1. Health

Talking to Your Teens About Sexual Issues and Safe Sex

How to Talk So Your Teens Listen


Updated January 12, 2009

I’ve always considered myself open with my children about safe sex issues. However, when the day came soon after my “baby” son’s 18th birthday that he asked me to take him to Planned Parenthood for free condoms all my openness flew out the window. I asked Duane Westhoff, HIV & STD Prevention Specialist for Health and Education for Youth/Young Adults (HEY), a Project ARK Program for his advice. Here are his suggestions for talking to your teens about sexual issues, including safe sex.

Your teenager depends on you for information about values, love and relationships, not just in word, but in deed. Here are a few suggestions that may help you and other parents who struggle with communicating about sexual issues with their teens:

  • “If you can’t talk about it, you shouldn’t be doing it.” Usually, I suggest this rule of thumb to youth who are becoming sexually active to encourage sexual responsibility and communication about condoms. It seems to apply to parents who are queasy about providing condoms to their teens as well. Talk with your teen about your concerns. Be honest with your struggles. Explore your feelings and share them. Discuss with your son or daughter the positive and negative consequences that sex can have on our lives. You may even want to suggest this helpful phrase to them.

  • Talking is difficult but important. It may be confusing and difficult to explain your concerns. You may feel embarrassed. What a great opportunity this is to role model for your teen about healthy communication. You are the greatest role model your teen has.

  • Keep in mind, your teen may not want to talk about it. Show that you are interested without demanding intimate details. Teens want their privacy and have most of the facts about sex and pregnancy, but they also want their parents to be involved in their lives. Take advantage of natural opportunities to talk. The next time you pass by a clinic, bring up the topic again.

There are a dozen reasons why parents want their children to use condoms “when the right time comes.” Discussing with your teen whether or not it is the right time may be incredibly important. Teens need to know that sex won’t heal a troubled relationship. Sex is not proof of adulthood. Sex carries with it major responsibilities and is he or she ready for them? If these are your concerns, explain that it’s for these reasons that as a parent you struggle with taking him to get free condoms. While you want him to be safe, you also hope he’s having sex for positive reasons.

Stress that except for not having sex, latex condoms are the only method that offers reliable protection from sexually transmitted diseases. Don’t forget that he can also buy his own condoms. We need to empower teens and remind them that sex carries responsibilities. If he is too embarrassed to buy condoms or to get free condoms, maybe that’s a sign that he’s not really ready for the responsibilities of sex. Remind your teen as well, “If you can’t talk about it, you shouldn’t be doing it.”

Related Video
How to Talk to Your Teenage Son

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