Health Library

Talking about Sex with Your Teen

Studies show that almost half of America’s teens have had sex by age 18. Educating kids about sex is something all parents need to do.

Be prepared to help your teens make sense of the changes in their bodies and their emerging sexuality. Otherwise your teen could be risking:

  • Pregnancy early in life

  • Sexually transmitted diseases

  • Emotional chaos

Your talks with your teen should come naturally. So it’s important to build an open, trusting relationship with your kids while they are still young.

Be alert to warning signs that could mean there is a problem related to sexual activity. Some of these signs include:

  • A sudden loss of interest in school

  • A drastic change in eating or sleeping habits

  • Strange statements such as, “I think I might need to see a doctor”

How can you find ways to approach the tough subject of sex with your teen? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Look for openings. Use current events as an icebreaker. Imagine you are watching the news on TV, and a story about teenage pregnancy comes up. That can become a natural way for you to use that news story to begin a more personal discussion of sexual issues.

  • Make the first move. In most cases, it’s better to bring up the subject of sexuality yourself, rather than waiting for your child to seek you out. Why? If the child has questions, you want the answers to come from a mature, caring adult, and not from the child’s peers, who may or may not have the facts straight.

  • Sort out your own values first. If as a parent you decide that sexual activity is OK, then you should be clear about what behavior and boundaries you expect from your teenager. It is a good idea to have a discussion with your family health care provider about how you’re going to handle issues such as pregnancy and disease prevention.

  • Talk with other parents. Talking with parents who have already raised teenagers can often turn out suggestions that will help you communicate better with your own kids.