You’re cool. You’re calm. You’re collected. Good for you! Now let’s talk about what to do – and how to say it without scaring them away.
Be sure to take it slow and don’t overwhelm your teen with too much information at once.
Keep in mind that too much information can freak out teens. Be gentle with your knowledge and share it in a serious manner.
Start a Conversation
- Make this a one-on-one conversation. It will be less intimidating. Have the conversation in a private, neutral space. Let them have a way to leave the conversation if they get too embarrassed.
- Try not to share too many of your own details. “I remember how hard dating is” can be reassuring, while “When me and your dad first got together…” will make them cringe!
- Don’t open the conversation with a yes-or-no question like “So do you have any questions about pregnancy prevention?” That is a formula for a big “NO” from your teenager. Lead the conversation by saying that you want to have an important conversation with them.
- Give your teen an online resource so you don’t intimidate them with your depth of knowledge. The Playbook website has information written for teens so you don’t have to provide all the answers.
- Break your talk into sections. Tackle all the things you want them to know about sexual health into short 15 minute conversations over a few months. Don’t overwhelm them with info.
- Know this is the beginning of an ongoing conversation. Offer them the option to text you their future questions or concerns.
- Remember that it’s helpful (and pretty common) to help your teen access the healthcare tools and resources they need. Some parents keep a stash of condoms in the bathroom; some set up a doctor’s appointment to get birth control. Here’s a tool to help you find teen-friendly medical providers near you.
Places to Talk
- Pick a time and place where you have enough time and privacy to talk openly and answer questions. Strike up a convo in the car. The car is a private space where your child can avoid eye contact and still hear what each other has to say.
- Seize the pop culture moment. When something comes up in a TV show or movie that deals with topics like sex or pregnancy, take advantage of that instance. Immediately following a relevant TV show/movie, talk about your family’s beliefs about pregnancy prevention and STD prevention.
Things to Say
- Focus on your family’s values and beliefs
- “In our family, we believe in being responsible about your health – and that includes safe sex. I want to talk to you about how I can help you prevent pregnancy and avoid STDs.”
- Acknowledge that you know they’ll have sex and that you are okay with it.
- “I know that you’ll eventually find a person that you’ll want to have sex with. I hope that you care deeply about each before you decide to have sex, and when you do, I expect you to use condoms and birth control.”
- Be specific in your requests about their sexual health.
- “I would like you to use birth control before you have a sexual relationship. A girl can get pregnant the first time she has sex (and every other time too! Unless she is using a birth control method), so it’s safest to start before you have sex. I also want you to use a condom every single time, so you don’t have to stress out about STDs.”
- Talk to them about their partner’s health too:
- “Make sure that you use both a condom and a back-up birth control method, like the pill or an IUD. This is important because using a condom means you will both be protected from STDs.”
- Let them know that you’ll help them get birth control when they are ready.
- “I am happy to help you learn about pregnancy prevention options and STD prevention. I can even help you get to a doctor to make it happen. You can also talk to your doctor privately to get all the information you need.”
- Share why you hope your child will share these beliefs.
- “I believe that birth control and condoms give you more control over your future. You get to choose if and/or when to get pregnant, which is a really powerful choice, and you get to protect yourself from STDs.”
- Share what you hope they can achieve in life when they can prevent pregnancy and avoid STDs.
- “I hope that you will be able to graduate high school and attend college before you start to build a family.”
- Address relationships. Talk about your family rules on having partners over to the house, etc
- “I know you’ll want a little privacy with your friends, but I want to set a rule that when you’re hanging out with your partner, you leave the door open. Also, I expect you to be respectful of your partner. It’s really important to me that you and your partner value each other’s boundaries.”
- Share the Playbook as a resource.
- “I wanted to share a great online resource with you– TeenPlaybook.org– it has information written just for teens. It’s an easy way to check out your birth control options and learn more about STD prevention.”
- Ask if they have questions and say you are open to answering their questions in the future.
- “What questions do you have? Okay, know I’m always here for you. You can text me questions, too.”
- Reinforce that no matter what, you will love them.
- “I also know that life happens even when we plan ahead. Know that I’m always here for you if you have any questions, worries, or fears. You are a good kid and I trust you. I love and support you.”