by Dr. Amy Demner, LMHC
Licensed psychotherapist and sexologist
Parents who think their teenager does not want to talk with them about sex, need to think again.
Parents have been the primary source of sex education for American children since the 1940’s. Many surveys have proven that teens prefer talking to their parents about sex. However, because so many parents have difficulty broaching this topic, the media and peers often become the most readily available resources.
In my practice, I’ve seen hundreds of patients who wished their parents had spoken to them about sex in a healthy, positive fashion. Unfortunately, some of the results of no or poor communications about sex include body image problems; guilt about sex; misinformation, such as “good body feelings lead to pregnancy;” unreported sexual molestation; and difficulty formulating intimate relationships.
Teens need correct information in order to make responsible, healthy and positive choices. Giving teens information about sexuality does not give them permission. In fact, studies have found that sex education programs discussing sexual topics, including contraception information or products, did not hasten the onset of sex. Remember, parent approval is crucial to teens. Plus, when parents talk to adolescent about sex, they have the opportunity to express views about love, caring and the importance of mutual respect in successful intimate relationships.
Despite an increase in sex education, the average age for the first sexual encounter remains at 16 ½, the same age research reported in 1948. The percentage of teens having sex, however, has increased, especially for females.
Ironically, many teens have their first sexual encounter right under the noses of their parents. Researchers at Child Trends, an independent research center, found that 56 percent of the teens surveyed in 1999-2000 first had sex at their family’s home or at the home of their partner’s family. The study also found that by the time students are in the ninth grade, 34 percent have had sexual intercourse, a statistic that rises to 60 percent by the 12th grade. Although teen pregnancy in the U.S. has declined in the last decade, about one million American young women still get pregnant each year.
Here are some reason talking to teens about sex is important:
To Reduce Teen Pregnancy. Teens who are educated about sex and have had guidance in making decisions are more likely to abstain or use contraception, if applicable.
To Prevent Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Teens need to know the risks.
To Guard Against Date Rape And Sexual Exploitation. When teens have information about their bodies, the importance of caring in a relationship, and their right to say “no”, they are least likely to be exploited.
To Help Balance Out Misinformation About Sex Presented Through Media.Parents should become familiar with what their teens are exposed to, such as favorite TV shows, music videos and magazines. Watching programs together provide great opportunities for meaningful discussions versus ineffective lectures.
To Keep The Lines Of Communication Open. If teens learn that they can talk to their parents about a delicate topic like sex, they see that their parents are interested, concerned and available for guidance. As a result, doors are opened for many other discussions.
Most importantly, talking to teens about sexuality helps raise responsible, healthy and happy sexual beings who search for satisfying and caring relationships.
If for any reason you suspect that your teen is too promiscuous or has been sexually exploited, seek professional help.