How to talk to your parents (or other cool adult) about sex

So you want to talk to your parents about sex (or your soccer coach, or your cool aunt, or some other adult you trust – you get the idea), but you're not sure how to get started on the ultimate elephant in the room. That's okay. Just realizing it's a good idea to talk to them is an important first step. Talking lets them know you’re growing up but you still care what they think. If you’ve never brought it up with an adult before – and a lot of teens are in that same boat – don’t worry! Here are some tips:

  • Invite the parent/cool aunt/other adult of your choice to watch an episode of a show like 16 and Pregnant or Secret Life of the American Teenager (now with a special guest appearance by the always-newsworthy Bristol Palin!) with you. The drama in both of these shows is pretty addictive, and you’ll both probably have a lot to say at the end of the episode.
  • Use the news to get started. From stats on teen birth control use to condoms in schools to relationship abuse via cell phone (aka “textual harassment”), a lot of news coverage about young people has something to do with sex. These stories don’t always make teens look good – in fact, a lot of them are based on stereotypes that seem designed to make adults shake their heads and say, “Kids these days!” If you stay up-to-date, you’ll be able to share your opinion, especially if you think the reporters have their facts wrong. Talk about the way the news story is similar or different from what goes on with you or your friends. And that way, you can get at whatever personal questions or concerns you really want to talk about with them about.
  • Maybe you know you want to talk, but you want them to start the conversation. Emailing them a link to a resource for adults like talkwithyourkids.org or noplacelikehome.org is a way to let them know you’re ready. That way they can educate themselves - who knows, the reason they're not talking to you yet might be because they don't think they know enough!
  • You could also impress them with statistics on the positive effect of parents and other adults talking to kids about sex. For example, in one study, teens who said they were able to talk about sex with their parents were more likely to use condoms and less likely to become pregnant (or get someone pregnant) than teens who couldn’t talk to their parents. There’s more information like that here.

Still not convinced? Just give it a try. Summer is a good time to get started, too, before things get hectic again in the fall. You probably aren’t risking much but a little awkwardness, and you have a lot to gain. The great thing about building up this part of your relationship with whatever adult you’re closest to is that they’ll be there for you if anything happens, just like they are in other parts of your life.

Get creative, if you need to. An older sibling, a friend's older sibling, or a guidance counselor could all be good resources, depending on what questions you want to ask. The same tips still apply. You can also check out these resources: