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Talking to your teen about safe sex

It can be an awkward conversation to start, but it’s an important one. It lets them know that they can talk to you about sex and that it’s important.

Mother and daughter sitting on couch talking

When to talk with your teen about sex

It’s important to start talking about safe sex before they’re sexually active

It’s ok to talk about sex if they start asking questions at a younger age. Puberty is generally a good indicator that they’re ready to learn.

Talking with your teen about sex won’t encourage them to start having sex. Open discussions about sex can actually delay the start of sexual activity.

Teens who talk with their parents about sex are more likely to have safe sex. Bringing up the topic of sex often shows them that it’s ok to talk about it. It lets them know that you’re open to talk about it when they need.

Sexual education is an ongoing conversation.

It doesn’t have to be a ‘big talk’, it can be several talks over time.

Be prepared and informed

Before you start these conversations, it’s important to consider and get some information about:

Sexually Transmitted Infections STIs

Tips to help the conversation go smoothly

Here are some strategies for a more helpful and successful talk:

Prepare and plan, but don’t script!

Be supportive and don’t judge

Actively listen and support

Provide resources about safe sex

Don’t lecture or pressure them for information

Use the proper names for body parts and bodily functions

Give them chances to express their feelings and thoughts

Make it a conversation that is informal and relaxed

Help them understand that sex is a big deal

Choose a time where distractions are minimal

Be honest and open with your thoughts, values and concerns

Give accurate and balanced information when you can

The world is full of different and confusing messages about sex and relationships. So it’s important that your teen gets honest and reliable information from you or a trusted source.

Key points to cover while talking to your teen about safe sex

Feeling confused about what to say and how to say it?

Here are some key points to start with:

Find out what your teen knows – be interested in their views on sex and correct any misinformation they may have.

Present the risks objectively - including emotional pain, sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy.

Find a teachable moment – look for opportunities to talk about sexual topics in everyday conversations.

Stress the importance of safe sex - make sure your teen understands how to get and use contraception.

Discuss contraception - support your teen to make an appointment with a doctor to choose the best option for them.

Talk about values - explore their feelings, values, beliefs and attitude around sex. Discuss what sex might mean to them.

Be open to any questions – it’s ok if you don’t know the answers. Role model how to find information safely.

Use media to spark conversations – when TV shows or movies raise issues about sex and values.

Explain that oral sex isn't a risk-free alternative - using condoms or dental dams are important to avoid STIs. 

Help them understand consent - both people need to agree and they can stop or change their mind at any time.

Talk about emotional consequences - make sure your teen understands sexual assault and sexual abuse.

Talk about relationships - sex is a relationship with another person. They’re about respect, affection, trust and honesty.

Listen carefully - understand your teen's pressures, challenges and concerns, before talking them through.

Sex isn’t the only way to show affection - kissing, hugging, and holding hands are good ways of expressing love.

Don't rely on scare tactics – talk about sex in a balanced way, discuss both the pros and cons.

If your teen is already sexually active – check that they’re being safe and encourage them to get a sexual health check.

Let your teen know that it's ok to talk with you about sex

Ask them to come to you when they have any questions or concerns.

If they don't feel comfortable, let them know they can talk with another trusted adult, doctor or Kids Helpline.

Needing more support with this talk? Try calling Parentline in your state or territory.

This content was last reviewed 27/06/2019

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