Many parents feel uncomfortable when it comes time to speak to their teen about contraception or sexual health. Here is some sound advice.
Adolescence, recklessness, and the consequences
Adolescence is characterized by a feeling of recklessness and invulnerability. Adolescents are not always aware of the risks related to sexuality. When certain precautions are not taken, their first sexual experiences expose them to potentially serious consequences. An unwanted pregnancy and contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) are striking examples.
Contraception—the number one topic!
There are a set of factors that come into play with teenage pregnancy, but first and foremost, it is a lack of or inadequate use of contraceptive methods that are to blame. Psychological, cognitive, social, cultural, and economic factors determine contraceptive behaviour in adolescents, as well as the choice whether or not to continue an unwanted pregnancy.
The question of contraception is fundamental because of the issues related to it (abortion and unwanted pregnancy). It is important that adolescents be well-informed about the various options available to them in terms of contraception, and that once a method is chosen, it is optimally used.
STIs in adolescents
It is sometimes difficult to make an adolescent understand the implications of contracting an STI. Many teens feel immune to such an occurrence—their feeling of invulnerability gives them a false sense of security. In truth, the only measure (aside from abstinence) that protects your child against an STI is wearing a condom for each sexual encounter. This measure is very easily accessible, but it isn't always easy to convince teens to use it systematically and consistently.
This is a message that must be clearly sent to your teen. If they agree, why not bring your teenager with you to the pharmacy to purchase condoms or, even better, offer them as a gift? Some parents find it more appropriate to hold their teens accountable and encourage them to take these steps on their own. What's important is that your child develops the habit of protecting themselves every time.
Advice for parents
It is advisable for parents to remain open-minded so adolescents feel comfortable asking questions or sharing their concerns. To achieve this common ground, here is some advice:
- Set aside your judgments and try to remain open, empathetic, attentive, and accepting. This positive and favourable approach to open communication will help your child feel comfortable.
- Do not portray yourself as someone who has all the answers. Show your interest in your child’s everyday concerns, taking into account their perspective and reality. Avoid moralizing phrases like, "In any case, in my day..."
- Listen attentively. Your adolescent may subtly attempt to ask you a question or share their concerns without asking a straight forward question. Stay vigilant if your child opens the door to a discussion.
- Never minimize your teen’s sexuality. Remember that your adolescent’s first experiences are crucial and are a source of concern and uneasiness. This is a very important time for them.
- Speak of love. Your adolescent may be experiencing their first flutters and passions. Remember that love and sexuality are often intertwined and it is important to put emphasis on the emotional aspect of sexuality.
Sexuality is a topic that generates a lot of discussion, so be sure to encourage it in your home. You can provide a positive influence on your teen’s sexuality. Your child will undoubtedly appreciate your open-mindedness!