Talk with your teenager about sex

Over the shoulder of father talking to daughter seated at table

Talking about sex doesn’t have to just happen as a one-off ‘talk’. It’s better to integrate positive messages about sex and relationships as often as possible - while you’re watching TV, when a family friend is pregnant, or when they have a concern about a friend. When parents communicate frequently and openly, teenage children feel closer to them and more able to communicate.

Important points to cover about teenage sex

  • Keep your conversation informal and positive. The ‘sex talk’ might or might not be one of the most awkward conversations you will ever have. The chances are high that your teenager will be grateful to you for taking the initiative to invite them to ask you about any questions they have.

  • Emphasise with your child that no matter when and at what age they decide to be intimate, it needs to be done in a respectful way. That means they need to have respect for themselves and the other person by making sure it’s consensual – that they agree to it. No means no, and if either person feels uncomfortable or unready then that means no sex. It's as simple as that. Respect is key.

  • If your teenager is going to have intercourse, they need to use a form of contraception. Discuss their options with them honestly. A lot of teenagers do not practice safe sex.

  • Ensure your teenager is ready for the emotional commitment and consequences that can potentially come along with having sex, like pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. Encourage them to speak to a GP to find out what would suit them and how to stay safe.

There could be multiple factors they need help with or don’t understand. Being intimate with other people requires a certain level of maturity so that they can make the best choices for themselves.

If your child can’t manage to have a mature conversation with you about sex, they are probably not ready. Sex is a big deal – help them understand that.

Remember that your child is going through many physical and emotional changes and it is usually quite an awkward time. Don’t push, laugh or make fun of them or they will shut down and not come to you for the information and support that they need.

How to initiate the sex talk

  • Your child is less likely to initiate the conversation because they’ll probably be feeling awkward. A great way to start the conversation is in a casual setting. Perhaps you can ask them to help you make dinner or wash the dishes, then start the conversation there. Even better if a relevant advertisement comes up on the TV while you are both watching it – that can spark the conversation.

  • From there use a conversational tone. This will relax your teen and then they will feel more inclined to answer and ask questions.

  • If you notice they’re hanging out with someone who seems really close you could start the conversation with “so how’s ___”, “what have you guys been up to”. Then when the conversation starts to flow you can then say “you know you can talk to me about anything, I won’t judge you”.

  • If none of this starts the conversation then hit them with the good-ol’ “remember I was your age once upon a time”. And have a laugh by confronting the awkwardness head-on, Pointing out the pink elephant in the room will allow you to move on to what is important.

Even though these conversations are serious, it will be hard to get your teen to open up if you’re too serious.

Did you find what you needed?

  • Yes - Read more about preparing for your teenager being sexually active.

  • I need to know more - Read our fact sheet about sex.