Teenage relationships can be a tricky area for parents to deal with. Yet, teens need to be prepared, so they can make good sexual decisions. Recent reports indicate that less than half of today’s teens do not consider themselves well informed about their contraceptive options. When asked where parents make mistakes during talks about relationships and sex, teens indicated that they feel that parents do not stress the need to be prepared.
So, parents, this is what teens want you to understand when it comes to sex and contraception talks:
Parents - TEENS NEED TO BE PREPARED:
It is crucial that teens need to be prepared -- whether or not they are currently having sex. Your teen needs to understand how to avoid an unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. This may mean some advanced preparation on your part. You may need to do some of your own research if you are not aware of the latest contraceptive options or ways that STIs can be contracted.
When you talk about sex with your teen, you must provide them with correct information. This should include facts about abstinence, how to protect their health, how conception occurs, and about the benefits as well as the limitations of contraception. Teens trust the information that their parents provide, but will turn to others sources if they don’t find out all they need to know from their parents. Contrary to what many parents believe, talking to your teens about contraception is not an endorsement for having sex. Most teens realize that the best form of protection is abstinence; however, they also need to know about contraception. Sometimes, even the most well-intentioned teen may throw caution to the wind when faced with a particular sexual decision. You may want to consider helping your teen come up with a plan if faced in a sexually charged situation; this way, they can know how to handle it in advance. Help your teen come up with ways to say “no” and maintain abstinence, but also stress the importance of insisting that a condom is used should your teen decide to engage in sexual relations. Part of being prepared is having the knowledge that condoms (both male and female) are the only contraceptive method that can also provide protection from some (not all) sexually transmitted infections. If your teen has sex without any form of birth control, your teen will be better prepared to prevent pregnancy if he/she is aware of emergency contraception. So, part of this discussion should also include information about when emergency birth control can be used as well as how to obtain it.
Remember, this should be a two-way conversation (not a lecture). Find out what your teen thinks he/she already knows about sex, abstinence and contraception, so you can clear up any misconceptions or try to determine anything that worries them or is making them anxious. One last thing to consider is the notion of oral sex. Many teens do not consider this act as being at the same level of sexual intercourse (because they can’t become pregnant from doing it). However, they usually are not aware that they can still catch a STI from having oral sex. So, part of their need to be prepared may be discussing the use of dental dams as a way of having safe oral sex. Although this conversation may be embarrassing, whether your teen chooses to have sex tomorrow or five years from now, it is important that he/she has accurate knowledge to make informed sexual decisions.