully
understanding the risks of STIs, such as HIV.
Help your child
understand the risk of STIs and other possible effects from engaging in sexual behaviors. For example, some children may not realize the
emotional aftermath that sometimes results from having sex. Help your child
think about what makes a relationship strong. Talk about what it means to truly
care for another person.
Masturbation is a topic few people feel comfortable talking about. But it is a normal and healthy part of human sexuality. Talk about it in terms of your values.
Discussing STIs and pregnancy
Two-thirds of all sexually transmitted infections (STIs) occur in people who are younger than age 25. STIs affect both males and females. Consider talking about why teens have a high risk of getting an STI. Talking about condoms and
other forms of contraception is often based on family values and attitudes.
Even so, it's important to make sure your child understands how to avoid
STIs, how pregnancy
occurs, and how to avoid an unwanted pregnancy, be it by abstinence or the use
of condoms and other
birth control methods. For more information about STIs, see the topic Exposure to Sexually Transmitted Infections.
Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends several strategies to help prevent
unplanned pregnancy. The AAP supports having programs in place that help
children delay becoming sexually active. The AAP also recommends that children
learn about contraceptive methods and be able to get them easily. This includes
emergency contraception methods.7