Sexual Health

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Talking To Your Teen About Sexuality

Sexuality includes both mind and body; it is who we are, our sense of identity. It is shaped by our attitudes, views, behaviours, emotions, physical look and social contacts.  It is an important aspect of a person’s overall health and happiness.

How do I talk to my teen about sexuality?

The easiest way is to include sexual health into everyday conversations.  Talking about sexuality includes a wide range of topics including: how bodies work, gender expression, attraction (same sex, opposite sex or both), reproduction, what makes a relationship healthy or unhealthy, sexual activity, how to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. 

You might be worried that talking about sexuality will make your teen sexually active.  But research has shown that teens who report having good conversations with their parents about sex are more likely to delay sexual activity, have fewer partners and use condoms and other contraceptives when they do have sex.

It is important that you:

  • let your teen know this is an important topic you are happy to talk about.
  • find out what your teen already knows and correct misinformation.
  • answer their questions directly with fact and truth.  If you don’t know, be honest with your teen and look up the answer together on the internet.
  • respect what your teen says by not offering advice, criticism or judgmental comments.
  • share what you believe and value; and be ready to “walk the talk”.  Sometimes sharing why something is important to you is enough to crack the walls of challenge.
  • show genuine interest in what they have to share; they will know if you are just faking it.
  • let your teen know what you expect of them and why.  Be ready to help out anytime whether they only need you to listen or to pick them up.
  • let your teen share how they feel, good, bad or otherwise.
  • help your teens feel good about themselves so that it is easier for them to say “no” to peer pressures.
  • ask if there is anything else your teen wants to know.
  • respect your teen’s need for privacy just as much as you want them to respect yours.

Teens often name their parents as the biggest influence in their decisions about sexuality, so keep those “lines of communication” open by always listening, talking often and making sure your teen knows they can always come to you.

How can I build a relationship with my teen?

Be honest and open:

  • Make time to talk with your teen about sexuality and other sensitive topics.
  • Listen to your teen and let them share their feelings and concerns without you offering advice when they aren’t looking for any.

Be present:

  • Keep in touch so your teen feels included. 
  • Spend time as a family.
  • Plan a weekly time with your teen to do something you both enjoy.

Be thoughtful:

  • Remember and show up for special events.
  • Know when something is an accomplishment.
  • Offer simple gestures that say you care. (e.g. write your teen a note about why you think they are so special).

Be supportive:

  • Let your teen know that you are there for them - in the good times and the not so good times.

Be consistent:

  • Walk the talk so that you can teach by example

Be respectful: 

  • Share your view without criticizing or judging your teen.

Be there:

  • It is important that you keep your promises.

 

Resources:

Teaching Sexual Health

Peel Region Health Unit

Planned Parenthood

Mayo clinic

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

 

Updated April 2015

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Page Last Modified: Tuesday, 19 May 2015.