Talking With Your Child About Sex - Topic Overview
Keep talking to your child about healthy relationships and safe sex. Studies show that when parents talk openly about sex, their teens are more responsible in their sexual behaviors.4
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.5 Also, some children don't understand that it is possible to
get a sexually transmitted disease (STD) from having oral sex.5
Anal sex is another sexual activity that may take place without the child fully
understanding the risks of STDs, such as HIV.
Help your child
understand the risk of STDs 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 STDs and pregnancy
Two-thirds of all sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) occur in people who are younger than age 25. STDs affect both males and females. Consider talking about why teens have a high risk of getting an STD. 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
STDs, 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 STDs, see the topic Exposure to Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
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.6
Discussing sexual abuse and date rape