Sexual Health

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Talking To Your Teen

Remember back to your teens - the ups, the downs, the friends you could count on, the friends you couldn't. You wanted to get along with parents, yet wanted to get along without them. Handling school, a social life, work, personal relationships, and trying to plan for a future became a juggling act.

We all likely have some pretty vivid memories of our teen years, but youths often tell us that when people turn 20 they suddenly seem to forget what it's like to be a teen. That's probably our means to mental survival. We need our energy to focus our thinking ahead. But sometimes this change of focus can also create a barrier when adults want or need to support teens in some pretty heavy decisions, like sex.

In talks with Simcoe County teens they clearly tell us they think a lot about whether or not to have sex. They feel peer pressure - if the crowd isn't doing it they are confident to say no. But if the crowd is doing it they might follow along to feel accepted. Added pressure also comes from the way the media sometimes portray sex as "no big deal". Teens also say they want parents to help them work through decisions but worry that if they ask questions, parents think they are doing it! BINGO - there's another roadblock.

Breaking the ice

Adults and children often face the issue of teens and sex with the same feelings - doubt fear embarrassment and lack of confidence. It's better to deal with these feelings openly than let them block the sharing of information and ideas needed for teens to make well thought out decisions about sex. And they will make decisions with or without our help!

Do you think alike? Find out...

A first step might be to look at your own thoughts about teen sexuality. You may find it useful to have teens try this exercise too. Compare your answers! It may give you a chance to talk about sexuality. Keep in mind there are no right or wrong answers.

What do you think about these:

"The less said the better." The more teens know the more likely they are to have sex. Disagree
Unsure
Agree
Marriage is the only acceptable relationship in which sex should take place. Disagree
Unsure
Agree
It is more important for girls to know about sexuality since they are the ones that get pregnant. Disagree
Unsure
Agree
Making condoms available to teens encourages them to have sex. Disagree
Unsure
Agree
Teenagers need very firm control from parents about decisions on sexuality. Disagree
Unsure
Agree
The more teens know about safer sex, the more likely they are to protect themselves. Disagree
Unsure
Agree

Tender talk tips... Often a general talk is much easier for both teens and adults. Here are some suggestions to help make it work.

  • listen without judging...show interest
  • avoid "jumping in" with advice
  • share your thoughts, beliefs and your reasons for them
  • be honest about feeling embarrassed or nervous...it can make it easier for
  • teens to talk about their feelings too

If you can, let the teen know you will be there no matter what happens.

Sex is not just a pregnancy issue...

In our work with teens we often find that those who choose to have sex are looking for good protection from pregnancy. What gets lost in their focus is the risk of HIV and other more common sexually transmitted infections (STIs). We need to help teens understand sexual health in the big picture.

Teens tell us they want information and care that is confidential. Many teens don't talk with their family doctor because they think the doctor will share information with their parents. Parents might think about talking with their family physician. Doctors may be more at ease offering sexual health information and care to teens if they know they have parent support.

You or teens you know, may want to talk with someone or might decide to get more information. Public health nurses offer counseling and education. Family planning and sexually transmitted infection clinics are available.

In the end, teens may not do what we expect or want them to do. They will make their own choices. But hopefully our open hearts and minds can help them along the way.

Page Last Modified: Wednesday, 12 March 2014.