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April 2024

Let’s Talk About Adolescent Sexual Health

Talking about reproductive health with kids can be uncomfortable. For you and for them. But it’s important to do. Here’s a guide to help you through it.

Why it’s important to talk about it

Many kids between ages 8 and 16 are going through puberty. This can be an overwhelming and confusing time. But you can talk openly and honestly with them about the changes they’re going through. This helps them make healthy choices and avoid risks as they grow.

A good sex education comes from school, at a healthcare provider’s office, and at home. Kids who get a good sex education are more likely to have healthy sexual behaviors. These include:

  • Using condoms and other contraceptives more often

  • Having fewer sexual partners

  • Having a lower risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and teen pregnancies

What healthcare providers will talk about

All adolescents should have an annual wellness visit. Here, their healthcare provider should ask questions about puberty and sexuality. You can bring it up if the provider doesn’t. They may ask whether your child is dating or having sex. They may talk about ways to prevent STIs and pregnancy. The provider may ask you to step out of the room for this talk.

When will providers start these talks? And when will they ask you to leave the room? Providers will decide on the right time. It is based on your child’s needs and development.

  • People with female reproductive systems should go to an initial reproductive health visit between ages 13 and 15. During this visit, teens will get accurate information and answers to questions about sex, sexuality, body changes, and menstruation. They may learn about preventing STIs and pregnancy. The provider will also address and treat any problems.

  • Teens with male reproductive systems should talk with providers about puberty and sexuality at every visit—not just routine visits. Beginning in adolescence, providers should discuss contraception, STI risks, and other sex-related topics as necessary.

What parents should know

So, when should you talk with your kids about reproductive health? As early as you want. Talking about sex early and often can help young people more easily make decisions about sex. And those decisions are more likely to be healthy and safe.

As you start these talks, try to be calm instead of appearing embarrassed. Listen intently and ask questions. If your child offers an opinion or thought, take it seriously. This can help make them comfortable talking to you. Feel free to use media, like TV or music that deals with sex, to start a conversation. And remember: The more honest you are, the more honest your child will likely be.



Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2024
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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