It is a conversation that every parent looks forward to and dreads at the same time. As parents, we look forward to watching our children grow into young adults and enjoy seeing them go through the different stages - from young love to the more serious relationships in the late teens. But we also dread the conversations about sex and STDs. Even so, our teens have questions. There are things they want to know but don’t know how, or are too embarrassed, to ask.
The following are 5 things your teen probably wants to know:
How do I know if I am ready for sex?
In your teen’s world, everyone may be talking about sex and it probably seems like "everyone else is doing it." But your teen might be wondering if he or she is ready for sex. Instead of giving a flat out "yes" or "no" (because as parents we are never ready for this), talk about what is important in a relationship before sex occurs. Give your teens some questions to think about before deciding to have sex:
- Am I doing this because I want to or because my boyfriend/girlfriend wants me to?
- Am I doing this because all my friends have already done it?
- Do I think having sex will make my relationship stronger?
- Do I think having sex will make my boyfriend/girlfriend love me more?
- Can I talk about how I feel about sex with my boyfriend/girlfriend? Do I really know and feel comfortable with my partner?
Sex is something that both partners in a relationship should want. Neither person should pressure the other. Sex also doesn’t make the other person love you more or make your relationship stronger - in teen relationships sex often complicates the relationship because one or both partners are not emotionally ready for the feelings that come along with a sexual relationship.
What do you (the parent) believe?
Although your teen may not follow your lead or even have the same beliefs, your teen probably wants to know what you think. Do you believe that he or she should remain abstinent until marriage? Do you think sex outside of marriage is okay? Teens, like all children, don’t want to disappoint you. Although in the end, they may do what they want anyway, it is important to talk about your views and beliefs. Your teen wants to know that you will love him or her, no matter what decision is made.
How can I tell my partner I don’t want to have sex?
Sex should be shared between two people who have built an emotional and trusting relationship with one another. Both should feel that they views are respected, even if the other doesn’t agree. A loving relationship allows for both partners to freely share their thoughts and concerns. Your teen is probably worried that if he or she says "no" to sex, their partner isn’t going to want to stay in the relationship. Explain that, unfortunately, this sometimes happens, however, these are not the relationships that are worth continuing. Help your teen understand that his or her partner should be understanding and be willing to wait until both partners are ready. Let your teen know that the best way is to explain is to be honest about their feelings while being understanding of their partner’s feelings.
How does birth control work? Is there one way that is better than another?
The only 100 percent effective method of birth control is to remain abstinent, but that probably isn’t what your teen wants to know. This is a good time to explain all the different types of birth control, including emergency contraception. If you don’t feel you are prepared to go over all the different birth control methods, you can go on the internet and review each method together. Remember to talk about how condoms are important to use as protection against STDs, even when other birth control methods are use.
Can I get pregnant (or get an STD) the first time I have sex?
One myth surrounding sex for teens is that you can’t get pregnant the first time you have sex. Your teen needs to understand that there is a possibility of pregnancy the first, and every time, he or she has sex. While pregnancy most often occurs during the middle of the menstrual cycle, it can happen at any time, even when you have your period. Another myth is that you need to have sex often in order to get an STD. Teens need to understand that, as with pregnancy, you can get an STD the first time you have sex. In addition, some STDs can be passed through oral sex.
The more teens know and understand about sex and safe sex practices, the better they will be able to make informed and mature decisions. Talking about sex with your teen shouldn’t stop with just one conversation but should be a continuous discussion as teen’s questions will change as they learn and experience different things. Make sure your teen knows you are available to talk.
For more information (and to help you with your "talk"):
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.