our everyday life

How to Talk to Teens About Sexual Activity

by Tiffany Raiford

There are probably a million conversations you’d be more comfortable having with your teen than the sexual activity conversation, but that doesn’t make it any less necessary. What your teen knows about sex may be extensively covered in any sexual education classes she has in school or it may be secondhand information she’s getting from her peers, television shows or books. The only way to guarantee your teen is as educated as possible about sex and all things sexually related is to talk to her yourself. When you talk to her, you'll know that the information she’s learning is accurate, which will help protect her from the dangers of sex in the future.

Talk to your teen like a regular person. According to the Mayo Clinic, your teen is more apt to understand and listen to your conversation if you talk to him like a teenager or peer rather than a doctor. For example, rather than talking using clinical terms and facts, include other aspects of sexual activity in the conversation, such as emotions and what sexual activity can mean. You can discuss the risks of sexual activity, including unprotected sex and other sexual behaviors, in addition to how those acts make him and others feel and what factors he should consider when it comes to engaging in sexual intercourse or other sexual activity.

Stop assuming that your teen knows more about sex than you do. According to Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Temple University, you might be afraid to talk to your teen about sexual activity because you assume she knows more than you do about the subject. She does not, even if she thinks she does. She may know as much as she possibly can about the mechanics of sexual activity, but she needs you to discuss the other aspects of it, such as emotions. You can’t assume that her sex education classes teach her all she needs to know.

Speak directly and honestly with your teen, advises the Mayo Clinic. It may not be an entirely comfortable conversation to have, but sugarcoating things and not being honest does more harm than good. It’s okay to tell him that you don’t have all the answers or that you aren’t sure about something he asked. In that case, you can make it a point to look up the information you don’t know together, which is far better than being dishonest and not admitting that you aren’t familiar with something.

Encourage her to wait before becoming sexually active, advises the Mayo Clinic. However, you should also inform her where she can pick up condoms and that she is free to come to you should she decide birth control is something she needs. While it may feel like this is encouraging her to engage in sexual activity, it is not. As a parent, you want to cover every base and leave nothing to chance; especially when it comes to sexual activity, teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Tips

  • Be accepting of whatever feelings your teen expresses. He may be confused about the desires he's experiencing, his sexual identity or peer pressure to act in certain ways.
  • Choose a time to talk to your teen when you are both relaxed, have some privacy and won't be interrupted.

Warning

  • Be aware that despite education, teens sometimes share myths about sexuality, such as that a girl can't get pregnant the first time she has sex. Separate facts from fiction.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images