Teen Sex: Protecting Your Kids against Pregnancy and STIs
As a parent, nothing wreaks havoc on your mental wellness more than the idea that your teenagers are having sex. Unfortunately, however, teen sexual health is a pressing issue, with research showing that many teenagers are sexually active by the time they reach high school. This means that your child’s wellbeing is at great risk to pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), as well as the emotional consequences of having sex. Therefore, you have to get proactive with your teen, and discuss the importance of contraception before sexual activity begins.
When having “The Talk” with your teenager, abstinence is still a valid subject to discuss. Whether you feel strongly against the idea of sex before marriage, or you just want to make sure your son or daughter is ready to have sex, explain how you feel to your teen. It’s easy to fall into the trap of telling your teen what to do, without letting them know your reasons for doing so. Share the reasons behind your beliefs, rather than just laying down the law, and you’ll give your teenager something to think about and, hopefully, believe themselves.
That is not to say you should ignore your teenager’s own values – far from it. You should ask your teenager to think about their values and hopes for the future, and how sex might affect these things. Adolescents are particularly prone to risky sexual behaviours, and the only way to absolutely prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections – such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, human papillomavirus (HPV), herpes and HIV – is to practice abstinence from all forms of sexual activity. Plus, having sex makes break-ups all the more emotionally damaging, so remind your teen that there are many nonsexual ways he or she can show feelings for someone.
That said, you can’t stop your teenager from doing what he or she wants to do. However, you can make sure they practise safe sex. It’s important for everyone to understand birth control, whether your teenager has decided to wait for sex or not. One day, he or she will need to know how to prevent pregnancy and protect himself or herself from sexually transmitted infections, and the only way to ensure they gain this knowledge is to give it to them. When talking about contraception, don’t be vague but go into all the methods available. This includes:
1. Condoms: While other contraceptives prevent pregnancy, your teenager needs a barrier method in order to guard their wellbeing against STIs. Make sure your teen understands the importance of always using condoms during sex, as well as the correct way of using them.
2. Prescription birth control: There are various contraceptive methods your teenager can get on prescription to prevent pregnancy. This includes combination birth control pills, the contraceptive patch (Ortho Evra), vaginal ring (NuvaRing) and contraceptive injection (Depo-Provera). Your daughter will need to visit a doctor, who will review her medical history, conduct a pelvic exam, and go over the risks and benefits of different types of birth control. While these methods can be extremely effective in preventing pregnancies, make sure your teen knows that prescription birth control doesn’t offer protection from STIs.
3. Emergency birth control: While it’s important for your teen to make a decision about birth control before having sex, emergency contraception — such as the morning-after pill (Ella, Plan B One-Step or Next Choice) — can help prevent pregnancy if your teen doesn’t plan ahead or contraception fails. You need to tell your teenager that emergency contraception must be started as soon as possible after unprotected intercourse, and within 120 hours to be effective.