Director of Communications, Healthy Teen Network
As sex educators, when we talk to parents, we often get asked, “How can I make sure my teen doesn’t get pregnant or get an STI?” While prevention is important, try flipping the conversation. As a parent or caring adult, it’s important to ask, “How can I best support my teen to grow to be a healthy adult who has healthy relationships?” To do that, here are five quick tips:
1. Listen when opportunity knocks
Take advantage of teachable moments. Current events, TV, movies, or songs can be a starting point for a conversation.Ask teens their opinions rather than sharing your own to help them develop the skills they need to make healthy decisions.
2. Trust young people
With medically accurate information and adequate support, young people can make healthy and responsible decisions about having sex and using condoms and contraception. Caring adults can promote responsible decision-making by providing information and support to empower adolescents to make safe and healthy choices.
3. Be sex positive
Talking about sex does not lead to sex — there’s plenty of research to back this up. Teens are learning how to navigate relationships of all sorts, and adults can help them make better choices, including if and when they become sexually active. Remember, the goal is to help your teen learn how to have healthy relationships. We want them to learn and grow and develop into healthy adults who at some point in their lives will likely be sexually active.
4. Keep it confidential
When a teen shares something with you, they are trusting you. Unless they are a danger to themselves or others, or you’re professionally mandated to report a disclosure, keep it confidential, and encourage future opportunities to share information and support.
5. Share accurate, reliable information
It’s okay to not know the answer, but promise to find out or refer your teen to a reliable resource. It’s important to emphasize consent, protection, and healthy relationships. Make sure teens know how to protect themselves (i.e., condoms and contraception), plan ahead, talk with their partners, and say no or deal with conflict.
These tips can help you be a trusted resource so your teen keep coming to you for guidance. You can help them to mature into an adult who can lead a healthy, sexually fulfilling life.