Watching your child mature into a teenager can be an exciting time, but it is also an apprehensive time, as you worry about the decisions your teen will make. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 47 percent of teens have had sexual intercourse, and more than 400,000 teen girls aged 15 to 19 had babies in 2009. Parents can have a significant impact on their teen's sexual behaviors and decisions. Parental involvement is key in ensuring smart decisions and safe behavior for your easily influenced teenager.
Every parent knows that speaking to your teen about sex is inevitable. However, this discussion should not be a one-time conversation. According to the article, ''5 Things You Should Know About Parents, Teens, Sex Ed and ‘The Talk,’'' Dr. Sinikka Elliott at North Carolina State University, states that parents need to establish an open dialogue about sex. A one-time talk about the basics of sexual relationships is a smart start. From there, Elliot recommends that parents should also discuss the risks of sex, and of the importance of respecting and enjoying the body in a safe, smart way.
Some parents mistakenly believe that talking to their children about sex encourages them to become sexually active. However, a fact sheet for Ohio State University's Family and Consumer Services explains that this is a myth without any research to support the myth. In fact, having an open dialogue about relationships and sex encourages your teen to come to you with questions and concerns. According to the article, ''Communicating with Teens about Sex: Facts, Findings, and Suggestions'' from the University of Florida IFAS Extension, writers Kate Fogarty and Carolyn H. Wyatt state that parents who have two-way conversations about sex with open-ended questions, have teens who are comfortable talking to their parents about sensitive matters. Make teenagers active participants in your conversations about sex and relationships.
Parents can influence their teens' behavior, including their sexual behavior, if parents follow smart strategies. Establish values and attitudes about sex for yourself and your family. Ensure that your teen follow clear rules, including curfews and the age of the people she dates. Get to know your teen's friends and their families. Pay attention to the information your teen acquires through the television, the Internet and media.
While an open dialogue with your teen about sex is important, you should also observe your teen's behavior and choices to ensure that he is following your advice and behaving appropriately. Fogarty and Wyatt caution parents to look for signs of risky sexual behavior, including seeking out harmful relationships, having anxiety and experiencing depression. By intervening when you suspect your teen could be making poor choices about sexual relationships, you can help guide him down a safe path.