Talking to your kids about sexual health is important.
Helping your child grow into a safe, healthy, and responsible person is an important goal – and it’s a goal we share with you.
As a parent, you have the primary responsibility for promoting healthy knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and skills – whether they’re about sex or relationships or eating or exercise.
We fully recognize that talking about sex with your child – or even thinking about your child being or becoming sexually active – can be uncomfortable. These resources should help you understand how to help your child be and stay safe, healthy, and responsible.
Teens and Sex
So let's separate myth from fact, and figure out what it means for you as a parent?
- Most people become sexually active during their teen years. (Median age = 17)
- 69% of North Carolina 12th graders have had sexual intercourse. 33% of 9th graders have.
- Rates of teen sex are at their lowest levels in history. That means your teen is likely to wait longer than you and your peers did.
- Teens are more likely to use condoms and contraceptives now than ever before – contributing to record low teen pregnancy rates.
As a parent, part of your job is to prepare them for the drastic physical, social, and emotional changes that go hand-in-hand with growing up. You are also the front line in helping them learn basic facts and understand your family’s values.
The Importance of Parenting
Think your child doesn’t want you to talk about sex? You’re wrong!
In survey after survey, teens say their parents influence their decisions about sex more than any other source – including the media and their friends. What’s more, nearly 9 out of 10 teenagers say that it would be easier to avoid sex if their parents talked openly and honestly about it.
It's time to start talking!
Parenting a Sexually Healthy Teen
While so much focus goes to teens’ characteristics, the landmark 1995 publication Facing Facts: Sexual Health for America's Adolescents breaks down the characteristics of parents of sexually healthy teens. Some of these parent characteristics include:
- Demonstrate value, respect, acceptance, and trust in their adolescent children
- Model sexually healthy attitudes in their own relationships
- Maintain a non-punitive stance toward sexuality
- Are knowledgeable about sexuality
- Discuss sexuality with their children and provide information
- Try to understand their son's or daughter's point of view
- Help their daughter or son gain an understanding of their values
- Set and maintain limits for dating and other activities outside of school, and ask questions about friends and romantic partners
- Stay actively involved in their son's or daughter's life
- Provide a supportive and safe environment for their children
- Offer to assist adolescents in accessing health care services
- Help their daughter or son plan for their future
Passing Along Your Values
Parents have the responsibility to pass along family values to their children. Most comprehensive or evidence-based programs focus on universal values like respect, health, and responsibility. These programs often include guided exercises to facilitate parent-child communications.
WHY TALK ABOUT SEX?
Talking about sex is one of the most important things you can do to help your child avoid getting pregnant or causing a pregnancy during his or her teen years. It’s also the underpinning of a lifetime of safety, health, and responsibility when it comes to sex and relationships.
Teens themselves say it would be easier to delay having sex or use protection if their parents talked to them about it. If that’s not enough, here are a few more reasons:
- Young people are bombarded with inaccurate and unhealthy information about sex in the media. What you tell them can balance out that bad information.
- Most schools provide far less sex education than parents want provided.
- There are few safe and accurate places for young people to ask questions about sex. Letting them know they can ask you is important to maintaining healthy communications.
And remember, research shows that teens don’t think you’re condoning sex when you talk about it.
How To Talk About Sex
Just like every family is different, every parent-child communication style is going to be different. These basics are important to keep in mind when talking about sex:
- Start talking early. Conversations that contribute to sexual health aren’t all about sex. Start talking in the early years about proper names for body parts, as well as concepts like good touch/bad touch and respect for others.
- Talk often. Try to maintain a series of ongoing, age-appropriate conversations rather than one big “the birds and the bees” talk.
- Use teachable moments as conversation starters. When something happens on TV or in a song lyric, use it as an opportunity to say, “What do you think about that?” or “How do you think you’d deal with that situation?”
- Don’t assume your child is doing the thing they’re asking about. Young people are exposed to a lot of information and words and concepts. Their curiosity about what those things mean is natural.
- Keep a positive tone. Remember that the information you provide will stick with them for a lifetime. Be careful not to say things that will make them feel badly about their bodies, avoid protecting themselves with condoms or birth control, or avoid communicating about sex when they are older.
Finding the Support You Need
You can play a role in making sure your child is surrounded by people and organizations that support health, safety, and responsibility. In addition, sexual health education is provided for in North Carolina under the 2009 Healthy Youth Act. This important state legislation outlines your rights as a parent. Learn more about this law.
be a champion for prevention
Tell your friends and family about teen pregnancy prevention. There's no better way to make an impact than to become an active advocate yourself.