Sexual Health Conversations at Home

Many parents and adults believe sexual health should be discussed at home. And, we agree!

Unfortunately, these conversations don’t often happen at home. In fact, the vast majority of our students report, albeit informally, that they do not talk about sex with parents or guardians. The purpose of sexual health education in schools is to provide young people with medically accurate, age appropriate information in a setting where they feel comfortable. The need for these conversations in school is great. When young people don’t get this information, the risk of them making unhealthy decisions increases which can lead to unintended consequences and greater public health concerns.

With public education class requirements being what they are, Teen emPower! staff feel fortunate to be allowed two weeks per session in classrooms, but we could use a lot more.  While we accomplish a lot, it can be a struggle to create a welcoming environment, thoroughly educate the class on health topics, and reinforce what they learn in such a short amount of time. Therefore, if young people and their parents could start or continue conversations at home, we would see more collective success for adolescent health efforts.

So, how do parents start the talks at home?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you.

Conversation 1: Discuss what makes you, you.

This topic of conversation is important for teens and parents to understand each other as individuals, not just as family members. Discussing parts of ourselves, like the things we value, can open the door and lay a foundation for future difficult conversations. It can also help the young person feel that they can open up about their life to the parent/guardian in a safe environment.

Examples of conversation starters:

  • What are some goals you have for your future? What do you want to become?
  • What are some of the qualities you like about yourself? Why those?

Conversation 2: Discuss thoughts on relationships.

When we say relationships, we are talking about various types of relationships, not only romantic or sexual. It’s important for young people to understand the influence of their friends and develop an understanding of what a healthy relationship looks like. 

Examples of conversation starters:

  • What are the things you look for in a friendship?
  • What are some qualities you would like in a partner?
  • What qualities do you think make a healthy relationship? Should those qualities only be present in romantic or sexual relationships?
  • What have you seen in other relationships that you would like for your own?

Conversation 3: Discuss how to make decisions.

Decision-making is a learned skill, and something young people might struggle with as their brains transition from concrete thinking to more abstract ideas. However, decision-making is the cornerstone of health and it is crucial for young people to learn that the decisions they make could lead to unintended outcomes.

Examples of conversation starters:

  • How do you feel about making a tough decision?
  • What do you think about getting to make decisions for yourself?
  • If you have to make an important choice, what could you think about to help make that decision?

If you have a teenager at home, or if there is an important young person in your life, we hope these suggestions can help kickstart an open and trusting conversation. Don’t forget, they may not want to talk to you at first. Their feelings are running the show, so they may need some time to process. It’s important to view these discussion topics as continuous conversations, not a one-and-done exchange. Having these conversations will show them that you care, and that’s the most important part.