Talking to teens about sex

  • Wed Nov 29th, 2017 1:30am
  • Life

The following was submitted by IRHI.

The Island Reproductive Health Initiative collaborated with Orcas Island High School on a presentation for parents on “How to Talk to your Teens about Sex … Even when it’s Awkward” on Nov. 15.

The two-hour event was co-presented by Beth Jensen, LMHC, who explained why we need to talk to our teens about sex, and Dr. Julie Gottman, who explained the tricky techniques of how.

“When our kids were teens, I wanted to bundle them up in a cocoon and keep them in storage until they were mature, responsible adults,” said Alison Shaw, IRHI member. “But that’s wishful thinking! The best we can do as parents is talk with our kids about values, safety, and good judgment – including about their sexuality and healthy relationships with others.”

The national statistics about teen sexual encounters may be surprising. On average, 50 percent of teens reported having sexual relations by 12th-grade, and 70 percent by age 19. And according to a 2010 CDC report, while teens comprise 20 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 50 percent of new sexually transmitted infection cases each year.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reported that teens who talk with their parents about sex are more likely to delay first intercourse and are more likely to use protection (condoms and birth control). They are also more likely to share their parents’ values.

Another reason to start the discussion? Dr. Gottman pointed out that many kids are learning about sexual relationships through internet pornography – a very poor example of healthy sexual attitudes and relationships.

“When starting a discussion about sex with your kids, be the best listener you can be,” said Gottman. “You can begin with words like, ‘I hear a lot of kids are starting to pair up these days. Has that started in your class, too’ And if it looks okay to go on, ‘How about for you?’”

And above all, she advised, do not be judgmental.

For copies of the presentation and handouts, see the IRHI website under the “More…” tab at While you’re there, explore the prevention services IRHI provides to the Orcas community.