How does your teen know when they’re ready to have sex? Talking about sex with your teenager ranks high on the list of awkward conversations. Unsure of how to initiate these types of conversations, many parents buy a book about sexual health, place it on their kid’s bed and never speak of it again.
What if we removed the stigma and let go of the fear keeps us from talking openly about sex? The ability to freely discuss sexual health would give kids knowledge and confidence they desperately need to make healthy and informed decisions as they navigate the beginning of their transition into an adult world.
There are a slew of questions that teens are dying to ask, but typically don’t feel comfortable asking an adult. Imagine a conversation free of discomfort and fear… what might they ask us?
“How do I know when I’m ready to have sex? At what age is it OK?”
There is no simple or straight-forward answer to this question, and depending on values and beliefs, different parents will have different answers. If you’re taking a comprehensive, fact-based approach, it is beneficial to start by asking your child what they think. This helps start the conversation and provides you with insight into your teen’s thoughts on the matter. Plus, creating an open dialogue will help both you and your teen become increasingly comfortable with topics pertaining to sexual health.
Most comprehensive sexual health educators would agree that there is no set age when someone is ready to have sex.
Before you answer the question, it’s a good idea to be up to date on some of the verbiage, particularly the word “sex.” It’s common for people use this term in reference to intercourse between a man and a woman, but in truth, it’s a broad term. Sex can refer to oral, anal, or vaginal sex, so be sure to distinguish what type of sex you’re talking about. The word “intercourse” is a good place to start, and include any other details you deem important.
Most comprehensive sexual health educators would agree that there is no set age when someone is ready to have sex, so before you answer their question, it’s a good idea to take some time to think about your own opinion and your own values–it’s different for each person.
In your own words, explain that it’s healthier for teens to postpone sexual behavior until they’ve had time to develop their values, their confidence, and their decision-making skills. Encourage them to think about how their actions might affect different areas of their lives while asking them questions like “What do you think?” or “What would you do?”
Traditionally, when speaking to youth about “sex,” the physical realm is where we spend most of our time: pregnancy prevention, sexually transmitted infections and the risks associated therein. The social and emotional aspects of having sex are ignored much of the time, leaving out monumentally important information and painting an incomplete picture.
The social and emotional aspects of having sex are ignored much of the time, leaving out monumentally important information and painting an incomplete picture.
When broaching this area of conversation, take a moment to consider the social climate of today’s youth. Is your teen on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and more? Kids have the ability to spread information in the blink of an eye, and it’s worth engaging in a detailed discussion about potential social consequences.
Many parents hope that their teens will wait until they’re in a loving and stable relationship before having sex, but this won’t always be the case. The job of the parent is help them understand that all of the choices they make in this area of life will have outcomes that may be out of their control.
No matter what your values are, or what your hopes for your kids may be, at some point parents must realize that they are their own people out in the world, living their lives. The influence you once had over them wanes as they straddle the worlds of childhood and adulthood. Help them thrive, stay safe and make smart choices by engaging in conversations that give them tools to succeed.
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- 5 Questions About Sex Your Teen May Be Too Embarrassed to Ask - October 29, 2015
- How Does My Teen Know When They’re Ready to Have Sex? - September 28, 2015