Having your parents talk to you about your sex life is enough to make most teenagers retreat into their hoodies in silence. It’s just not cool for mum or dad to be asking questions about what they get up to in the bedroom, in fact it’s awful….isn’t it? Let’s be clear, there’s a huge difference between discussing sex - and their sex lives specifically. It’s a pretty odd thing if a parent wants to know exactly what’s going on, that isn’t going to be an easy or pleasant thing to understand. Ultimately, sex lives are private things and that privacy should be respected. BUT – if there’s concern over contraception, then that definitely changes the situation.
One of the best things to do is to have that talk prior to anything taking place. Most teenagers are going to be having sex at some point or other, so even if they aren’t at the moment, it’s still very important to have ‘that’ talk. They will probably be learning about it in school, anyway, the curriculum these days is quite comprehensive where that’s concerned. It’s not just the anatomy and mechanics of sex any more, there are also lessons about feelings and having respect for other people in sexual situations. Consent is a BIG thing which is covered comprehensively. But just because the school might be covering the basics, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a chat as well. Some teens might pay more attention to what’s being said if their parent is the one saying it.
When should I do it?
There’s no one time that’s perfect, but around the start of puberty is usually a good bet. They will be old enough to know that their bodies are changing and becoming sexually mature, so they will be more engaged with what they need to do to have sex safely. A girl’s first period is a good time to bring up stuff like that, just so they’re aware that from this point onwards they can become pregnant. It doesn’t need to be in-depth if they’re young, just having the knowledge lodged in their brain is enough. It’s a little different with boys because there’s no one event that makes them sexually mature, so around 12/13 is probably about right, as they are becoming aware of their body and what it does.
Should I talk to my teen and their partner together about it?
Well…..you could….but that’s more likely to bring embarrassment than gratitude. It’s best to stick to having a chat with your child, and leave it up to them if they want to ask any more questions.
How can I make sure that my teen is taking proper precautions?
You can’t be 100% sure, ever. But there are things that you can do to ensure they have all of the necessary info at their fingertips:
- -Education, education, education. Vaginal sex, oral sex, anal sex, sex toys – any and all of these should be covered. It’s not just intercourse that infection can be transmitted, so pointing out the various possibilities where something could be caught is vital. Give them the information and then they can do with it what they want.
- -Offer to buy condoms/take them to a sexual health clinic. It’s far more likely that you do this with girls than boys, because girls often want to go on the pill or have the contraceptive injection or implant fitted, things that a medical professional needs to do. But you can only make the offer, if your teen would rather go with a friend then let that happen. The clinics will be perfectly used to seeing this day in, day out and they’ll make sure that they leave with a suitable contraception, even if this is just condoms.
There’s no one way that you’re going to get it right. Each situation is different and it has to be approached that way, what works for some people may not for others. And you know your child the best. As long as there’s an open dialogue between you, you’re on the right path. Communication and trust are the key things you should be aiming for in general in your relationship with your child and because of this they will feel confident to approach you about personal things, like sex and choices around it.
Ultimately, you can’t make sure that your teen is having safe sex, all you can do is educate, guide, help and simply be there for advice if they need you. Your part in all this is keeping any emotions in check and being a calm, stable influence, especially when their emotional world might be in turmoil.
And there’s plenty of support out there for you as well, if you feel that you might need it. There are lots of online forums as well as helplines and in-person counselling options – you really don’t have to be alone in this.