Info for Parents
It's just Sex! What’s the big deal?
- Young women’s bodies and anatomy are more prone to infection with STDs, especially infections without noticeable symptoms.
- Teens and young people are less likely to have access to or seek regular STD testing and treatment due to lack of transportation or insurance.
- Many young people are hesitant to speak honestly with a health care provider about their sex lives.
- Some young people have more than one sex partner.
Parents really can make a difference by building strong relationships and talking with their children often, along with encouraging their kids to practice abstinence and set clear expectations and boundaries for their relationships. These are proven ways we can help prevent teen pregnancy, the spread of STDs, and help ensure that teens live the best lives possible.
It is best to start talking with children about sexuality in early childhood. It may be uncomfortable at first but it will get easier as you continue to have discussions. Building a relationship with your children early and allowing open communication can also lead to organic conversations about these types of subjects throughout their development.
However, on the other hand, it is never too late to start!
Parents are the greatest influence in teens' decisions about sex! Teens who report having helpful conversations with their parents about sex are more likely to delay sexual activity and have fewer partners. We can help our kids deal with topics related to sexuality starting when they are very young and throughout their lives. Sexuality includes a wide range of topics including male and female bodies and how they work, human development, reproduction, what makes a relationship healthy or unhealthy, and how to prevent pregnancy and STDs through risk avoidance.
There are many different ways to start conversations about sex. It is best to start talking with children about sexuality early. Children are very curious about their bodies and the differences between boys and girls. This curiosity brings a natural discussion about the names of body parts and if they know why boys and girls look different. When talking with an older child, you may want to start with “What have you heard or what do you know about sex?” When parents talk with their kids about sex early on, it starts to build a trusting and respectful relationship.
Sometimes we get questions from our kids that we are not sure how to answer! The best way to handle this is to ask the child what they already know or what they have heard about the topic they are asking about. This will clarify what they are asking and their understanding of the topic. We can keep our answer short and simple, explaining words they may not have heard before. If you do not know the answer to their question, it is perfectly okay to let them know you will research it and get back to them! It is good to find books and other age appropriate materials you can go through with your children.
Many parents plan “the talk” for months, expecting to get it done in one quick swoop! When “the talk” does not go as planned, we get frustrated. Talking with children about sexuality is a lifelong conversation. Doing a little bit at a time helps set realistic goals when we talk with our children. It also helps keep children from feeling overwhelmed.
When we talk to our children about sex, it is important to keep our conversation age appropriate. If a five-year-old asks, “What is birth?” we might respond, “When a baby comes out of a mother’s body.” If a 10-year-old asks the same question, our answer would have more detail and might begin with, “After nine months of growing inside its mother’s uterus, a baby comes out through her vagina…”
If you have not started talking with your children about sexuality yet, don’t try to catch up all at once! Start having conversations today! It is important to be open and available whenever a child wants to talk.
We need to give our kids truthful, useful, and accurate information. It is important to talk with teens about choosing abstinence until a lifelong monogamous relationship. Abstinence is 100% effective in preventing teenage pregnancy and the spread of STDs.
We can follow a few simple guidelines that will make teens less likely to engage in risky behavior such as drinking, smoking, or having sex before a lifelong committed relationship.
As parents, we need to understand that as our children grow into teenagers, the opportunity for potential risky situations grows. It is necessary for us to stay involved and check in with our teens. Parents need to have boundaries for their teens and have healthy communication around situations that may put them at risk. Perhaps you can start by discussing the following examples, with your teens and plan early so they are prepared before finding themselves in an uncomfortable situation:
- Alcohol and Drugs
- Cell Phones
- Physical Self Control
- As much as possible, try to have an adult at home when teens are there.
- Encourage teens to get involved in activities where an adult will be around— sports and after school clubs.
- When teens go to parties, make sure there will be an adult there. We can call the parents of the teen who is having the party. We might even offer to help supervise or host the party.
- Support teens spending time with friends who are healthy influences. Encourage them to have a number of friends who are a positive source.
- Get to know your teens’ friends! We can take the time to talk with our teens and their friends about what is going on in their lives and connect.
- Talk with other parents. We can get to know the parents of our teens’ friends and stay in touch with them.
- Keep track of your teens online. It is important to set clear expectations about the internet, social media, and cell phone use. Help them make great choices by setting the expectation of what is healthy and what is not.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, Sexting is “the sending of sexually explicit photographs or messages via mobile phone.” Talk to your teens about the dangers and legalities of sexting. Most teens think sexting is harmless. In the state of California sexting as an underage student is illegal. Sexting for teens is considered child pornography. Possessing a photo is a felony. Sending a photo or forwarding is considered distribution of child pornography and is a felony as well. If someone sent your teen a sexting photo and it is on your teen’s phone, it is considered possession of child pornography and your teen could be charged with a felony.
It is great that you set boundaries for your teens, but you can’t be everywhere they are 100% of the time! It is important for teens to set their own boundaries for their physical relationships. Once they have set boundaries, it will be important for your teen to have a conversation with their boyfriend or girlfriend about the boundaries they have set so that their expectations are defined.
Some parents believe that if they just give their teens a condom or birth control they are teaching their teens to be safe. However, while birth control can protect against pregnancy, it does not protect against the STDs your teens can contract. Many of these STDS have no signs or symptoms. If not treated, some can lead to serious life-long complications like infertility, cancer, or Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. If used consistently and correctly, condoms can help in preventing pregnancy and protecting against some STDs, but cannot 100% effectively prevent either pregnancy or STD transmission. In the world we live in today, there is no such thing as “Safe Sex”.
Axis: Up to date Parent Guides and Articles on the Teen Generation: https://axis.org/
Fight The New Drug: Scientific Research and Facts on the Effects of Pornography and how to approach the issue: https://fightthenewdrug.org/
Real Impact: Information on the California Healthy Youth Act and the current situation with our state’s comprehensive sex education: https://intercom.help/real-impact/en/collections/1769552-comprehensive-sexual-education
Ascend: Information on the public health model Sexual Risk Avoidance: https://weascend.org/
Center for Disease Control: Information for Parents on the health of our youth- https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/audiences/parents.htm
RealTalk for Parents: RealOptions' presentations designed to help equip parents, so that they know how to speak with their children about the risks of sexual activity and can encourage them to make healthy lifestyle choices.