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What Your Child Needs To Know Before Becoming A Teenager

What Your Child Needs To Know Before Becoming A Teenager

Communication between parents and teens is very important. Your teen may not share the same values as you but that shouldn’t stop you from talking about sex and sexuality. Before your children reach their early teens, girls and boys should know about the following:

  • Correct body names and functions of male and female sex organs
  • Puberty and how the body changes (When and how the body changes is different for each child.)
  • Menstruation (periods)
  • Sexual intercourse and the risk of getting pregnant or getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI), including HIV (the virus that causes AIDS)
  • Your family values about dating, sexual activity, cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs

During the teen years, your talks about sex should focus more on the social and emotional aspects of sex, and your values. Be ready to answer questions like:

  • When can I start dating?
  • When is it OK to kiss a boy (or a girl)?
  • How far is too far?
  • How will I know when I’m ready to have sex?
  • Won’t having sex help me keep my boyfriend (or girlfriend)?
  • Do you think I should have sex before marriage?
  • Is oral sex really sex?
  • How do I say “No”?
  • What do I do if someone tries to force me to have sex?

Answer your teen’s questions based on your values—even if you think your values are old-fashioned. If you feel strongly that sex before marriage is wrong, share this with your teen and explain why you feel that way. If you explain the reasons for your beliefs, your teen is more likely to understand and adopt your values.


  • Teens face a lot of peer pressure to have sex. If they aren’t ready to have sex, they may feel left out. Share the benefits of waiting, telling them abstinence from sex (oral, vaginal, and anal) provides 100% protection against STIs and pregnancy, and less emotional stress if there’s a breakup.
  • Tell them common STIs include chlamydia, gonorrhea, human papillomavirus (HPV), herpes, HIV, and trichomoniasis. HPV is responsible for most cervical cancer, and the only sure way to prevent STIs is not to have sex.
  • Talk about safe sex.Condoms (male or female) are the safest method to reduce the risk of most STIs and should always be used.
  • Birth control.Girls and boys need to know about birth control whether they decide to have sex or not. If your teen doesn’t know about birth control, an unplanned pregnancy might result. Birth control pills, shots (trade name Depo-Provera), and contraceptive patches only prevent pregnancy—they don’t protect against STIs, including HIV/AIDS. Condoms and another reliable birth control method need to be used each time to help reduce the risk of STIs and pregnancy.
  • Date rape.Date (or acquaintance) rape is a serious problem for teens. It happens when a person your teen knows (for example, a date, friend, or neighbour) forces her (or him) to have sex. Make sure your teen understands that “no always means no.” Also, dating in groups instead of alone and avoiding drugs and alcohol reduces the risk of date rape.
  • Masturbation is a topic few people feel comfortable talking about. Discuss this with your child in terms of your values.

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