Talking With Your Child About Sex - Topic Overview
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 Sexually Transmitted Infections.
The American 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
Discussing sexual abuse and date rape
Sexual abuse is any type of sexual activity that is done against a person's will. It can be nonviolent abuse (such as being forced to look at sexual pictures), unwanted or forced sexual touching, or violent sexual assault (such as attempted rape or rape.) The attacker may be a stranger, someone you do not know well, a close friend, or a family member.
Giving your child information about date rape and abuse is important. About 10 out of 100 adolescents have been physically hurt by a dating partner.8
Talk to your child about the following:
- Avoid places that are secluded. Go where there are other people, where you feel comfortable and safe. Don't go to a date's home or invite him or her to yours. These are the places where most acquaintance rapes (date rapes) occur.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel vulnerable, you might be. For example, avoid parties where boys greatly outnumber girls.
- Don't be afraid to be rude. If a situation feels wrong or you start to get nervous, confront your date immediately or leave as quickly as possible.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs. They compromise your ability-and that of your date-to make responsible decisions.
- Go on a group or double date. Especially at first, dating in groups may be more comfortable and less risky. When children are with friends who are trustworthy, they tend to be safer, even when they break rules.
- Don't keep secrets. No peer, parent, or adult has the right to tell you to keep secrets from either parent, especially when someone touches your body in an offensive way.
For more information see the topics Sexual Abuse or Assault (Rape) and Domestic Abuse.