Talking Back: 5 Top Things Teens Want Parents to Know When Talking About Sex, Love and Relationships
Whether they believe it or not, parents and champions have a very important influence on young people’s decisions about sex, love, and relationships. Parents want to be good sexual health educators, but may not always have the tools to do the job well. Though it may seem like a lot of pressure, there are ways to have quick, easy, and meaningful conversations about sex with the young person in your life. To help you conduct a successful conversation, we provided five things teens want parents to understand before navigating “the talk” with them.
- Talk to us honestly about sex, love, and relationships.
Conversations about sex, love, responsibility and relationships should begin early on in a young person’s life and continue through adolescence. Start the conversation and make sure that it is honest, open, and respectful. Explain your sexual values and how you felt as a teen, then ask your teen what they think and feel. An approachable champion may not have all the answers, but they are a trusted adult with an open door for questions and conversation.
- It’s normal for us to be curious about sex and birth control.
Teens are naturally curious and have lots of questions. Talking with them about sex, love, dating and contraception is a normal part of their development. Research shows that talking with young people about sex does not encourage them to become sexually active. Incorporating these topics into your conversations will help normalize them, build trust, and facilitate an easier conversation in the years to come.
- Don’t assume our emotions aren’t valid just because we’re young.
Adolescent relationships have a significant impact on a young person’s ongoing emotional and social development. They also lay the foundation for romantic relationships in adulthood. Your teen’s emotions toward sex, love and relationships are very real and deserve respect. Help them manage their feelings by listening as much as—or more than—you talk. Your words are important, but equally important is making sure that their voice is being heard and honored.
- Help us plan for our future.
Delaying sex includes helping your teen set meaningful goals for their future. Talk with them about what it takes to reach their goals and consider how sex might affect those goals. Encourage after school activities, community service, and the exploration of new interests and hobbies. This will provide your teen with an environment of champions who are devoted to helping them achieve their goals.
- We really care what you think, even if we don’t always act like it.
Even if your teen stonewalls you or appears uninterested in these conversations, it’s your job as their parent or champion to keep talking. Providing a supportive and nurturing environment for the young person in your life forms a relationship that is warm and rich in communication. Don’t assume you’ve failed to reach your teen—they’re listening and want to know more from you. Be sure to keep the conversations going early and often.
Resources for Talking Back
(Note: Inclusion in this list does not necessarily imply endorsement by Power to Decide, the campaign to prevent unplanned pregnancy. We encourage you to investigate your local bookstores, schools, neighborhood and community centers, libraries, and youth-serving organizations for additional resources).
RESOURCES FOR PARENTS AND CHAMPIONS
Power to Decide, the campaign to prevent unplanned pregnancy, has been assessing public sentiment on a number of topics for two decades. One of the most consistent findings over the years has been the power of parental influence. Specifically, in survey after survey, teens say parents most influence their decisions about sex. Our findings in this 2016 survey paint a similar picture: Parents matter.
#TalkingIsPower: 2018 Champion Guide
Champions play an important role in helping to ensure that all young people have the power to decide if, when and under what circumstances to become pregnant. According to young people, champions—not pop culture—most influence their decisions about sex, love, and relationships. The six tips provided in this resource will help guide you through a thoughtful, rational, and (hopefully) slightly less awkward conversation about sex with the young people in your life (also available in Spanish-language).
Did you know that a healthy understanding of consent actually starts during childhood? Preparing your child and other young people to communicate what they do and don’t like helps them build a foundation to understand and respect the consent of others and themselves. Talking to your young person both early and often is powerful and impactful. This resource provides a few examples of how teaching consent differs at every age.
Tips & Tools For Trusted Adults: Pre-Teen/Early Adolescent
A champion is an adult, like a parent, guardian, other family member or mentor, that a young person trusts to speak with them openly and honestly. Use the tips and guidelines provided in this resource to start important conversations early, plan for the future, and build trust with pre-teens (also available in Spanish-language).
Tips & Tools for Trusted Adults: Transition Aged Youth (13-17)
A champion is an adult, like a parent, guardian, other family member or mentor, that a young person trusts to speak with them openly and honestly. Use the tips and guidelines provided in this resource to start important conversations early, plan for the future, and build trust with teens (also available in Spanish-language).
Tips & Tools For Trusted Adults: Youth 18+
A champion is an adult, like a parent, guardian, other family member or mentor, that a young person trusts to speak with them openly and honestly. Use the tips and guidelines provided in this resource to start important conversations, execute a plan for the future, and continue trusting relationships with young adults 18+ (also available in Spanish-language).
RESOURCES FOR TEENS
StayTeen Quiz and Discussion Guide
Ever think about sex? Of course, who doesn’t? Have you ever thought about what you will do when that situation arises? The best time to think about how you’d handle something is before it actually happens. What will you say? How will you say it? And if you do go all the way, how will you protect yourself, your partner, and both of your futures? We know teens are naturally curious and have lots of questions about sex, love, relationships and contraception. This quiz is designed to address and answer some of those questions honestly and accurately.
Serena, a mom of three and a midwife, shares why it's never too early to start talking about sex, love, and relationships with the young person in your life.
Two fathers, Michael and Anthony, share why it's okay to say "I don't know" when having “the talk” with young people.
#TalkingIsPower: What I Wish I'd Known
Jared shares why conversations around sex, love, and relationships matter.
An organization helping young people make informed and responsible decisions about their reproductive and sexual health.
The Great American Condom Campaign
A youth-led grassroots movement to make the U.S. a sexually healthy nation.
The YWOC for Reproductive Justice Collective
A collective of activists age 14-24 working towards ensuring reproductive freedom for all people (a project of Advocates for Youth).
A grassroots outreach providing age-appropriate, medically accurate, engaging and cringe-free messages about growing up safe, healthy and informed, especially when it comes to puberty and sexuality.