About half of the 19 million sexually transmitted diseases each year in the United States occur among young people who are ages 15 to 24 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 400,000 teenage girls became pregnant and gave birth in 2009. Preventing teenage sex requires skillful parenting, an open dialogue about sexual matters, and straight talk about the potential health and emotional risks.
If you order your teen to not have sex, she might get defensive and shut down the lines of communication. Instead, instill open and honest communication, which will help her feel safe in discussing sexual matters without fear of judgment, criticism or punishment. She'll also be more likely to listen to your concerns and recommendations. To initiate a dialogue, ask for her feelings about sex. You might lead off by saying, "I'm curious -- what are your feelings about sex?" Show genuine interest in her viewpoints without arguing or criticizing them, even if you don't agree. If she admits to having a sexual experience, avoid become angry or critical. Instead, let her know that you'll always love her unconditionally. After she shares, you might praise her by saying, "Thank you for opening up. I know it's not easy to talk about sex."
Share Your Views
After your teen shares her viewpoints about sex, it's your turn. Avoid acting upset, fearful or insistent that she agree with your point of view. Instead, calmly explain why you hope she'll wait to have sex until she's older and in a committed relationship. Tell her why you believe sex is more meaningful and rewarding when it's an intimate act between two loving and responsible adults. You might even share some of your own early sexual experiences and any lessons about sexual responsibility that you learned from them. Encourage her to always feel free to talk to you about sexual matters, including questions about birth control. At the conclusion of the talk, praise her for listening. You might say, "Thanks for hearing me out."
Without making it sound like a lecture, calmly inform your teen about the dangers associated with sex. Sex places her at risk for unwanted pregnancy and contracting STDs such as HIV, herpes, syphilis and gonorrhea. STDs can cause infertility, and even death. About 8,300 young people ages 13 to 24 years old contracted HIV infection in 2009, according to the CDC. Your teen might believe that it's safe to engage in some sexual activities that don't include intercourse, but the only way to ensure total safety is through abstinence, according to KidsHealth. Let her know that some STDs can be contracted through anal sex, oral-genital sex or even skin-to-skin contact.
Preparing for Sexual Pressure
At some point, it's likely your teen will be pressured to have sex. Work with him to come up with effective strategies and pat responses so he's prepared. If he's dating, recommend that he confine the date to public places, such as the movies or a restaurant. If he's alone with a date and she's pressuring him into having sex, he might say, “I like you, but I’m not ready to have sex" or "I'm waiting to have sex until I'm older and in a committed relationship." If he's at a party where there's sex, he should leave. If he's in a setting where he feels he's losing control, insist that he call you and you'll pick him up.
Keeping Your Teen Safe
You've done your best in informing your teen of the risks, but ultimately you can't control her sexual behavior. There's no guarantee she'll follow your recommendations and practice abstinence. Although you might believe teaching your teen about birth control sends a contradictory message, you're being pragmatic, according to HealthyChildren.org. For that reason, it's prudent to teach her how to protect herself in the event she decides to engage in sexual activity. You might say, "My wish is for you to refrain from sex until you're older and in a committed relationship, but in the event you go against my wishes, here's how to stay safe." Discuss with her the various forms of contraception and how to practice safe sex. If you're uncomfortable discussing birth control with her, schedule an appointment for her to speak with a gynecologist.
- Healthychildren.org: Sexually Transmitted Infections Prevention
- Healthychildren.org: Adolescent Sexuality: Talk the Talk Before They Walk the Walk
- KidsHealth: Abstinence
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Sexual Risk Behavior: HIV, STD, & Teen Pregnancy Prevention
- MayoClinic.com: Talking to Your Teen About Sex
- Great Schools: Talking With Your Teen About Sex: it's Not as Hard as You Think
- Healthychildren.org: Education Your Teen About Birth Control
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images