Adolescent Sexuality


Why should I talk to my child about sex and sexual health?

Many parents worry that teaching their child about sex and sexual health will increase their curiosity and lead to poor choices surrounding sexual health. There has been endless research on this topic. Youth are capable of making mature, responsible decisions when they have been given all the appropriate information and options.
It is generally accepted that young people who experience open communication about sex and sexual health in their home are:

  • More likely to delay first sexual experiences
  • Less likely to become teen parents
  • Less likely to contract a sexually transmitted infection
  • Less likely to be victims of sexual abuse
  • More likely to have a high self-esteem and positive body image
  • More likely to turn to their parents for help and advice

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Tips for Parents – Some Dos and Don’ts

DON’T avoid talking about the issue

If you avoid the issue, thinking your child is too young, they may simply find out in other, less desirable ways. Parents are the most important sexual health educators. Children receive messages about sexuality every day, from TV, movies, and music. It is important to ask yourself: whose values do you want your child to learn, yours or theirs?

DON’T be afraid to be specific

If your child asks you “what is sexual intercourse?”, telling them that “sexual intercourse is something that happens between two people who are in love…” is not going to quench their curiosity. They will most likely look elsewhere for the information. It is okay to go into more detail. How much more detail is really up to you.

DON’T focus solely on the negative aspects of sex

Yes, sex can have negative consequences. However, part of developing healthy sexuality is to recognize that sex is also a fundamental part of being human. There are many positive consequences of sex including bonding with a partner and pleasure. Young people need help to make choices that will reduce negative consequences, while enhancing the positive. Plus, they will listen and respect you a lot more if you give them ALL the information – not just the horror stories.

DON’T make threats

Making threats won’t get you anywhere, even if you make them in a semi-humorous way. The only thing it will accomplish is making your child afraid to approach you if they do end up needing your help.

DO start young

If you wait until your child is into their teen years, it may be harder to discuss the issues. By then youth will have already learned a lot of information through other sources, some of it not accurate.

Teach young children the correct terminology. Talk about puberty before they are already experiencing it. The more you talk about it while they are growing up, the easier it will be to discuss the more difficult topics. And the easier it will be for your child to discuss it with you.

If your child is already a teen and this is the first time that you have talked to them about sex…Don’t worry! It’s never too late to start, and any information is better than none at all.

DO make sure you are up-to-date and informed

If you are going to talk to your children about sex and sexual health, make sure you have accurate and up-to-date information. Things change so rapidly that what you thought was correct may no longer be the case. Read reliable books on the topic, look up information on the web (but make sure the sites are credible), and contact your local sexual health centre for the right information.

DO answer their questions

The biggest struggle for parents is to decide what topics are age appropriate. Do I talk to my 9-year-old about how babies are made? What if my 10-year-old asks me what a condom is? The thing to remember is that, if you avoid answering a question, you may be sending the message that it is NOT okay for them to talk to you about sex. If your child asks a question and you are unsure how to respond, simply let your child know that you will get back to them. You can find the answer or get advice from the School counsellor, your Public Health Nurse, and/or Planned Parenthood – Sexual Health Centre.

DO be prepared for what your child may tell you

After opening the lines of communication, you may learn something about your child that may be difficult to hear. They may tell you that they have already had sex, or that they are gay or lesbian. Would this information bother you? Whatever they tell you, remember that they are taking a chance by trusting you and you can make the most out of the situation by remaining calm and being understanding. If you react badly, they may not open up to you again. It may be helpful to brainstorm beforehand some of the things they may tell you, and think about how you might react and whether or not this will help or hinder the communication process.

DO take advantage of teachable moments

These moments can happen when you least expect them, perhaps you hear lyrics to a song, or your child tells you a story about someone in school. Ask your child’s opinion, and use it as an opportunity to talk about sexual health. These can also be great moments to talk about stereotypes, and the influence of media.

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LET”S TALK! A Guide for Parents on How to Talk to their Children About
Sex and Sexual Health
Planned Parenthood – Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Health Centre
Phone: 579-1009
Toll free 1-877-NO MYTHS (1-877-666-9847)

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