How to Talk to Your Teens About Sex
I’m smack-dab in the middle of the launching process. I have four kids, 2 boys and 2 girls, ranging in age from 15 to 21. I’m in the midst of raising teenagers and transitioning to cheering on young adults. I am by no means an expert. But I am a mom who is doing her best, sometimes awkwardly stumbling through hard conversations, because I love my kids and I care about the adults they are becoming. This is what motivates me to want to be the one who informs my kids about sex. Not their peers, not the media, not the culture.
When my kids were toddlers, I attended a Mom’s group whose purpose was to teach, inform, and encourage young moms in this stage of life. As my kids grew into the school years, I often wished there was a support group for moms at each stage of parenting. Life with teenagers seemed to be especially busy and more complicated as we juggled various work, social, academic, and athletic schedules. Time spent as “family” becomes rarer with each passing year. But this season is so important, and it is crucial that we take advantage of what little time is left to parent.
So how do we talk to our kids and teens about sex? I would like to offer three suggestions to get the conversations started. I would also like to extend support to you, parent of teens! You are not alone in the trenches navigating this challenging stage of parenting. We are here to support you too!
1. God created sex. It is a beautiful and intimate thing. Nothing can compare to being fully loved and accepted when you’re at your most vulnerable. It is fun and precious and meant to be shared between two people that love each other. Sex isn’t “bad” or “dirty”. Being honest about the beauty of sex will not, in and of itself, encourage your child to have sex outside of marriage.
I was raised during the abstinence culture of the 90’s, with persuasion tactics that were shame-based at the core. I was lost in knowing how best to talk to my kids about sex, and because I felt ill-equipped, I avoided the topic all together. In her book Rethinking Sexuality, Dr. Juli Slattery writes, “Christians have allowed the world to define sexuality, sexual brokenness, and sexual wholeness for far too long. To the extent that we chicken out of this conversation or provide simplistic answers to complicated questions, we add to the confusion.” Dr. Slattery’s book is a great resource for parents, as she explores God’s truth about sexuality and provides helpful tools to talking to your teens honestly about sex.
2. Tell the honest facts about sex. “You can only get pregnant when you have sex.” This might seem like an obvious statement, but our culture has completely bombarded us with messages that sex is purely recreational. We have forgotten the scientific fact – sex between a man and a woman is how procreation occurs. As parents, we need to speak the truth plainly. It is simply cause and effect. If you have sex, you can get pregnant or you can get someone pregnant.
“Not if you’re on birth control.” This popular assumption seems like a simple solution to many parents. The truth is, birth control is not 100% effective, therefore it’s important to educate your teens that you can still get pregnant while on birth control. For more helpful information, check out our blog post: 5 Misconceptions about Conception. Read it – you might learn something! Then take the time to talk honestly about these things with your teens. Don’t just assume they already know them!
3. Ultimatums don’t foster open communication. “If you get pregnant, you can find somewhere else to live!” We have met too many teens who pursue abortion out of fear. For some, it is a legitimate concern. For others, it was a parent’s flippant comment. But now, the teen who has been hiding the fact that she’s sexually active, is faced with hiding an abortion too. She doesn’t just fear her parents’ disappointment. She fears their rejection, and she rationalizes that somehow an abortion would be easier than facing them. What she doesn’t understand is how she will carry the weight of that decision for years to come, and most likely will resent her parents for the role they played in her abortion decision.
As a director at a Pregnancy Center, I am meeting too many teenagers who are facing unplanned pregnancy alone because they are afraid to talk to their parents. This has absolutely nothing to do with having parents who are mean or uncaring! Their fear stems mostly from the fact that sex has not been a topic in their home and broaching a taboo topic when you’re facing an unplanned pregnancy is just too overwhelming. Parents, let’s do something to change that! Let’s start the conversation so our teens don’t have to! Let’s be willing to enter into the awkward conversations that our parents couldn’t. Let’s be honest about the beauty of sexual intimacy and God’s design for our sexual wholeness. Let’s talk honestly to our teens about sexual intimacy and be willing to vulnerably share what we learned from our own past mistakes. And let’s foster open conversation. “If you get pregnant, or if you get someone pregnant, come and let’s talk about it. I love you.” These are hard conversations, but they are so worth it.
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