Talking to your teen about sex and its consequences isn't easy. The way to get started is to open up regular communication. Having a simple conversation to catch up on the day, while youre making dinner together, working around the house or grocery shopping is a great first step.
"I've been keeping the channels of communication open with my children by having age-appropriate conversations about sex since they were young," says Stephen Gillenwater, MA, LSW, program coordinator for the Adolescent Family Center at Rush, where he has been working with teens for nearly 18 years. "Sex doesn't need to be a secret or shameful. It does need to be demystified."
Gillenwater recommends always being frank and honest. "Realistically talk to your children about sex and how to avoid getting pregnant," he says. "Support them in protecting their health and their future. There are a number of low cost or no cost programs available, like our program, that offer counseling and other family planning services."
Start the conversation early
"Many teenagers have had sex by the time they reach high school," says Gillenwater. "So don't wait too long to talk to them. You should be talking to them about sex throughout their lives."
Communicate your expectations
You should always let your child know what your expectations are. Your message can be that you expect them to remain abstinent. "You'll still want to give them information about other ways to avoid pregnancy," says Gillenwater.
Understand where theyre coming from
"Teenagers have always been experimenting with sex," says Gillenwater. "Teens are risk-takers – thats where they're at developmentally. That's why simple, truth-based conversation is so much more effective than fear mongering."
"The conversation can start out light and soon you've built enough of a rapport to talk to your child about anything. These conversations can lay the foundations for mutual trust and respect that can help you influence your childs future for the better."
More Information at Your Fingertips:
- To learn more about services for adolescents, visit the Adolescent Family Center home page.
- Looking for information on other health topics? Visit our Health Information home page.
- Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352-RUSH (7874)
Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.
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