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Parent Resources

But We're In Love: Talking to Teens about Sex

This fact sheet is part of the Teen Talk: A Survival Guide for Parents of Teenagers series.

student workingJodi Dworkin, Extension Specialist and Associate Professor — Department of Family Social Science

Revised May 2016 by author.

It’s important to talk with your teen about sex because recent studies show that nearly half of high school students have had sex, 6.2 percent before age 13, and 15 percent have had four or more partners (Centers for Disease Control, 2013; Guttmacher Institute, 2014). Parents need to share their values about sex with their children, because teens will also get information from other kids and the media.

What to Say About Sex

Deciding what to say to your teen about sex is a personal decision. Regardless of what you say, be sure the information is age-appropriate. In general, younger teenagers (7th grade) are concerned with biology, the definition of slang terms, and intercourse. Older teens (10th grade) are more interested in learning about birth control, health risks, and communication in relationships. In general, boys are more interested in slang terms and intercourse. Girls typically want information on health risks and communication in relationships. To prepare yourself to answer your teen's questions, look at the related resources below, contact your church or local health department, or speak with your physician. You can also get free information on many issues from Planned Parenthood.

How to Talk About Sex

Here are tips for talking with your teenager about sex.

Preparing to Talk with Your Teen

You can never be totally prepared to talk with your teen about sex. Avoiding the issue does not mean your child will avoid sexual activity. Ask yourself what you would do in the following scenarios:

Start thinking about these scenarios before they happen. While you may not be able to control your teen's behavior, you can prepare and control your response to his or her behavior.

Passing on Values

You can’t control your teen’s sexual activities once she walks out the door. It is possible to explain your values to her in hopes of influencing her decisions. What you believe about sexuality is important to your teen. How do you feel about your own sexuality and your teen’s sexuality? Be willing to talk with your teen about what you think is right and wrong. Be prepared for your teen to disagree with you. Listen to his or her disagreements, but state your beliefs firmly, and be honest and clear about the values you hope your teen will adopt.

Sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Adolescent and School Health.

Guttmacher Institute. (2014). American teens’ sexual and reproductive health

Schaefer, C. E. & DiGeronimo, T. F. (1999). How to talk to teens about really important things: Specific questions and answers and useful things to say. San Francisco, CA: Wiley.

Younger, F. (1992). Five hundred questions kids ask about sex and some of the answers. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Publisher.

Related Resources

Healthy Teen Network — This network promotes better outcomes for adolescents and young adults by advancing social change, cultivating innovation, and strengthening youth-supporting professionals and organizations.

Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) — SIECUS was founded in 1964 to provide education and information about sexuality and sexual and reproductive health.

STDs and HIVMinnesota Department of Health — Provides information on HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases and infections.

It’s perfectly normal; Changing bodies, growing up, sex, and sexual health — This book, written for young people, provides accurate and up-to-date information on teen’s sexual health.

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