The Sex Talk

Talking About Sex With Your Teen

Written on October 2, 2012 at 8:30 am , by

By Leslie Kantor, Vice President of Education, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Vincent Guilamos-Ramos, Co-director of the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at NYU

When Planned Parenthood and the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at NYU (CLAFH) began thinking about our second annual survey looking at how parents and teens talk about sex and sexuality, we couldn’t think of a better partner than Family Circle. We all share a common goal of wanting to help parents and teens become comfortable talking about sex and sexuality so that young people can make good decisions. And there is no better time than October for parents to be reminded of this since it’s Let’s Talk Month—an annual effort to get parents and teens talking about sexuality.

Our national survey polled more than 2,000 parents and teens living in the same households, and the results quickly made one thing clear:  what parents intend to say is different than what teens are hearing.

We asked parents to tell us what messages about sex they most wanted to send to their teens, and we asked teens to tell us the main message they had received about sex from their parents.  Here’s what one parent told us, and what her teenager heard:

To make a healthy choice about who she wishes to date and have a physical relationship for the right reasons.”
— 50-year-old mother

 

Not to do it.”
— her 16-year-old daughter

Time and time again we saw similar communication breakdowns between parents and teens. The good news is most families are talking about sex and sexuality. Still, these talks aren’t as productive as they could be. Parents, for example, think they are having these conversations more often than their teens think they are, and surprisingly, teens are actually much more uncomfortable talking about sex than their parents. Half of all parents and just 18 percent of teens said they feel very comfortable having these talks.

Our survey also found that 80 percent of parents of sexually active teens knew their teens were having sex. That fact alone highlights the importance of parents talking with their teens and continuing to engage them even after they become sexually active so that they know how to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and to make sure their teens’ relationships are healthy. So this month Planned Parenthood, CLAFH, and Family Circle are providing tips and a story packed full of information that can help parents start the conversation with their teens.

We know that parents make a difference when they talk with their kids about sex, so let’s teach them how to say no if they’re not ready to have sex, and if they are, let’s continue having these conversations and encourage them to make good decisions about relationships and their sexual health. Bottom line:  keeping our teens healthy and safe means talking with them about sex.

So let’s talk.

Leslie Kantor is Vice President of Education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Vincent Guilamos-Ramos is Co-director of the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at NYU. Read more about having the sex talk with your teen, all month, here.

The Sex Talk Dilemma

Written on October 2, 2012 at 7:45 am , by

 

I want to share a surprising story about teens and sex with you—one that influenced our partnership with Planned Parenthood to carry out a groundbreaking survey on The Sex Talk.

Last year I was a guest on “Doctor Radio,” New York University’s SiriusXM show, when a concerned mother called in. She told us that after her teenage daughter admitted to being sexually active, she immediately took her to the ob/gyn to get birth control. But mom later found out her husband disagreed with that course of action and now there was trouble at home. “Did I do the right thing?” she asked us.

Before you answer that question, I’d like you to take a mental step back and look at the events that led up to it:

  • A daughter talking to her mom about something teens spend so much time trying to hide.
  • A husband and wife talking about their relationship expectations of their daughter.
  • And then, mom coming to experts for more information.

The central theme here: Communication.

How many kids do you know that talk to their parents about having sex? (It turns out 50% of teens feel uncomfortable talking to their parents about sex in general—I’m sure that number spikes when it comes to them having sex.)

When was the last time you spoke with your partner about relationship expectations you have for your child? Nearly ¼ (23%) of parents have talked only “a little” or “not at all” with their partner about this.

And have you ever reached out to an expert for help navigating those discussions like the mom who called in did? That family was pretty impressive, I thought, despite the turmoil at home.

When we talk to teens about sex, how often we talk about it and what we say were questions that lingered in my head after that call came in to the radio show. And they were questions Planned Parenthood wanted to explore as well when we joined forces with them to survey thousands of parents and their teens across the country about “The Sex Talk.” (Those stats I rattled off above came from our survey.) And here’s another one: one in six teens say their parents have never spoken with them about anything related to sex.

If there’s one thing I hope comes from this story, it’s a dramatic increase in communication and conversations around The Sex Talk. Studies show that teens who talk to their parents about sex-related topics have sex at a later age and use protection more often. So this month, we at Family Circle have partnered with with Planned Parenthood, the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at NYU and parenting bloggers from across the country to bring you resources that’ll help you start the conversation with your child, make it less awkward and ensure that your points are getting across. And if there’s a question we haven’t answered, post a comment or email us at health@familycircle.com and ask it.

So now back to that caller. What do you think: Did mom do the right thing? Post a comment and let us know.

And read more about having the sex talk with your teen here.

Lyna Floyd is the health director at Family Circle magazine.