Whether you're against your teen having sex or not, it's important to educate your teen about safe sex. Choosing to ignore the issue or teaching only abstinence can put your teen at greater risk if sexual contact happens. Learn how to educate yourself and share what you've learned with your teen.
Don't make the talk a one-time thing
Heather Corinna, executive director of the progressive teen sex education website Scarleteen, wants parents to recognize where they might misstep when it comes to sex ed: "For example, the idea of the talk as something singular, not bringing up sex and sexuality until it's really very late," says Corinna. Approaching the safe sex talk as a one time event can close the doors of communication. Your best bet is to keep an open dialogue with your child, presenting yourself as a safe resource for asking questions about sex and sexuality. Consider your teen's sex education a work in progress.
Do educate yourself
Don't know the difference between a dental dam and trichomoniasis? That's okay. As your teen develops, take time to educate yourself about STIs and safe sex. Keep in mind that safe sex involves far more than intercourse or heterosexual contact. You can't teach your teen about safe sex if you don't understand the difference between safe sex and unsafe sex. You don't need to overload your teen with every fact right away, but you should be able to answer basic questions and recognize when you and your teen may need to do some research together. Consider reading an explicit sex education book such as S.E.X. by Heather Corinna to get a better understanding (Amazon, $13).
Don't forget to talk about relationships and self
Carol Queen, PHD, serves as staff sexologist for Good Vibrations. She stresses the importance of talking about more than sex when you discuss safe sex with your teen. "I don't recommend launching into very explicit topics before you've ever discussed sexuality and relationships with a teen (or younger person)," says Queen. "This discussion should be one in a long relationship in which choices, values, self-esteem, protection, respect and social issues around sexuality can be talked about in the family." You may find that your teen needs more guidance when it comes to school crushes than she does sex. Be available to talk about anything your teen needs to talk about.
Do make yourself approachable
A recent poll on Scarleteen invited teens to share what would make them more comfortable talking about sex with their parents. The majority of teens who responded identified numerous obstacles, including worrying about judgment and reaction from parents. If you aren't approachable, your teen probably isn't going to approach you. It can be shocking and upsetting to acknowledge that your teen wants to know serious stuff about sex, but this is a shock you need to face if you want to be involved in your teen's education. Instead of telling yourself that you're giving your teen a free pass to have sex, understand that you're helping your teen develop a positive self image and a healthy attitude about sex and responsibility.