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Kids today are exposed to sexual images before they are prepared to handle them, and roughly 1 in 4 teens will become pregnant by age 20. But teen pregnancy is less likely for kids who talk with their parents about sex.
In national surveys, teens reported that their parents have the greatest influence over their decisions about sex — more than friends, siblings or the media. Those who talk with their parents about sex are more likely to delay having sex until they are older, and to make healthy choices when they do have it.
Teaching kids about sex does not give permission to have sex. It opens the door to conversations about how to be safe and responsible.
And it’s never too early (or too late) to talk with your kids. Remember, if you don’t educate your kids, someone else will.
Start with sharing what to expect during puberty, how their bodies are changing, and that it’s all normal. As your child gets older — by age 10 or 11— most kids are ready for conversations about sex.
That’s not to say talking with your kids about sex is easy. Below are tips for parents summarized from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
Kids who have regular conversations with their parents about sex are more likely to make healthy choices about sex and relationships as they grow up. Stay involved in your kids’ lives. Set boundaries. And, above all, let your kids know that you love them no matter what.
There are a variety of online resources, books and other educational materials about sexuality and sexual health that offer sound information to help you navigate this topic with your kids. Ask your child’s doctor for resources if you need more help.
There are resources for teens, too. Created by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, Stay Teen is a website just for teens — to encourage them to avoid the responsibilities that come with too-early pregnancy and parenting.
Learn more about children’s services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.
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