It’s the conversation many of us have been dreading for years: Talking to your sexually active teens about what they are doing, how they need to be safe, and how to recognize red flags in their sexually active life. As much as we’d like to simply bury our heads and not talk to our teens about sex and their sex lives, the reality is that we need to.
According to a report by the CDC, more than half of teens have had sex by the time they turn 18. Talking to your teen about sex goes beyond an informative talk about the birds and the bees. If your teen is already sexually active, it’s time for a more grown-up discussion.
First steps after finding out
When you first discover that your teen is sexually active, it can lead to many emotions. You may feel anger, frustration, sadness, and a strong drive to lock them in their bedroom for the next decade. While understandable, this is unlikely to be an approach that elicits a positive response from your teen. What should you do? How should you approach the conversation?
- If you need some time to regroup, take the time. Don’t go into a conversation with emotions running high. Be tactful and approach conversations calmly.
- If your teen has come to you with questions or concerns, now is not the time to react strongly. Now is the time to answer those questions and ease the worries.
- Don’t involve other parents or adults in the conversation unless your teen consents to it. This is a sensitive topic; you don’t want your teen to feel like they cannot trust you.
- If you’ve found out that your teen is sexually active without your teen first telling you, you will likely need to step carefully. Again, this is a sensitive topic, and you risk making your teen feel cornered, embarrassed, and ashamed.
While you may not be entirely happy that your teen is sexually active, it’s so crucial that you don’t allow elements of embarrassment and shame to enter into the conversation. Your teen must trust that you will always have their back and best interests at heart.
Advice that your teen needs
There may be so much that rushes into your head when you approach the conversation with your teen. But you must keep things on course so your teen understands they are not being attacked or judged.
Here is some advice your teen needs to hear from you:
- Sex needs to be safe. Always. This is not negotiable and is not something they should compromise on. You can discuss birth control methods and options as appropriate for your teen.
- There is no shame in having consensual sex. It always needs to be consensual between both parties.·The word “No” is a complete sentence.
- If your teen feels coerced, forced, or otherwise uncomfortable with any experience, they need to tell you as soon as possible.
- If your teen decides they don’t want sex at some point, again, no is a complete sentence.
- Your teen doesn’t need to have face-to-face conversations with you. Let them know they can text or use a private chat option for just the two of you. Sometimes this is a much easier way for a teen to communicate.
- Your teen needs to know they can come to you with questions about sex. And about sexuality.
- Most sex ed classes don’t cover anything outside of sex between a man and a woman. If your teen tells you they are gay or bisexual, you’ll need to provide them with the appropriate advice and information.
These aren’t necessarily the most comfortable conversations between you and your child. However, they are essential conversations. Communication is a significant part of a healthy sexual relationship and any adult relationship. It can begin in your home, with your teen understanding that you will always be there with the answers they need.
Advice that your teen wants
Now that you’ve covered the information your teen needs to hear, you can start to go through the advice your teen might want to hear from you. Believe it or not, your teen will want to listen to what you have to say. You may still get rolled eyes and an attitude, but they care about your thoughts on these critical topics:
- Birth control. Your teen may want and need advice from you about birth control. You already covered it, knowing it’s the information they need, but it goes further than that. Your teen may not be able to or feel comfortable getting contraception. You may not feel comfortable buying condoms for your teen, but it is a far cry from knowing they aren’t using safe sex methods because they’re embarrassed to buy them.
- Peer pressure and abuse from peers about sex. Discuss healthy mindsets about healthy sexual relationships with your teen. Whether it’s their friends making fun of them for not having sex or not having enough sex, or perhaps friends shaming them for being sexually active, these types of interactions can damage your teen’s relationship with sex. Remember that much of the advice you’d offer about other types of peer pressure and bullying can apply.
- Relationship advice. Your teen may simply want to talk to you about the relationship that they have with their partner. It’s important not to judge them or be overly critical. You’re still their parent. But they also need to know they’re getting a friendly ear and advice.
Above all, listen. Truly listen to what your teen is saying, asking, and hoping to get answers to.
Safe sex is more involved than they may think
Sex ed classes tend to take the approach of scaring teens. While scary stats about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and teen pregnancy can be compelling, the reality is that teens are still likely going to have sex. With this in mind, it can be helpful to prepare your teen properly.
- Safe sex is the responsibility of both partners. It should never just be on one partner to take precautions.
- Birth control pills and other similar forms of contraception are very effective at preventing pregnancy. That said, they do not protect against STDs.
- Penetrative sex is not the only way for STDs to be transmitted. Oral sex can also bring a level of risk with it.
- Being monogamous does not mean it’s okay to forego all types of protection. Your partner may never cheat, but none of us have that guarantee. Maintaining protective methods is essential, if only just to prevent teen pregnancy.
We’re all going to make mistakes along the parenting journey. Your teen may cringe at the conversation and may roll their eyes once in a while. But the important thing is that you share the most important things about being sexually active. Your teen may not show how much they appreciate it today, but when they are adults with healthy communication skills and a healthy mindset around sex, they will understand your sometimes stumbling efforts. They’ll know that you cared.
If your teen’s behavior is beyond what you’d consider reasonable, it may be time to reach out for help. At HelpYourTeenNow we pride ourselves on being able to partner parents with the right type of resources. Sexually active teens may make decisions that are not in their best interests. They may be having sex due to peer pressure or perhaps because their rebellious mindset tells them it’s what they need to do. Getting your teen the correct type of help is an integral part of getting them back on the right healthy track.