What should I do if I think my adolescent is sexually active?
Open communication is the key! Communication enhances closeness, and teens who feel close to their parents are much less likely to engage in risky behavior.1
Sometimes this is hard for a parent or mentor, especially if a pattern of open communication hasn’t been established. Take heart, research is on your side. Teens who talk to a parent about sex tend to wait to have sex, have fewer sexual partners, and are more likely to name a parent than a peer as a good source of information about sex.2 While starting maybe challenging, the consequences of NOT starting can be devastating!
To start, look for teaching opportunities and use them. Find natural “launch pads” such as a television show or life situations that happen.
Ask open-ended questions about the show/situation.
Don’t overreact to something they say, even if it’s not what you expect to hear.
If you aren’t sure how to respond, be honest…”I’m not sure how to respond but would like to talk about this some more later, okay?” This would give you the opportunity to research the topic or even call ComfortCare for support.
Be confident! Research shows that YOU are an important influence on your adolescent’s sexual behavior. 3,4,5
Don’t send mixed messages! Teens whose parents express disapproval of nonmarital sex and contraceptive use are less likely than their peers to have sex.6
Explain that condoms and contraceptives NEVER make nonmarital sex “safe enough”. The evidence can’t be denied. About half of the all new cases of STIs occur in 15- to 24- year olds, even though they make up only 25% of the sexually active population.7 In light of this information, if you find in your conversation, that your adolescent has been sexually active, get them tested for STIs. Your healthcare provider can do this or it is offered free of charge through the Health Department.
Regardless of how your adolescent responds to a conversation, setting standards and boundaries are imperative
. Keep in mind that the adolescent brain is still developing and needs your wisdom and guidance even if they don’t want it. (A good resource for understanding the adolescent brain is the book Hooked,
by M.D. Joe S. McIlhaney Jr and M.D. Freda McKissic Bush which can be purchased at http://www.medinstitute.org/products/item10.cfm
You aren’t alone!
At ComfortCare, we help bridge the communication gap. We can talk with you or your adolescent about healthy relationships and other important topics. This information is available for groups as well.
1. Jaccard J, Dittus P, Gordon V. Parent-teen communication about premarital sex: factors associated with the extent of communication. J of Adolesc Res. 2000;15(2):187-208.
2. Whitaker d, miller K. Parent-adolescent discussions about sex and condoms: impact on peer influences of sexual risk behavior. J Adolesc Res. 2000;15(2):251-273.
3. Karofsky PS, Zeng I., Kosorok MR. Relationship between adolescent-parental communication and initiation of first intercourse by adolescents. J Adolesc Health. 2000;28(1):41-45.
4. Resnick M, Bearman D, Blum R, et al. Protecting adolescents from harm. Findings from the national longitudinal study on adolescent health. JAMA. 1997;278(10):823-832.
5. Dilorio C, Kelley M, Hockenberry-Eaton M. Communications about sexual issues: mothers, fathers, and friends. J Adolesc Health. 1999;24(3):181-189
6. Lederman RP, ChanW. Roberts-Gray C. Sexual risk attitudes and intentions of youth aged 12-14 years; survey comparisons of parent-teen prevention and control groups. Behav Med. Winter 2004;29(4):155-163.
7.Weinstock H, Berman S, Cates W, Jr. Sexually transmitted infections among American youth: incidence and prevalence estimates, 2000. Perspect Reprod Health. 2004;36(1):6-10.