Parents, UT Teen Health

10 Tips for Talking to Your Children About Sex

(Adapted in part from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, Washington, D.C.)

Download “10 Tips for Parents”

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1. Use teachable moments to discuss sex.

  • Weave the discussion into life experiences related to sex — as you and your children view situations on television or when they share with you something they learned in school.

  • Solicit their opinions. Ask them questions about something they've seen on TV, in the movies, in magazines or heard from friends. For instance, if a plot from their favorite television show includes a couple having sex, ask them how they feel about this scene? Do they think the couple is a role model? In real life, what do they think this couple might experience — pregnancy, an STD, hurt feelings?

2. Talk honestly about love, sex, and relationships.

Help your children handle powerful feelings, such as love, in a safe way. Give them an example of how you may have felt at their age. Discourage them from having sexual relationships. If you believe your child is sexually active, accompany them to visit a healthcare professional to be screened for STDs, consider renewed abstinence, and/or start a method of contraception.

3. Give young people solid information about adolescent sex and the consequences.

  • The most common STDs are human papillomavirus, herpes, chlamydia and gonorrhea. Chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to acute and chronic pelvic pain, tubal pregnancies, and infertility. Human papillomavirus is the cause of more than 90% of abnormal Pap smears and cervical cancer.
  • Focusing on education and career goals now and children later can better set adolescents up for lifelong success.

4. Let children know there is no such thing as "safe sex."

  • Condoms do not cover all areas of the body that can be infected with STDs.
  • Condoms can slip off or break during sex.
  • Condoms offer risk reduction for STDs, making sexual activity "safer" but do not eliminate the risks of pregnancy or STDs completely.

5. Encourage children to remain connected with family, school, and community.

Suggest they get involved in sports, arts or helping others. Discourage early, frequent and steady dating; instead encourage group activities. Kids involved in school activities are less likely to engage in sex. Spend time with your kids. Kids who are connected to their family are much less likely to have sex.

6. Emphasize to kids that sexual abuse is wrong and should be reported.

Tell your kids that sexual abuse is when sex occurs without their permission, even if it is with someone they know, including a boyfriend or girlfriend. Do not permit your child to date at a young age and discourage them from having a relationship with anyone older than they are. If your child does date, they should stick to dating someone close to their own age.

7. Encourage young people to avoid alcohol, drugs, and other risky behaviors.

Being sober helps protect them from compromising or dangerous situations that they may later regret. The Centers for Disease Control [CDC] have classified adolescent sexual activity as a "health risk behavior," along with drugs, alcohol, tobacco use, and violence. Let your children know that if they go to a party and drugs/alcohol are present, they should call you to come pick them up.

8. Reinforce that kids do not need to give in to peer pressure.

They should be confident in who they are and the choices they make. Let them know most teenagers are not having sex. (CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2017)

9. Help your children set goals.

These might include graduating from high school, furthering their education after high school, or finding a job. Teenagers who delay having sexual intercourse have been shown to achieve higher levels of education.

10. Work with your children to create personal boundaries.

It's much easier for teens to say no to sex, even in the heat of the moment, when they've made boundaries. And it's never too late to make boundaries, even if they have been sexually active in the past. Encourage them to set sexual limits and communicate those limits to their friends and dates. Most importantly, do not give them mixed messages. Let them know that you do not want them to have sex and support their decision to delay sexual onset.