Tips for Parents

There are some tips you can follow that may help in talking with your teen about relationships and pregnancy prevention. More tips can be found for parents here.

Father and sonStart talking to your teen about changes to expect during puberty; your expectations for their datingabstinence and contraception; avoiding teen pregnancySTDs, and HIV/AIDS; and having healthy relationships. Talk early and often, and be ready to listen to your teen and answer questions that might come up.[1] For general tips on how to get the conversation started and ideas of what to talk about, visit OAH’s Talking with Teens pages on these topics. Research shows that teens who talk with parents about these topics begin to have sex at later ages, use condoms and birth control more often if they do have sex, have better communication with romantic partners, have sex less often than other adolescents,[2]and have a lower risk of teen pregnancy.[3]

Children often begin asking questions about where babies come from at a young age. These are great opportunities to lay the foundations for later talks about your expectations and values about sexual behavior and relationships. Take advantage of opportunities to have these important conversations. And if you think you waited too long, you didn’t. It’s never too late to begin this dialogue.

Be clear and specific about family values and rules about when it’s okay to start dating and your expectations around dating and sexual behavior.[1] If you have strong beliefs and values around sex and marriage, communicate those  plainly. For example, if you believe people should not have sex until they are married, say that. If you think teens in high school are too young to be involved in a serious relationship, say that, and why. Or, if you think the time to have a baby is after college, say that. Same goes for using condoms or other birth control methods. Whatever your beliefs, you need to say them out loud to your son or daughter. And explain why you believe what you do.[1]

Mother and daughterBelieve in your power to affect change. It might seem like  son or daughter is ignoring you, as if your adolescents don’t want to hear what you say, or that they don’t care what you think. Despite how they act, some of what you say will sink in. In survey after survey, children report that they want to talk to their parents about their sex-related questions, that it would be easier to delay sexual activity and avoid teen pregnancy if they were able to have more open, honest conversations about these topics with their parents, and that parents influence their decisions about sex more than friends do.[4]

Be there: monitor and supervise. Establish rules, curfews, and expectations for behavior through family conversations. Get to know your children’s friends and their families. Also, be sure to monitor what your children are reading, watching and listening to, and encourage your children to think about consequences from behaviors they may be exposed to in the media.

Discourage early dating. Dating during adolescence is common and can be part of healthy development.[5] However, serious and exclusive dating relationships can lead adolescents to have sex earlier than they would have otherwise.[3] Adolescents who have sex at an early age are more likely to engage in risky sexual  behaviors and in other unsafe activities, such as substance abuse.[3],[5]

Ensure your child has regular visits with a medical provider. Sometimes a young person will feel more  comfortable asking a doctor or other medical professional specific questions about sex and reproductive health. The  American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that adolescents have private time with doctors. Learn more about the services provided under the Affordable Care Act.

Talk about their future. Young people who believe they have bright futures, options, and opportunities are much  less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior. Encourage your children’s aspirations to high levels of achievement and to participate in school and community activities (such as clubs, sports or music, etc.). Support their activities and dreams to the extent you can.[3],[5]


Footnotes>>

[1]National Health Information Center. (2013). Talk to your kids about sex. Retrieved May 14, 2014, from http://healthfinder.gov/prevention/ViewTopic.aspx?topicID=77&cnt=1&areaID=0
[2]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Parent and guardian resources. Retrieved May 14, 2014, from http://www.cdc.gov/TeenPregnancy/Parents.htm
[3]Kirby, D., & Lepore, G. (2007). Sexual risk and protective factors: Factors affecting teen sexual behavior, pregnancy, childbearing and sexually transmitted disease. Washington, DC: ETR Associates and The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Retrieved May 14, 2014, from https://thenationalcampaign.org/sites/default/files/resource-primary-download/protective_factors_full.pdf
[4]Albert, B. (2012). With one voice: America's adults and teens sound off about teen pregnancy. Washington, DC: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Retrieved May 14, 2014 , from http://thenationalcampaign.org/sites/default/files/resource-primary-download/wov_2012.pdf
[5]Collins, W. A., Welsh, D. P., & Furman, W. C. (2009). Adolescent romantic relationships. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, 631-652.
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Last updated: June 11, 2014