Close this search box.
A teen talking to her mom

Talking to your parents

About sex

You probably think that talking to your parents about sex is impossible. But lots of teens do—in fact 86% of teens reported talking with both parents and extended family about sex. Why? It’s a fact that teens who talk with their parents about sex are less likely to become pregnant because they’re more likely to use contraception or protection when they become sexually active.

Young people are not only talking to their parents about sex, but they’re also benefiting from conversations they were afraid to have in the first place! The truth is that most parents want to help their kids make smart decisions about sex. They know it’s vital for teens to have accurate information and sound advice to aid the decision-making process.

Not my parents!

Before you rule out talking to your parents, ask yourself these two questions:

  • Do they want to talk about sex with me, but are too nervous and embarrassed to bring it up?
    If you think your parents are nervous about raising the issue, you may be right. Many parents think that if they acknowledge their child as a sexual being, their son or daughter will think it’s okay to go ahead and have sex. They might also be afraid that if they don’t have all the answers, they’ll look foolish. Some parents have said they’re afraid kids will ask personal questions about their sex life, questions they won’t want to answer.
  • Do I know and trust another adult who will answer my questions without making a big deal out of it?
    Think about all the adults in your life. Is there someone else’s parent . . . a teacher or guidance counselor, coach, aunt, uncle, neighbor or another adult you instinctively trust? That’s the person who will give you straight answers.

If you’re still not convinced it’s a good idea to talk to an adult, consider this:

  • Your parents (or any other adult) are sexual beings themselves, and at one time in their life, they had to make the same decisions you’re struggling with right now.
  • Your friends really don’t know any more than you do, no matter what they say about their sexual experience.
  • The Internet and other media can’t give you everything you need. Only people who know you can do that.

Now that you know why it’s important to ask a caring adult about sex, you need to know how to ask the questions.

How to Ask Your Parents about Sex

First, set the stage before you talk to your parents about sex. Try to pick a time when neither of you is in a hurry or a bad mood. “Not now” is not the answer you’re shooting for. Choose a place that’s comfortable and private. Your bedroom, the car or a park are all good options. The idea is to minimize distractions and interruptions.

Next, set the tone for your conversation. The best way to ensure that your side of the discussion will be respected is to show respect to theirs.

  • It’s natural for you to have differing opinions; acknowledge it and respond tactfully: “I want to think more about what you’ve said. Can I ask you a different question?”
  • Be polite. Good manners help keep the conversation on a high level of respect and can even elevate it to a higher level, especially if one of you says or does something “wrong.”
  • Be truthful. What’s the point in asking questions if you don’t want real answers? Besides, you know what happens when you’re not honest. Somehow, sometime it comes back to haunt you. So just say what you mean.
  • Be direct. If you want to know about birth control or sexually transmitted infections infections or gender identity or any other issue, ask. The only way to get a clear answer is to ask a question clearly.
  • Listen. You might be surprised by how much they know and how good their advice is.

Then, choose the approach you would like to take.

  • “I heard someone say…” (Fill in the blank with your question.) Then follow with: “Is that true?”
  • “Some of the kids at school are doing… (Fill in the blank again.) I want to know what you think.”
  • “I saw this… (movie/TV show/article/ad) about… (Yup, fill in the blank again). What does it mean?”
  • “What was dating like when you were my age?”
  • “Did your friends try to pressure you into having sex or doing something you didn’t like?”
  • “Our sex-ed teacher told us about… (You know what to do here.) and I have questions I’d rather ask you.”
  • “I’m worried about my friend (Don’t fill in the blank.) and want to help him/her. What do you think I should I do?”
  • “I’m wondering what the right age is to have sex. Can we talk about it?”

Finally, stop on a good note. Talking about sex with a parent or another caring adult shouldn’t be a one-time, big talk. Instead, turn it into an ongoing dialog by leaving the door open for further discussion. Thank your mother, father, or whoever you talk to for taking the time to help.

And remember: Your sexual journey is just beginning. You have time to consider your options and people to help you make healthy decisions. Take advantage of both. Be one of the “lucky” ones who listens, learns, and loves wisely.

Learn more about sexual health

Join us for a discussion of Dr. Tang’s new book, It’s Not Hysteria Everything You Need to Know About Your Reproductive Health (but Were Never Told), and ask Dr. Tang your questions about reproductive health!