Most parents dread having ‘the talk’ with their child.
But like any conversation involving a child’s health and well-being, talking about the prevention of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease is essential for children to gain the knowledge and skills to protect themselves when they are ready to be sexually active.
Keep it age appropriate
Ellen Rome, M.D., M.P.H., of Cleveland Clinic Children’s said that when parents talk about sexual health with adolescents and teens it helps to keep the conversation age appropriate and to help them build their knowledge over time.
“Instead of having sex be a ‘no –don’t do it,’ we can help them develop the ‘When do I do this safely?’ ‘How do I do this safely and with enjoyment without negative consequences?’” said Dr. Rome.
Knowledge is power
Many parents are worried that talking about sex with their teen will encourage them to become sexually active too soon, but Dr. Rome said that simply isn’t the case.
Research has shown that youth who speak with their parents about contraception before becoming sexually active are generally more likely to use protection later.
While abstinence is the only completely effective method for avoiding unintended pregnancy and STD, even teens who do plan to remain abstinent during their school years need the right information for when they become sexually active young adults.
Dr. Rome said that equipping children and teens with information about what constitutes a healthy relationship, as well as personal responsibility, are as important to their health as talking to them about eating right and exercising.
“We want both parent and kid to know, that if you’re in a loving, healthy, committed, caring relationship that involves healthy sexuality; that involves responsibility and planning,” said Dr. Rome.
For parents who are unsure about how to start a conversation with their child, Dr. Rome suggests enlisting the help of a pediatrician.