Even though it may be difficult and awkward, talking to your kids about the birds and the bees can have positive effects later.
In the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, a new study shows that when teens talk to their parents, especially their mothers, it can result in the teens practicing safer sex. The study was not designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
Renee Tessman of KARE-TV Minneapolis/St. Paul reports that the study included examining 30 years of research. The findings showed that this kind of discussion had a protective outcome since condom use had increased over the years among teens.
Mental health program manager Sara Stamschror-Lott at myHealth for Teens and Young Adults in Hopkins, Minnesota, says kids want to have this conversation with their parents, who view their connection with them as their most valued relationship. If parents start the conversation during the younger years in an age-appropriate manner, it becomes more natural as they grow and mature.
Stamschror-Lott adds that it's also never too late to have the talk. One way to get your foot in the door is to visit social media sites to see what topics are trending. Starting a conversation on a subject your teenager likes can make it easier to transition into the real conversation you are attempting to have.
She also notes that having a sense of humor and taking a lighthearted approach is important. A heavy hand may turn your child away.
Parents are only one influence in a broad mix of voices, but their input is a significant force. The study found that teens who have parents who talk to them about sex wait to have sex, and when they become sexually active they use birth control and condoms, says Steven Reinberg, reporting for HealthDay.
"Communicating about sex can be uncomfortable for both parents and teens, but these conversations are a critical component of helping teens make safe and healthy decisions," said lead researcher Laura Widman, an assistant professor in the department of psychology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.
Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, professor and co-director of the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at New York University in New York City, agrees and explains that parents can shape the sexual behavior of their teens who are having sex.
Sometimes, parents think that discussing sex means they are condoning their child's sexual behavior, which might push their child to become sexually active. But Guilamo-Ramos says the opposite is true.
Widman and her colleagues found that teens with parents who talk about safer sex topics like condoms and sexually transmitted diseases used protection in higher numbers than teens who did not. But Today's Maggie Fox writes that having the conversation is not a "magic pill" because sex is extremely complicated.
The most recent CDC survey showed that 47% of US teens have had sex and 34% are sexually active currently. Of the teens surveyed, 59% said they used a condom the last time they had sex, and 13.7% of those who were sexually active did not use protection during their last sexual intercourse.
Parents will get better results if they talk with their teens about topics that can result in making risky choices, such as drinking, drugs, peer pressure, and not communicating about safety with dating partners, writes Kathryn Doyle for Reuters.
Widman says mothers are more likely to talk to their daughters than with their sons, and that parents must begin talking to their boys about sex and how it impacts young men. Relevant information includes the consequences of teen pregnancy for boys and the importance of explicit communication and consent between partners.