Reproductive Health: Tips for Parents of Teens
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.
Start talking to your teen about changes to expect during puberty; your expectations for dating and contraception and condom use; how to avoid teen pregnancy, STDs, and HIV/AIDS; and how to have 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
Believe in your power to affect change. It might seem like your 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
Content last reviewed on March 28, 2019