How to Talk About Sex with Your Teenage Child

Sex education for adolescents is a task that should be carried out by their parents. But how to approach the subject in an appropriate way? Here are some guidelines.
How to Talk About Sex with Your Teenage Child
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 21 January, 2023

Despite the fact that sexuality is a fundamental part of the integral development human beings, many parents refuse to talk about sex with a teenage child. Perhaps this is to avoid creating discomfort in the teen, or because of the adult’s own modesty and embarrassment. Whatever the case, the truth is that these types of conversations take place less frequently than necessary.

It’s true that in educational centers adolescents can receive talks on sexual and reproductive health. However, the ideas that most young people have of sex usually come from their own peers, from the media and, in the worst cases, from porn.

Sex education is a task that falls to parents. If parents don’t carry it out, the child may have access to confusing and harmful information. Thus, given the emotional importance of the first relationships, and taking into account the risks involved, it’s essential that parents inform their children and resolve any doubts.

Keys to talk about sex with a teenage child

Here are some keys and tips for talking about sex with a teenager. There are a total of 6 proposals to put into practice.

Two hands intwined.
The beginning of relationships in adolescence is a starting point for the discovery of sexuality.

Continuing education

If we think of talking about sex with a teenager, we may imagine sitting at a table in front of them, using a solemn tone and feeling uncomfortable. However, this isn’t the only way to approach sexuality, nor is it necessarily the most advisable.

In general, it’s preferable for such education to take place naturally and gradually, as the child grows up. If, at each stage of their life, we adapt the language to transmit the most relevant information, they’ll reach adolescence with much clearer ideas.

In addition, any relaxed moment (such as a car ride) can be appropriate to talk about sexuality. Taking advantage of movies, songs, or related everyday situations can open a door to approach the subject naturally.

Flexibility and tolerance

Some parents adopt a too rigid attitude when talking about sex with their children. They focus mainly on labeling relationships as negative or dangerous, and they judge and criticize other young people who choose to have them.

This is often intended to discourage their children from embarking on early sexual relationships. However, the result is often not what’s expected.

Avoiding talking about an issue, or talking about it in a negative way, won’t make it disappear. The adolescent will probably have sex anyway, but he/she will do so with misconceptions, guilt, and a fear of disappointing his/her parents.

For the same reason, it’s preferable to approach the subject with an open, flexible, and tolerant mentality. This will increase the relationship of trust with your child and he/she will feel safe to express doubts.

Clear and truthful information

Above all, provide your child with truthful information that can help them to make conscious decisions. Talk to your child about the risk of pregnancy and disease transmission in different sexual practices. Explain the options for protection.

And don’t forget to address the ethical and emotional aspects of sexual relationships. They need to understand that respect (for themselves and others) and emotional responsibility are essential.

Other useful tips for talking about sex with a teenager

In addition to the above, we recommend that you consider the following guidelines to ensure that your child receives appropriate sex education:

  • Ask questions and listen: It’s preferable that you don’t approach discussions about sexuality as a monologue on your part. Ask your child what he or she already knows, what questions and concerns he or she has, and what answers they need. This will give you an opportunity to get to know your child’s points of view.
  • Accept that you don’t have the answers, if that’s the case: Your child may ask you about something you don’t know about or don’t know how to answer. Don’t be afraid to accept this and invite them to search for the answers together. Seeing a health professional can be beneficial and clarifying.
  • Your child may feel more comfortable talking about sexuality with other people than with you: This isn’t a bad thing, as it can be enriching for them to have the support and opinion of other adults in the family. However, make your views known to your child and reassure him or her that you will always be available to talk.
How to talk about sex with your teen.
Talking about sex with a child does not have to be punitive, confrontational or uncomfortable. It can be done in a fun way.

Talk about sex with your teen – it will protect them physically and emotionally

Having a discussion about sexuality with your child may feel uncomfortable. However, it’s necessary for them to know the dangers they’re exposed to and how to avoid them. Having the right information will protect them from unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, but it will also help them cope with peer pressure and avoid non-consensual relationships.

Ultimately, the goal is for them to be able to make responsible, informed decisions and to know that they have an adult who will be there to guide and support them.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Albury, K. (2014). Porn and sex education, porn as sex education. Porn Studies1(1-2), 172-181.
  • Agreda, E. A. C. (2008). Influencia de los padres en la educación sexual de los adolescentes. Educere12(40), 79-87.
  • Mendoza Tascón, L. A., Claros Benítez, D. I., & Peñaranda Ospina, C. B. (2016). Actividad sexual temprana y embarazo en la adolescencia: estado del arte. Revista chilena de obstetricia y ginecología81(3), 243-253.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.