Talking to your Parents about Sex
Adapted from Planned Parenthood
Should I talk to my parents about sex?
It might feel awkward at first, but talking to your parents about sex can be a really good thing They probably know more than you think and can answer your questions.
Do I really need to talk with my parents about sex?
Lots of teens talk with their parents about sex. If you feel safe talking with your parents about sex, do it. Sure, it can be a little embarrassing, but it’s definitely worth starting the conversation. Your parents (or other adults you trust) can offer great information and advice.
One way to avoid awkwardness is to ask your parents what their values are when it comes to sex. This takes the pressure off of you to do all the talking and shows them that you respect their opinions.
You could start by saying something like, “Some of my friends are having sex. What do you think about that?” Or, “How did you first learn about sex?”
Asking them questions about what it was like when they were your age is a great way to learn, get their trust, and even hear some stories from their past. You can also try using something from a TV show or a movie to start the conversation. Your parents will probably really appreciate you being open with them. They may even be relieved that you brought it up!
Do my parents need to be involved when I make decisions about sex?
Decisions about sex are very personal and private, but there are some good reasons to involve your parents. Your parents:
- Might have good advice on whether you should start or continue a sexual relationship, based on a ton of life experience.
- Could suggest ways to help prevent pregnancy and STDs. They could even go with you to get tested, get birth control, or the HPV vaccine. Their health insurance might cover the cost of your doctor’s visit.
- Can support you during difficult situations like dealing with an unplanned pregnancy, STD, or sexual assault.
Your parents care about you and want to be involved in your life. They were your age once, and they know what it’s like to be a teenager. They’ll probably be proud of you for being responsible about your health. Get more tips on talking with your parents about sex and your body.
If you decide you can’t involve your parents in your decisions about sex, you can still take care of your health. Most states have laws that let teens get STD testing and birth control without their parents. You can also check with your local Planned Parenthood health center to see if they can give you free or low cost health care, without using your parents’ insurance. Some states have special programs that help teens get their own private health insurance plan for sexual health services. Learn more about going to the doctor.
How do I talk with my parents about sex?
Talking with your parents about sex can feel scarier than it actually is. With a little planning and practice, you’ll be ready to start the conversation.
What’s the best way to start a conversation with my parents about sex?
Starting a conversation can be the hardest part. Promise, it gets easier and easier over time. Here are some tips to help you out:
- Try using a magazine article or TV show to start talking about sex more generally. Then you can work your way up to the stuff that’s more personal to you.
- If you feel more comfortable communicating through email, text, or IM, go for it. It doesn’t matter how you talk — just talk.
- Give your parents a heads-up that you want to talk. Say something like, “Can we have a private talk tonight?” That way you can be sure to have their full attention, and they know to take it seriously.
- Break the ice with something like, “This feels weird for me to talk about, and it may be for you, too, but I want to ask about …” Acknowledging the awkwardness can actually help make it go away.
- Think of questions you want to ask, and maybe even write them down first. You could ask them about what their parents taught them about sex, how to know when you’re in love, how to know when to have sex, and how to protect yourself from pregnancy and STDs.
- Tell them why you’re asking. Is it to try to understand what they expect from you? Is it to get some information? Is it to help you make a decision, or help a friend make a decision? Telling them why will stop them from making assumptions.
What if I really can’t talk with my parents about sex?
Unfortunately, some parents can’t get over their discomfort about sex. Worse, some threaten or punish their kids for bringing it up. If you feel that asking questions about sex will put you in danger, don’t do it.
If you’re very concerned about your parents’ reaction, you might want to put off the conversation until you feel you and your parents are more ready. Or maybe your parents aren’t around. In these cases, you could turn to another adult you trust, such as a family friend, relative, or counselor.
Staff at your local health center can also talk with you and help you find the information and resources that you need.