If you're the parent of a tween or teen, have you talked to your youngster yet about sex? If not, it may be time to start, since what you say can make a significant difference.  The fact is that sexually active teens who don't know how to protect themselves can be at risk for a host of negative health and mental health effects.

Teens and Sex

If you have a tween or teenager, you may feel uncomfortable broaching the sensitive subject of sex. Yet it's important to overcome your hesitations and make an effort to educate her about the facts.

Keep in mind that some parents prefer to ignore this pressing topic, thinking that if they ignore it, it won't exist. However, rather than helping their teens to avoid an early sexual encounter, some of them end up later seeing their child face some unfortunate consequences.

Health Risks

Consider the fact that in the United States, close to half of all 15 to 19-year-olds have had intercourse at least once. This statistic comes from the website of the Guttmacher Institute, which is dedicated to advancing sexual and reproductive health on a variety of levels.

From a more personal perspective, what this means to you is that there's almost a 50 percent chance your child is sexually active or could become so in the not-too-distant future. Therefore, you'll want to be sure she takes the necessary steps to protect herself from sexually transmitted diseases and also unplanned pregnancy.

Be Proactive

If you want to make sure your child has the facts about sex and makes educated decisions, there're several things you can do to help her be protected.

The experts recommend starting a dialogue with your child and explaining the facts of life and what she needs to do to be safe when and if she does go this route. You can also help your child have access to the information and tools she needs when she decides to have sex, such as condoms and other birth control methods.

Tips to Guide You

Please review the following tips from the experts that can help guide your conversation about teens and sex.

  • Be matter of fact about the topic.
  • Express your views and beliefs honestly and openly.
  • Be willing to practice what you say.
  • Be an active listener and create a safe environment for your child to have a respectful dialogue with you.
  • Avoid judging your child or reacting negatively if she confides any personal details to you.
  • Try to keep a calm, clear head and remember that your goal is to help her stay safe.
  • Remember that you don't need to have all of the answers.
  • Keep the lines of communicate open so your child can ask questions as they arise and will feel comfortable coming to you with concerns in the future, too.

Seek Help as Needed

Finally, if you really don't feel comfortable broaching sexual topics yourself with your child, you may want to look to the experts for her in this matter. You can get advice from a health educator or ob-gyn. You can also bring your teen to the doctor to discuss the best birth control options, or direct her to planned parenthood, where she'll be able to ask more specific questions from someone specially trained in this area.




The Guttmacher Institute


Public Broadcast Service (PBS)/To the Contrary


Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States


Palo Alto Medical Foundation