The Importance Of Talking To Teens About Sexual Health
As a parent, I understand the “uncomfortable factor” many mothers and fathers face when broaching the topic of sexual health with their teenagers. Few parents look forward to the discussion. But I would venture to say talking to your teen about a recent STD diagnosis or an unplanned pregnancy tops the list in conversations we would like to avoid. Your teen, whether he or she chooses to abstain, will one day become sexually active. It is a fact of life. Why not give your teen the tools necessary to navigate the healthiest life possible?
Your teen wants to communicate. Many parents would be surprised to learn their child wants to have a conversation. They don’t want to learn about pregnancy, sex and STDs from MTV. They want mom and dad. Research suggests that youth who report feeling familial connection are more likely to delay sexual intercourse. Studies go on to point out exciting news: parents who initiate dialogue about sexual health that is inclusive of birth control, pregnancy and STDs have boys and girls, who are:
- more likely to have sex at a later age
- less likely to be sexually active as a teen
- more likely to utilize protection when sexually active
- more likely to have healthier relationships with their partners
Conversational neglect is dangerous. The American Sexual Health Association reports 1 in 2 sexually active persons will contract a sexually transmitted disease by the age of 25. The “uncomfortable” conversation you have with your child when he or she is 15 years old may just be what saves them at 25 years old. Sexual development is a healthy and normal part of living and we must work with our children to normalize the dialogue. Ignoring an uncomfortable topic does not mean the uncomfortable topic does not exist. Ignoring sexual health discussions in our home can lead to unsafe practices on the part of our teens that are not always equipped to think long-term when engaged in impulsive behaviors.
Be proactive and prepared to prevent teen pregnancy and ill health. You do not have to conduct these conversations alone. Think of yourself as one parent in a community of millions of parents who are working hard to get their children through life functioning at their best. If you are struggling to find the words, let EyesOpenIowa help you. We have a bevy of support. Start the conversation today!
For additional support, please consult:
- Advocates For Youth
- Centers For Disease Control And Prevention
- Planned Parenthood
- SEICUS (Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States)
— Written by Kristin Fairholm, Executive Director