LEARNING PATHWAYS

PARENTING

COMMUNICATING

REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH TOPICS

This section provides parents with the facts needed to talk with their children about sexual health. Click on any of the topics below to begin exploring the six reproductive health topics.

During puberty, boys and girls go through many physical and emotional changes.

What do I need to know to talk with my children?

What is going on emotionally?

Physical changes during puberty

The difference between changes that occur in boys during puberty and the changes that occur in girls during puberty

The timing of puberty

The names of sexual body parts

What do I tell older versus younger children?

Younger children

Older children


What do I need to know to talk with my children?

 

What is going on emotionally?

  • Puberty is a time when children will begin to move towards independence during middle/junior high school. During this time, they will want to blend into their peer group and not stand out. They will begin to feel self-centered and self-conscious and have concerns about their looks. Also, they will begin to test boundaries and limits of their family as they push for independence. They can experience mood swings, which can be evident with family relationships.
  • As children begin puberty, they develop skills in decision making as they become more independent. They start to think about future goals of careers and occupations as they shift from play-centered activities to school and academics. They start getting advice from peers and look to the media for advice and information. They also begin developing abstract thought and have the ability for social consciousness. They can understand more complex issues such as war and poverty.
  • Sexual thoughts begin at puberty as well. Children will begin to develop crushes and start to develop sexual feeling for others as new dimensions within relationships. They will have an emerging sense of self as a young adult and feel conscious of their sexuality and how they express it. They may feel shy about discussing sexuality issues with their parents and other caregivers. They may act like they know everything already. They will also value privacy highly.

 

 

What’s going on physically?


During puberty most children will experience:

  • A growth spurt with significant weight gain, muscle growth and genital maturation
  • The pituitary gland will trigger production of certain hormones. Hormones are chemicals in our bodies that control body function. Testosterone production will increase in boys and estrogen and progesterone production will increase in girls.
  • Skin will become more oily and acne or pimples may develop
  • Sweating will increase and children may have body odor
  • Hair will grow under the arms and on the pubic area
  • Body proportions will change. For example, boys’ shoulders become broader and girls’ hips will widen
  • Joints may ache due to rapid growth
  • Sexual urges may begin and masturbation can occur

 

What happens to boys going through puberty?

  • For boys going through puberty, the first thing they may notice is their testicles growing larger and some pubic hair. This usually happens between ages 9 and 13.
  • Later, a boy may notice his penis is growing larger. As boys’ hormones change, erections occur more often. It is common for erections to occur even if a boy is not thinking about sex, called a spontaneous erection. Spontaneous erections often do not last very long, but can be embarrassing for boys. Let them know that a well-placed jacket or book bag can prevent others from noticing.
  • Between the ages of 12 and 16, boys generally begin producing semen (also called sperm). They may have their first ejaculations during masturbation or during sleep (wet dreams, often called nocturnal emissions). It is important to tell boys about wet dreams before they happen to prevent any unnecessary concern on the part of the boy.
  • Boys will begin to develop hair on their face, underarms, and chest. Some boys’ breasts may become larger and more feminine looking for a while, which is called gynecomastia.
  • Boys will have a growth spurt, usually around age 14 and their shoulders will broaden.

(Source: Planned Parenthood Federation of America)


What happens to girls going through puberty?

  • For girls going through puberty, the first thing they may notice is breast growth. Girls develop swelling around the nipples or breast “buds.” Buds usually develop between ages 8 and 13. Pubic hair may develop shortly before, or more likely, after.
  • Over the next few years, breasts will grow slowly. At times, one breast may be a little larger than the other. This is not unusual. You can reassure your daughter that this is normal and that their breasts may not be as different as they get older.
  • Girls usually have a growth spurt around age 12 and will notice their hips widening.
  • Most girls begin menstruating between the ages of 10 and 16. Her first period is called “menarche.” Some girls will feel cramps weeks or days before her first period, others will notice more vaginal discharge in the weeks prior to her period, and some girls have no warning signs.
  • It is important to prepare girls before their first periods. You can show your daughterhow to use sanitary pads or tampons. Pads are usually the easiest for girls to use at first. Make sure she knows how to put a pad in her underwear, how long to wear the pad before changing it, and how to throw out used pads.
  • Remind girls that they can carry a pad in their purse or backpack if they are concerned about starting their periods unexpectedly.
  • Girls may notice an increase in vaginal lubrication as they mature and become sexually aroused. They can also start having erotic dreams. Remind girls that this is perfectly normal and healthy.

(Source: Planned Parenthood Federation of America)

Understanding the timing of puberty

Puberty does happen to everyone, but it does not happen on the same schedule. Girls generally start earlier than boys. Girls’ bodies can begin changing at age 8, while some don’t start until age 14. Boys’ bodies usually start to change between ages 10 and 12. Most often the changes are done by age 16, but puberty can go on through the teens.
(Source: Planned Parenthood Federation of America)

What do you call it?

Growing up, children learn a lot of different words for sexual or reproductive body parts. When talking to your children, use the correct terms, but you may want to mention the slang words too. Often times, children may have heard slang words at school or from other family or friends. It can also be very helpful to ask your child what they call a certain body part. You might be surprised to learn what terms they have learned. By doing this, you can clear up any misunderstandings and make sure your child knows what you are referring to. For the correct terms, see the Anatomy- check it out!


What do I tell older versus younger children?

Younger children

Even younger children should be taught the proper names for body parts and that these are areas that should be kept private to them. As your child begins to approach the age of puberty, let them know a bit about what they might expect. You don’t have to go into great detail. You can still help them understand the basics (for example: increasing breast size, preparing for start of period, noticing hair growth).

If your family enjoys reading books together, it might be helpful to base your conversations around a good beginner’s guide to puberty, such as the book, The Care and Keeping of You 1: The Body Book for Younger Girls by American Girl.

Older children

As children get older, they will be ready for more details about puberty and anatomy. Explain to them both what they might experience during puberty themselves, and also some of the changes the opposite sex might be experiencing. Teach them about the various sexual organs and what each one does. Sharing our interactive male and female anatomy diagrams with them might be a good place to start!

Male and Female Anatomy

Click on the images below to view interactive diagrams of male and female body parts.

The Female Anatomy

An image of the internal female reproductive organs.
An image of the external female sexual organs.
An image of the female breast.

The Male Anatomy

An image of the male sexual organs.

There are many different types of birth control. Some are pills that you take every day. Others can be taken once a week or once a month and some can last for several months or years. Which one is right is different for each individual. All of these methods can also be used for other reasons such as to control problems with periods, acne, and other medical problems.

What do I need to know to talk with my children?

Types and characteristics of birth control

Risks of pregnancy when not using contraception

How pregnancy occurs (the biology of pregnancy)

Understand how to get contraception

Others reasons to use contraception

 What do I tell older versus younger children?

Younger children

Older children 


What do I need to know to talk with my children?

Types and characteristics of birth control:

Your Birth Control Choices
MethodHow well does it work?How to UseProsCons
The Implant

Nexplanon®

theimplant

> 99%A health care provider places it under the skin of the upper arm

It must be removed by a health care provider

Long lasting (up to 3 years)

No pill to take daily

Often decreases cramps

Can be used while breastfeeding

You can become pregnant right after it is removed

Can cause irregular bleeding

After 1 year, you may have no period at all

Does not protect against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Progestin IUD

Mirena®, Skyla®

progestin

> 99%Must be placed in uterus by a health care provider

Usually removed by a health care provider

Mirena® may be left in place up to 7 years.

Skyla® may be left in place up to 3 years

No pill to take daily

May improve period cramps and bleeding

Can be used while breastfeeding

You can become pregnant right after it is removed

May cause lighter periods, spotting, or no period at all

Rarely, uterus is injured during placement

Does not protect against HIV or other STIs

 

Copper IUD

ParaGard®

copper-iud

> 99%Must be placed in uterus by a health care provider

Usually removed by a health care provider

May be left in place for up to 12 years

No pill to take daily

Can be used while breastfeeding

You can become pregnant right after it is removed

May cause more cramps and heavier periods

May cause spotting between periods

Rarely, uterus is injured during placement

Does not protect against HIV or other STIs

The Shot

Depo-Provera®

depo-theshot

97-99%Get a shot every 3 monthsEach shot works for 12 weeks

Private

Usually decreases periods

Helps prevent cancer of the uterus

No pill to take daily

Can be used while breastfeeding

May cause spotting, no period, weight gain, depression, hair or skin changes, change in sex drive

May cause delay in getting pregnant after you stop the shots

Side effects may last up to 6 months after you stop the shots

Does not protect against HIV or other STIs

The Pill

the-pill

92-99%Must take the pill dailyCan make periods more regular and less painful

Can improve PMS symptoms

Can improve acne

Helps prevent cancer of the ovaries

You can become pregnant right after stopping the pills

May cause nausea, weight gain, headaches, change in sex drive – some of these can be relieved by changing to a new brand

May cause spotting the first 1-2 months

Does not protect against HIV or other STIs

Progestin-Only Pills

progestin-only

92-99%Must take the pill dailyCan be used while breastfeeding

You can become pregnant right after stopping the pills

Often causes spotting, which may last for many months

May cause depression, hair or skin changes, change in sex drive

Does not protect against HIV or other STIs

The Patch

Ortho Evra®

the-patch

92-99%Apply a new patch once a week for three weeks

No patch in week 4

Can make periods more regular and less painful

No pill to take daily

You can become pregnant right after stopping patch

Can irritate skin under the patch

May cause spotting the first 1-2 months

Does not protect against HIV or other STIs

The Ring

Nuvaring®

the-ring

92-99%Insert a small ring into the vagina

Change ring each month

One size fits all

Private

Does not require spermicide

Can make periods more regular and less painful

No pill to take daily

You can become pregnant right after stopping the ring

Can increase vaginal discharge

May cause spotting the first 1-2 months of use

Does not protect against HIV or other STIs

Male Condom

male-condom

85-98%Use a new condom each time you have sex

Use a polyurethane condom if allergic to latex

 

Can buy at many stores

Can put on as part of sex play/foreplay

Can help prevent early ejaculation

Can be used for oral, vaginal, and anal sex

Protects against HIV and other STIs

Can be used while breastfeeding

Can decrease sensation

Can cause loss of erection

Can break or slip off

Female/
Internal
Condomfemale-condom
79-95%Use a new condom each time you have sex

Use extra lubrication as needed

 

Can buy at many stores

Can put in as part of sex play/foreplay

Can be used for anal and vaginal sex

May increase pleasure when used for vaginal sex

Good for people with latex allergy

Protects against HIV and other STIs

Can be used while breastfeeding

Can decrease sensation

May be noisy

May be hard to insert

May slip out of place during sex

Withdrawal
Pull-out
73-96%Pull penis out of vagina before ejaculation (that is, before coming)Costs nothing

Can be used while breastfeeding

 

Less pleasure for some

Does not work if penis is not pulled out in time

Does not protect against HIV or other STIs

Must interrupt sex

Diaphragm

diapraghm

84-94%Must be used each time you have sex

Must be used with spermicide

A health care provider will fit you and show you how to use it

Can last several years

Costs very little to use

May protect against some infections, but not HIV

Can be used while breastfeeding

Using spermicide may raise the risk of getting HIV

Should not be used with vaginal bleeding or infection

Raises risk of bladder infection

Rhythm

Natural Family Planning, Fertility Awareness

rhythm

75-88%Predict fertile days by: taking temperature daily, checking vaginal mucus for changes, and/or keeping a record of your periods

It works best if you use more than one of these

Avoid sex or use condoms/spermicide during fertile days

Costs little

Can be used while breastfeeding

Can help with avoiding or trying to become pregnant

Must use another method during fertile days

Does not work well if your periods are irregular

Many things to remember with this method

Does not protect against HIV or STIs

Spermicide

Cream, gel, sponge,
foam, inserts, film

spermicide

71-85%Insert spermicide each time you have sex

 

Can buy at many stores

Can insert as part of sex play/foreplay

Comes in many forms: cream, gel, sponge, foam, inserts, film

Can be used while breastfeeding

May raise the risk of getting HIV

May irritate vagina, penis

Cream, gel, and foam can be messy

Emergency Contraception Pills

Progestin EC (Plan B One-Step®, Next Choice™ and others) and ulipristal acetate (ella®)

emergency-contraception-pills

0-94%

Ulipristal EC works better than progestin EC if you weigh more than 155 pounds (BMI > 26).

Ulipristal EC works better than progestin EC in the 3-5 days after sex

Works best the sooner you take it after unprotected sex

You can take EC up to 5 days after unprotected sex

If pack contains 2 pills, take both together

You should start a birth control method right after using EC to avoid pregnancy

Can be used while breastfeeding

Available at pharmacies, health centers or health care providers: call ahead to see if they have it

People of any age can get some brands without a prescription

 

May cause stomach upset or nausea

Your next period may come early or late

May cause spotting

Does not protect against HIV or other STIs

If you are under age 17 you may need a prescription for some brands

Ulipristalrequires a prescription

May cost a lot

(Source: Reproductive Health Access Project)

Another great resource explaining contraceptive options is bedsider.org.

Risks of pregnancy when not using contraception

For most girls and women, once they begin having periods, they are at risk for getting pregnant if they have sex and do not use a birth control method correctly and regularly.

A figure of 90% is often quoted as the proportion of young women who will become pregnant after a year of sex with a male partner without contraception. Whether you get pregnant depends on a lot of things, but age is very important.

Activity

Here is a great list of true/false questions about myths regarding pregnancy risk: Click here

How pregnancy occurs (the biology of pregnancy)

Inevitably, if you are going to talk about contraception, kids will have questions about how pregnancy occurs. Just about every parent will know that it takes having sex, or the coming together of male (sperm) and female (egg) parts to make a baby. But often kids have more questions than that. Here we give you answers to some of those questions.

Option #1: Women have eggs and men have sperm, and in order for a pregnancy to happen, an egg and a sperm must meet to make a fertilized egg. Then the fertilized egg needs to implant in the woman’s uterus. The only sexual behavior that carries a real risk of pregnancy is vaginal intercourse. So, if someone doesn’t want to get pregnant, they need to abstain from vaginal intercourse or use a reliable method of birth control.
(Source: Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States)

Option#2: Pregnancy happens when a male’s sperm joins with (fertilizes) a female’s egg. For a woman to get pregnant, sperm has to get into her vagina. Sperm can get into her vagina a few different ways.

  • Sperm is in the fluid (sometimes called “ejaculate” or “cum”) that spurts out when a guy ejaculates (“comes”). The main way sperm get into the vagina is when a guy ejaculates during sexual intercourse.
  • Sperm also sometimes can get into the vagina in pre-ejaculate (“pre-cum”). This is a little bit of fluid that leaks out during sex before a guy ejaculates. A guy wouldn’t know that pre-ejaculate was leaking out. That means a woman could get pregnant even if he pulls his penis out before he ejaculates.
  • Sperm can get into the vagina even if a woman is not having sexual intercourse. This can happen if sperm get on the outside of the vagina and swim inside.

 

For a woman to get pregnant, one of her eggs has to be in the right place at the right time. You can read all about how an egg is released during the menstrual cycle and how the female reproductive system works. Keep in mind that:

  • It’s hard to know exactly when an egg is released, which means that avoiding sex at certain times of the month is not a very reliable way to avoid pregnancy.
  • A woman can get pregnant if she doesn’t have regular periods.
  • A woman can even get pregnant during her period!

(Source: Girlshealth.gov)

Understand how to get contraception

Teens can get birth control methods from lots of places. Some birth control methods are sold in stores like supermarkets and drugstores. Condoms, contraceptive sponges, spermicides, and some kinds of emergency contraception are sold in these kinds of stores. All other kinds of birth control require a visit to a healthcare professional. Some people get contraception at a family planning clinic, where services are confidential (kept private) and often cost less or are free. You can find a family planning clinic online. To find a teen-friendly clinic in the Philadelphia area, check out our Find a Clinic page.


Does my child need an exam before starting to use birth control?

No. Your adolescent does not need a physical exam before starting on a birth control method. However, many doctors will do a basic exam, that includes listening to your child’s heart and lungs, feeling their belly, and may also take a look at their breasts and the outside of the vagina. Usually, your child will not need an exam inside the vagina in order to start a birth control method.


Who pays for birth control?

In the United States, most insurance companies have to pay for the whole cost of an appointment to talk to a doctor about birth control and for most types of birth control a doctor prescribes.

If your child is covered under your insurance, your insurance company may send a statement home (called an Explanation of Benefits) that says that your adolescent went to a clinic to talk about birth control.

If your adolescent wants to keep this information private, in Pennsylvania, that is their legal right. But to keep this information private, your adolescent may need to go to the health department or a family planning clinic to get birth control. These places often have programs that allow them to provide adolescents with confidential birth control services and will not bill parents’ insurance.

Legally, providers do not have to tell parents that an adolescent got information about birth control or started using a birth control method. However, they do have to get an accurate medical history to make sure that it is safe for the adolescent to use a medication. They will also usually see an adolescent for regular return visits to make sure they are not having side effects, understand how to use the method correctly, and use it regularly.

These clinics also talk with your adolescents about abstinence, healthy relationships, and using condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections. It is their job to make sure your child is healthy, not just to give birth control.


Does my child have to see a doctor regularly after starting birth control?

Anyone who is having sex should see a health care professional regularly to protect their health even if they aren’t going for birth control.

Others reasons to use contraception

Several kinds of medical conditions can be helped with birth control pills, including:

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal imbalance which causes irregular menstrual periods, acne, and excess hair growth. Birth control pills work by lowering certain hormone levels to regulate menstrual periods. When hormone levels are decreased to normal, acne and hair growth often improve.

Endometriosis: Most girls with endometriosis have cramps or pelvic pain during their menstrual cycle. Birth control pills are often prescribed continuously to treat endometriosis and work by temporarily preventing periods. Since periods can cause pain for young women with endometriosis, stopping periods will usually improve cramps and pelvic pain.

Lack of periods (“amenorrhea”) from low weight, stress, excessive exercise, or damage to the ovaries from radiation or chemotherapy: With any of these conditions, the hormone “estrogen” is not made in normal amounts by the body. Birth control pills may be prescribed to replace estrogen, which helps to regulate the menstrual cycle. For girls whose menstrual periods are irregular (too few or not at all), birth control pills can help to regulate the menstrual cycle to every 28 days and provide the body with normal amounts of estrogen. Normal estrogen levels are important for healthy bones.

Menstrual Cramps: When over-the-counter medications don’t help with severe cramps, birth control pills may be the solution because they prevent ovulation and lighten periods.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS): Symptoms of PMS such as mood swings, breast soreness, bloating, and acne can occur up to two weeks before a young women’s period. Birth control pills may be prescribed to stop ovulation and keep hormone levels balanced. Symptoms may improve, particularly when oral contraceptive pills are prescribed continuously.

Heavy Menstrual Periods: Birth control pills can reduce the amount and length of menstrual bleeding.

Acne: For moderate to severe acne, which over-the-counter and prescription medications haven’t cured, birth control pills may be prescribed. The hormones in the Pill can help stop acne from forming. Be patient though, since it takes several months for birth control pills to work.

Other Medical Benefits

Because there is less menstrual bleeding when taking birth control pills, you are less likely to get anemia (low number of red blood cells, which carry oxygen from the lungs to the tissues). Birth control pills also lower your chance of getting endometrial (lining of the uterus) cancer, ovarian cancer, and ovarian cysts.
(Sources: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and The Center for Young Women’s Health at Boston Children’s Hospital)

What do I tell older versus younger children?

Younger children

For younger children, it may be enough for them to understand how someone can become pregnant and that there are methods available to prevent pregnancy from happening.

Older children

When talking with older children, you will be more likely to discuss the various contraceptive methods that are available and the pros and cons of using each type.

Condoms cover the penis or vagina during sexual intercourse in order to prevent pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. There are different types for men and women.

What do I need to know to talk with my children? 

Understand why using condoms is important

Understand the types of condoms

Understand correct ways to apply and remove condoms

How can you, as a parent, teach your child to negotiate condom use?

What do I tell older versus younger children?

Younger children

Older children


What do I need to know to talk with my children?

Understand why using condoms is important

Teens must understand why condoms are important for them to use. Even if alternative forms of contraception are being used, it is important to remind your child that other methods only prevent pregnancy. Condoms are important because they not only prevent pregnancy but also prevent STIs, some of which can be lifelong.

Being able to convey how effective condoms are in preventing pregnancy and STIs and the consequences of not using condoms will be important for your child to understand and will likely influence their decisions to use condoms.


Male Condoms

  • Each year, 2 out of 100 women whose partners use condoms will become pregnant if they always use condoms correctly.
  • Each year, 15 out of 100 women whose partners use condoms will become pregnant if they don’t always use condoms correctly.

(Source: Planned Parenthood Federation of America)

  • Consistent and correct use of latex or polyurethane condoms is highly effective in preventing sexual transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
  • Consistent and correct use of latex condoms reduces the risk for many STIs that are transmitted by genital fluids (STIs such as Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis) and for genital ulcer diseases, (such as genital herpes, syphilis, and chancroid), only when the infected area or site of potential exposure is protected.
  • Consistent and correct use of latex condoms may reduce the risk for genital human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and HPV-associated diseases (e.g., genital warts and cervical cancer).

(Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)


Female Condoms

  • If women always use the female condom correctly, 5 out of 100 will become pregnant each year.
  • If women don’t always use the female condom correctly, 21 out of 100 will become pregnant each year.
  • Female condoms reduce the risk of many sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

(Source: Planned Parenthood Federation of America)


Understand the types of condoms

A male condom can be used to cover the penis during any type of sexual act (oral, anal, or vaginal) to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy. It prevents male semen from entering his partner. Condoms come in different sizes and can be made from a number of different materials.

  • Latex: Latex condoms are the most readily available and the most cost effective (about $1.00 each).
  • Polyurethane: For people who are sensitive to latex, polyurethane condoms offer protection. These condoms are made from a type of plastic.
  • Lambskin: Lambskin condoms are made from the intestines of sheep. This type of condom is not recommended for STI prevention.

 

Female condoms are another option for protection from both pregnancy and STIs. The female condom is a polyurethane sheath with flexible rings at either end that is placed inside the vagina or anus before intercourse. Female condoms are available in most places that male condoms are and cost about $3.60 each.

Male condoms should NOT be used at the same time as female condoms.


Understand correct ways to apply and remove condoms

Adolescents will learn how to use condoms at some point in their lives. However, it is most important that they know how to put on and take off a condom correctly. If a condom is not used correctly, then its effectiveness at preventing both pregnancy and STIs is compromised.

Here are the steps to putting on a condom:

  1. Check the expiration date on the condom package. Even brand new condoms can be expired.
  2. Open the package with your fingers. Teeth or scissors can tear the latex and you won’t necessarily realize it.
  3. Figure out which way the condom rolls down. If at first, the condom is placed on the penis incorrectly (where it does not roll down), throw away the condom and start again.
  4. Put it on the head of the penis correctly. Pinch the reservoir tip to squeeze the air out. This ensures that there’s space for the sperm to go in.
  5. Roll the condom all the way down the penis.

 

Here’s the second half of the lesson that regrettably sometimes gets missed. How to take off a condom correctly:

  1. After the male orgasms, he needs to hold the condom on to the base of his penis and withdraw his penis before it becomes flaccid.  This makes sure that the condom doesn’t slip off when the penis becomes smaller.
  2. Slip the condom off the penis while still holding it at the base so that the sperm isn’t spilled.
  3. Tie off the open end of the condom.
  4. Throw the condom in the trash.

 

This video demonstrates how to correctly apply and remove a male condom.

Condoms should only be used ONE time. It is important to use a new condom each time you have sex.

If the condom breaks during sex, there are options for Emergency Contraception that can be considered.


How can you, as a parent, teach your child to negotiate condom use?

It is important to understand some of the things that can make it easier or harder for adolescents to discuss the decision to use a condom with their partner. These include:

  • Pressure from romantic partners, especially because romantic partners might insist that they do not have STIs or that sex feels better without a condom.
  • Influence of the sexual behaviors of peers, siblings, other important people in the adolescent’s life, or even social norms in the community (for example, if an adolescent thinks most people they know are using condoms or not). Your child might take action based on what these people say they do.
  • Alcohol or use of other drugs like marijuana, cocaine, or anything else that makes it harder for an adolescent to think straight. Using these substances might make it harder for an adolescent to remember to use condoms, to use condoms correctly, OR properly address the potential issue of a condom breaking.
  • Using an alternative form of contraception to prevent pregnancy might influence your child’s decision to use condoms consistently.

 

It is important to talk with your adolescent about these things and help them think about how they can speak up to ensure they use condoms with their romantic partner, resist peer pressure, and negotiate their way through risky situations.

Encourage your child to have a conversation about sex with their partner before it actually happens. Having a conversation about how to prevent sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy should come a long time before sex, but sometimes it’s not discussed because one or both partners feel too embarrassed to bring it up.


Questions your adolescent might ask you:

My partner thinks I don’t trust him/her because I want to use condoms. What can I tell him/her?

You can reassure your partner that it’s not that you don’t trust them, but that you would feel a lot safer and less stressed if you used condoms every time you have sex. You can let them know that your health care provider wants you to protect yourself from HPV, herpes, and other STIs. Aside from protection from STIs, condoms can also prevent unwanted pregnancy. Even if the female partner takes oral contraceptives, it’s better to use two methods to prevent pregnancy. You can talk about how you don’t want (her) to get pregnant and would rather not stress about the possibility of getting pregnant after having sex.


My partner said that we don’t need to use condoms because I’m/she’s on the Pill.

You can tell your partner that although they’re usually 97-99% effective, the Pill is not 100% effective and you don’t want (her) to be one of the 1-3% that gets pregnant while on birth control.


What if I feel uncomfortable talking about condom use?

Talking about condoms may seem a bit uncomfortable at first, especially if you don’t know how your partner will react. However, healthy relationships are based on trust and communication, so you should be able to talk about how you feel. Having a face to face talk about using condoms shouldn’t be a big deal, but if you feel that it would be easier to chat about it over the phone or via text message, do that instead. Any communication is better than none at all.


What if I’m afraid of my partner’s reaction when I tell him/her I want to use condoms?

In healthy relationships, when partners have problems they discuss them and work together to find a solution. If you’re afraid of how your partner might react, it might be a sign that you’re in an unhealthy relationship.


What if I already know my partner doesn’t want to use condoms?

Relationships involve two people, so why should your partner get to make the decision regarding condom use? Even if you already know that your partner doesn’t want to use condoms, you need to have a conversation about it. Be honest and state your concerns and the reasons you want to use condoms. You can also say, “No glove, no love.”


What are counter-arguments to my partner’s excuses?

  • If they say: “If you love me, you’d let me have sex with you without a condom.”
    You can: Make it clear that this isn’t a valid reason. For instance, you could have used the same line and said “If you love me, you’d use a condom,” but you didn’t. You came up with mature, valid reasons regarding your health and well-being.
  • If they say: “Stopping to put on a condom will ruin the mood.”
    You can: Tell them that this doesn’t have to be true. If you keep condoms nearby and/or come up with a fun way of putting them on, it can actually add to the mood instead of taking away from it.
  • If he says: “My penis is too big for condoms.” (Some guys actually say this, but it’s not true.)
    You can: Tell him that condoms stretch to accommodate different sizes. If he’s putting the condom on correctly and it really is too tight, there are brands of condoms that come in extra large. You can even offer to buy a pack for him.

 

For more conversation tips, check out this site.


What do I tell older versus younger children?

Younger children

For younger children, it may be enough for them to understand that pregnancy or STI may result from having sex, and that condoms can help prevent these things.

Older children

When talking with older children, you will be more likely to discuss the types of condoms and how they are correctly used. You may want to share the video with them on how to correctly apply and remove a condom. And you will definitely want to be sure they understand how important they are and that they should insist on using condoms! Reviewing information and scenarios related to negotiating condom use may be very valuable.

As adolescents grow, they will experience many different kinds of relationships. It is important for them to understand what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like so they can make good decisions in their own relationships.

What do I need to know to talk with my children? 

What makes a relationship healthy?

What makes a relationship unhealthy?

Helping your child understand how to engage in healthy relationships

What do I tell older versus younger children?

Younger children

Older children


What do I need to know to talk with my children?

What makes a relationship healthy?

Healthy relationships are fun and make people feel good. A healthy relationship can be with anyone in your life, including family, friends, and dating partners. Relationships take time, energy, and care to make them healthy. The relationships your child makes in their teen years will be a special part of their life and will teach them some of the most important lessons about who they are.


What makes a relationship healthy?

  • Communication and Sharing: The most important part of any healthy relationship between two people is being able to talk and listen to one another. Together you can figure out what your common interests are. You can share your feelings with the other person and trust that they will be there to listen and support you. In healthy relationships, people don’t lie. Communication is based on honesty and trust. By listening carefully and sharing your thoughts and feelings with another person, you show them that they are an important part of your life.
  • Respect and Trust: In healthy relationships, you learn to respect and trust important people in your life. Disagreements may still happen, but you learn to stay calm and talk about how you feel. Talking calmly helps you to understand the real reason for not getting along, and it’s much easier to figure out how to fix it. In healthy relationships, working through disagreements often makes the relationship stronger. In healthy relationships, people respect each other for who they are. This includes respecting and listening to yourself and your feelings so you can set boundaries and feel comfortable. You will find that you learn to understand experiences and feelings of others as well as having them understand your experiences and feelings.

(Source: Center for Young Women’s Health)


What makes a relationship UNhealthy?

In an unhealthy relationship, people usually feel the exact opposite of how they feel when they are in a healthy relationship. Friends and partners do not always feel good about themselves and about each other. Not all unhealthy relationships are abusive, but sometimes they can include abuse, whether it’s verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual. This can involve both people being violent or abusive toward each other, or can involve only one person doing this to the other. Many times a relationship can start out as healthy, but can become unhealthy over time. Also, a friendship or dating relationship can seem healthy at some times and unhealthy at others. If you have a feeling that your relationship is unhealthy because you feel afraid or pressured to do something that you don’t want to do, you are probably right!


What are the signs of an abusive or unhealthy relationship?

There are many signs of an abusive or unhealthy relationship. Take a look at this list of “warning signs” and see if these statements describe your relationship or a relationship your child is in.

If a friend or the person your child is dating:

  • Is jealous or possessive—he or she gets angry when your child talks or hangs out with other friends, or people of the opposite sex
  • Bosses your child around, makes all the decisions, tells them what to do
  • Tells your child what or what not to wear, who your child can or can’t talk to, where your child can or can’t go
  • Is violent with other people, gets in fights a lot, loses his/her temper a lot
  • Pressures your child to have sex, or to do something sexual that your child doesn’t want to do
  • Uses drugs and/or alcohol and tries to pressure your child into doing the same thing
  • Swears at your child, or uses mean language
  • Blames your child for his or her problems, or tells them that it’s their fault that he or she hurt your child
  • Insults your child or tries to embarrass them in front of other people
  • Physically hurts your child
  • Makes your child feel scared of their reactions to things
  • Calls or texts to check up on your child all the time and always wants to know where they are going and who they are with

 

These are just a few of the signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship. Sometimes there are only one or two warning signs, and sometimes there are many. If any of these statements are true for your child’s relationship, you should talk to them right away.

 

Helping your child understand how to engage in healthy relationships

Relationships are a way for your child to grow and learn about themselves and about what they are looking for in a partner. They are an important part of their development. As a parent, you will want your child to have healthy relationships. However, while children are developing into young adults, they deal with many emotional and physical changes. It is important to recognize when these changes are part of their development or are coming from unhealthy romantic interactions. In order to effectively intervene, your adolescent must feel respected and listened to. It is important for a teen to understand that they cannot fix their partner. Additionally, it is valuable for them to understand that jealousy, possessiveness, and physical harm do not signify love.

Communication between family, friends, and partners can be tough for teenagers. Encourage them to use the following steps to ensure that they have good communication as a basis for healthy relationships:

Eight Basic Steps to Maintaining a Good Relationship:

1. Be aware of what you and your partner want for yourselves and what you want from the

2. Let one another know what your needs are.

3. Realize that your partner will not be able to meet all your needs. Some of these needs will have to be met outside of the relationship.

4. Be willing to negotiate and compromise on the things you want from one another.

5. Do not demand that a partner change to meet all your expectations. Work to accept the differences between your ideal mate and the real person you are dating.

6. Try to see things from the other’s point of view. This doesn’t mean that you must agree with one another all the time, but rather that both of you can understand and respect each other’s differences, points of view, and separate needs.

7. Where critical differences do exist in your expectations, needs, or opinions, try to work honestly and sincerely to negotiate. Seek professional help early rather than waiting until the situation becomes critical.

8. Do your best to treat your partner in a way that says, “I love you and trust you, and I want to work this out.”
(Source: The University of Texas at Austin)

Here Are Some Great Activities And Exercises

These may help your teen learn more about healthy versus unhealthy relationships.

Cool or Not Cool Quiz

Are We Right for Each Other?: Questions to consider for adolescents starting, staying in, or ending a relationship

Relationship Checkup Quiz

What do I tell older versus younger children?

Younger children

Even younger children should be taught to tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships. You can talk about their friendships and the differences between good and bad friends.

Older children

As children get older, it more important that they understand how to find a healthy relationship or navigate their way out of an unhealthy relationship.

STI or STD stands for Sexually Transmitted Infection or Disease. These infections can be passed from one person to another during sexual activities. There are different types of STIs. Most STIs can be prevented by using condoms, some can be treated and cured, and some stay with you for life.

What do I need to know to talk with my children? 

Understand types of STIs and how they are treated

Understand how STIs are transmitted

Understand how STIs are prevented

What do I tell older versus younger children?

Younger children

Older children


What do I need to know to talk with my children?

Understand types of STIs and how they are treated

There are many different types of STIs and while they are all treatable, they are not all curable. STIs can be caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

  • Bacteria are microscopic germs that can live by themselves by feeding off of their surroundings. They can be treated and cured by antibiotics. Examples of STIs that are caused by bacteria are gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and syphilis.
  • A virus is a germ so small that it cannot be seen under a microscope. They cannot live on their own; they must live inside another cell to be able to reproduce. They are harder to treat than bacteria and are not curable. Examples of STIs that are caused by viruses are HIV/AIDS, herpes, and genital warts.
  • Parasites are tiny little animals that live on or in our bodies and benefit at the expensive of human health. They are dependent on our bodies for survival. Examples of STIs that are caused by parasites are pubic lice (crabs), scabies, and Trichomoniasis (Trich).

 

Visit this site for more information about the various types of STDs and how they are treated.


Understand how STIs are transmitted

STIs can be passed from one person to another during sexual activities. This includes vaginal, anal, and oral intercourse. Adolescents who have multiple sexual partners or change partners often, have unprotected sex, or take part in other high-risk sexual behaviors are at greater risk of getting an STI.
(Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

You might want to have your teen consider the following stats:

If you had unprotected sex with three people per year, and they each had unprotected sex with three others per year, after four years you will have been potentially exposed to 635 Sexually Transmitted Infections.

If you had unprotected sex with 10 people per year, and they each had unprotected sex with 10 people per year, you will potentially have been exposed to 135,000 Sexually Transmitted Infections.
(Source: University of Washington)


Understand how STIs are prevented

This is an easy one. Most STIs can be prevented by abstaining from sexual activities or by correctly and consistently using condoms.

 

What do I tell older versus younger children?

Younger children

For younger children, you can provide a general definition of an STI and maybe list the main types. More importantly, be sure they understand that STI transmission is a risk associated with having sex.

Older children

Older children will be more ready to understand the difference between bacterial, viral, and parasitic STIs and whether and how different STIs can be treated. Reinforce that abstaining from sex or using condoms correctly and consistently are the only two ways to reduce the risk of infection. You may want to provide your child with resources, such as where to get condoms or get tested for STIs.

Abstinence means that a person makes the choice to not have any sexual contact with another person. Abstinence is the only choice that works 100% of the time to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Your child will need to decide if they will remain abstinent.

What do I need to know to talk with my children? 

Facts about abstinence

How you can help your adolescent remain abstinent

What do I tell older versus younger children?

Younger children

Older children


What do I need to know to talk with my children?

Facts about abstinence

pat_infographic-01(Source: Guttmacher Institute)

True or False?

1. Once a person has had sex, that person can never choose abstinence.
Answer: False, abstinence is always a choice for anyone at any age.

2. Abstinence means a person cannot have any feelings of attraction toward another person.
Answer: False. Having sexual thoughts and feelings is completely normal, but a person does not have to act on them.

3. Peer pressure is never a good thing.
Answer: False. Peer pressure can also encourage your child to make healthy decisions, like choosing abstinence.


How can I help my adolescent remain abstinent?

It is important that your adolescent understands that they are the one in control of their decision to be abstinent and that they always have the choice to decide to hold off from having a sexual relationship.

It is also important that you let your adolescent know that many people find that practicing abstinence can be hard at some point in their life. Abstinence is therefore a choice that they will need to make every day. Practicing abstinence takes self-control and responsibility.

Adolescents find it easier to stay abstinent if they are clear in their own minds about their reasons for making this choice. This way, if they find themselves questioning their choice to be abstinent, they can remind themselves of all the reasons why they decided to be abstinent.

As a parent, you can help your adolescent by encouraging them to think about the advantages of being abstinent and identify their own reasons for making this choice. The next few paragraphs describe topics you can discuss with your child to help them think this through.

It is important that your teen decide what they want to do about sex at a time when they are feeling clearheaded, sober, and good about themselves. The first time they think about whether they want to be abstinent or whether to have sex should not be when they are faced with making a decision in a sexual situation.

It is helpful to decide in advance what sexual activities (if any) your child is willing to participate in with another person. They should take time to consider exactly what being abstinent means to them. It is also beneficial if your adolescent plans ahead for how they will say “no” to sexual activities, when faced with a sexual situation. They should think about things they can say or do that will tell another person that they do not want to have sex. You should help your adolescent to practice these words or behaviors out loud. Let’s think about it, the first time a doctor does a surgery, do you think they practiced? Yes! So help your adolescent to practice handling a sexual situation to be sure they know how to make a healthy choice.

They should know what kinds of situations make it more likely that sex may happen – such as being alone or getting into the back seat of a car. Things that make it hard for your child to think clearly— like drugs or alcohol – will also affect whether they are able to stick with their decision to be abstinent.

Remember, everyone is abstinent for some time during their lives. And many people become sexually active during their late teens and young adulthood. As a parent, you can help your child to make a well thought-out choice regarding their mind, body, and sexual health.
(Source: Dawn Stacey, PhD,  verywell.com)

This video also provides helpful tips for helping your child remain abstinent.

What do I tell older versus younger children?

Younger children

For younger children, you can help them understand that most people don’t start having sex until they are older teens/young adults and that abstinence is a choice.

Older children

For older children, you can discuss the main benefits and challenges of staying abstinent, strategies for staying abstinent, and what to do if they decide to no longer remain abstinent (condom use for STI prevention, contraceptive use).