All teenagers go through a time in their lives when their physical appearance is changing. To add to it all, their brains are also developing and at war with their hormones. During this phase many teenagers start thinking about or exploring sex and sexual relationships. Sex becomes a big deal and each teenager will approach it differently.
This can help if you:
- need more information about what your teenager may be thinking or needing to know about sex
- are concerned your teenager is already engaging in sexual activity
- want to foster a positive relationship with your teenager and get them talking about sex and sexual relationships
- want to ensure your teenager is engaging in a safe and healthy lifestyle.
What to expect and what sex means for your teenager
Young people are talking about, thinking about and having sex. 69% of all school-aged young people have experienced some form of sexual activity. Even for those who aren’t sexually active, their lives are saturated with different and often confusing messages about what sex and relationships are like. They have easy access to a whole world of information, and that’s where you come into the picture.
Young people from families in which sex and sexual relationships are openly discussed are more likely to delay the age they first have sex, have fewer sexual partners, and behave respectfully and safely when they do have sex. Evidence shows that children and young people want to talk to their parents about sex and relationships, and vice versa, but both can feel awkward about starting the conversation.
Talking about sex with your child
The average age that young Australians are starting to have sex is around 15 years. So it’s important from early adolescence to let your child know that if they have questions or are thinking about having sex, you’re there for them to talk to. Reassure your teenager that sex differs for each individual. It’s not a race to see who can lose their virginity first. And it isn’t something they have to participate in just because their friends say they are doing it
Many parents feel anxious talking about the topic of sex with their children, so feeling prepared and confident will make it much easier for you and your child. Think in advance about the things that worry you. Are you worried your child is being sexually active before they are mature enough to know the consequences? That they’ll be pressured into doing something they don’t want to do? That they’ll become pregnant or get someone else pregnant? These are all legitimate concerns and it could be that basing your attitude and conversation around respect and safety, that you’ll find it easier to talk about those concerns with your child.
If you have a partner or co-parent, chat about your planned approach beforehand, so you’re both on the same page. And if you’re feeling like you need a re-fresher on the basics of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), contraception, consent and respectful relationships, check out fact sheets available from your state’s Family Planning organisation.
Signs it’s time to talk about sex
If your teenager is not at the stage where they feel comfortable talking to you about sex, it’s important to keep an eye out for signs they are thinking about becoming sexually active or already are. Many teens are physically ready for sexual activity before they are emotionally ready. If you see any of these signs, it might be time to have a chat:
- New romantic relationships and public displays of affection
- Hesitant questions on the topic of sex
- Possession of contraceptives
Your teenager might not open up to you at first, but if you let them know you’re open to and positive about talking to them about sex, it will encourage them to come to you for advice later on.
If you have concerns regarding your teenager’s sexual health or activity, it’s important to be proactive, no matter how uncomfortable the topic is. If things don’t go as they expect or if they don’t really know what to ask, it could cause anxiety, stress or self-esteem issues so make sure you are switched on to what support your child may need from you.