Early sex talk, especially with mom, helps teens thrive
Parents talking to teenagers about sex should not be a one-time event. Just like many meaningful issues in a growing teen’s life, there are solid reasons to discuss sex early and often. Conversations about sexuality, dating and relationships should start at an early age, particularly when your youngster is undergoing bodily changes.
Awareness in this area gives teens a better chance of making smart choices throughout their lives. And as we are learning now, teens talking about sex with parents — especially their moms — has a positive effect on safer sexual behavior — especially among girls — according to a recent article published by JAMA Pediatrics.
Laura Widman, Ph.D., of North Carolina State University, Raleigh and colleagues studied medical literature and pooled data from 30 years of research. These studies comprised of 25,000 adolescents, documented in 53 articles, which observed the effect of parent-adolescent sexual communication regarding safe-sex behavior among youths.
The data indicated a slightly-positive effect on safer sex behavior. Discussions focusing on topics such as contraception and condom usage were noted to be a more recurrent issue for girls, as opposed to boys.
For the most part, risky sexual behavior among teens and young adults can increase the incidence of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and unplanned pregnancies.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed U.S. high school students in 2013, and reported that 34 percent of teens had sexual intercourse during the previous three months, Of these, 41 percent did not use a condom during their last sexual encounter. The report also revealed that nearly half of the 20 million new STDs each year were among those between the ages of 15 and 24. In addition, approximately 273,000 babies were born in 2013 to teens 15-to-19 years old.
While statistics such as these may be disheartening, they can provide additional incentive for parents to speak with their teens to keep them safe, and to provide the knowledge that can successfully guide their sexual decision making into adulthood.
With sexual activity beginning at a relatively early age — as mentioned, this study presents findings of 15-year-olds contacting STDs — the teen-parent conversation should begin around the start of puberty.
If parents wait instead until the age they believe their teenager is beginning to experiment, the likelihood exists that opinions of sexual activity are already forming, thus making it more difficult to instill safe-sex instruction. Further complicating the issue are social groups in which your teen exists. Sex can be a matter of competition for some, and that factor alone provides an opportunity for incorrect sexual information to enter into the conversation from peers.
Finally, parents should address sex directly with their teenagers in an effort to promote a “speak-free environment,” where son and daughters can feel comfortable approaching parents with their questions and concerns.