The Birds and the Bees

Talking to your teen about sex

Once you have a teenager of your own, it’s hard to remember ever being one yourself. And with times and technology changing rapidly, the challenges and questions your teen faces may be very different than the ones you grew up with. The pediatricians at Adena Health System have some advice for talking about—and taking care of—your teen’s sexual health:

Q: How will I know when it’s time for “the talk”?
A: It’s never too early to start the conversation. You can use the things your kids see in the media—online, in music videos, and on TV—to bring up topics related to sexuality. According to Planned Parenthood, teens who talk about sex with their parents are more likely to make safe decisions about sex such as waiting to have sex until they are older, using contraceptives, and having fewer partners.
If there are topics you feel uncomfortable talking about directly, there are plenty of good online resources you can share with your teen. They shouldn’t replace talking entirely, but you can download and print out information about healthy relationships, abstinence, making decisions about sex, homosexuality, and more from the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Q: I’m pretty sure my teen is sexually active. What should I do?
A: If you feel that your teen is in a healthy relationship emotionally, do your best to support him or her by providing information and helping your teen meet with a physician to talk about safe sex. While condoms should be used for all sexual encounters to protect your teen from sexually transmitted diseases, there are additional precautions you might want to discuss with the doctor, such as birth control pills for girls. You also should talk with the doctor about the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for both boys and girls. Each year, about 6 million people, including teens, are infected with HPV, which can lead to cervical cancer, oral cancer, and genital warts.

Q: We’ve been going to the same pediatrician since my kids were little. When is it time to get an “adult” doctor?
A: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that girls have their first visit with a gynecologist between ages 13 and 15. Boys may feel comfortable staying with their pediatrician until age 18, but ask them how they feel. If they’ve always seen a female doctor, they may feel more comfortable switching to a male doctor. And if they have special concerns, such as sports injuries, their pediatrician may recommend that they also visit a specialist who normally treats teens or adults.

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