Parents hoping for an excuse to delay the big "sex talk" are out
of luck. A new study has found that parents actually need to
initiate those conversations even sooner.
According to the researchers, more than 40 percent of children
have had intercourse before any discussion with their parents about
sexually transmitted diseases, condom use, how to choose birth
control or what to do if a partner refuses to use a condom, says
Dr. Megan Beckett, a behavioral and social scientist for the Rand
Corporation and lead author on the study.
As a rule of thumb, Beckett suggests parents initiate these
conversations at least a few years before they think they need to
happen. Because younger children tend to be less self-conscious
asking about sex than older children, answer these early questions
factually and directly to open up the lines of communication for
the future, Beckett says.
Does the idea of talking about sex with your kids make you break
out in a sweat? Relax - we have some tips to help you start the
As children get older, bring up the topic regularly, as you
would with any other aspect of their lives, like school or
"As a parent knows, your child doesn't always hear you," she says.
"If you talk to them one time, the chances of getting across what
you want to say are not as high as you might hope."
One way to begin the conversations is by picking up on something
you saw together on TV and discussing how they might handle the
same situation. If you're feeling uneasy, Beckett says reading up
can help. When parents are more confident with their own
information base, it can make the conversation a bit easier.
"Make sure they're comfortable coming to you rather than going to
friends who may not be as knowledgeable or who may not have the
same opinions as you," Beckett says.
Even if parents don't think their children are ready to have sex,
these conversations are still important in case they make different
decisions, Beckett says. And having that talk isn't the same thing
as giving your child a green light on having sex.
"There's evidence to suggest that teens who have talked to their
parents openly and comfortably about sex are more likely to delay
their age of first intercourse," she says. "When they do become
sexually active, they're more likely to use a condom. There's no
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