Talk to Your Teen About Sex: If You Don't Teach Them Who Will?

Talking to teenagers about sex can feel scary. When parents actually do address the topic, they often emphasize health risks, pregnancy and moral values. I seldom hear language about the emotional consequences of sex.

I think most adults would agree that their first sexual experience was memorable, whether for good or bad. And that first experience likely had an effect on future relationships. So why don’t we talk to our kids about the emotional effects of becoming sexually active? Maybe it feels too intimate. Maybe we are uncomfortable seeing our teenagers in this way. Yet, these conversations are as important as discussing the health risks of sexual activity.

We might find this topic difficult to address because of the long-held myth of a separation between sex and emotions. But let’s be honest and realistic; there is no such separation. Everything we do has an emotional aspect and sex is no exception. Trusting a person enough to engage in a sexual relationship can jumpstart a close emotional bond and create a vulnerability for both partners. This is precisely the message that teenagers should understand—it’s not just sex. You are taking an emotional risk.

Speaking about the emotional aspect of sexual relationships will give our teenagers an opportunity to consider this before they make a decision. Also, when they make the decision to have a relationship, our words can prepare them for their emotional reaction.

This conversation is especially important if your teenager has already suffered an emotional wound. Teenagers commonly repeat their mistakes and keep getting hurt because they do not understand their decisions. Bringing the emotional content of the sexual experience into the conversation can help them understand what they are doing and what they are really looking for when they make the decision to have a sexual relationship. It is important for our teenagers to realize that sex involves a lot of trust and taking your time to make a good decision can help develop a healthy relationship.