Your influence on your teen's attitude to sex and relationships

Estimated read: 7 minutes 

Most parents find it difficult to talk directly to their children about sex and therefore, children may be left to pick up attitudes from the way we behave. So it's important to think about how your behaviour affects your teen's attitude to sex and relationships.

Key points: 

  • Use movies and TV storylines as a chance to find out their thoughts on sex and relationships
  • Your child will appreciate knowing that you are open-minded and will be there for them whatever happens
  • The more knowledge teenagers have the more informed they will be but ensure that your teen knows you are there to give them guidance and advice too

 

teens and sex

Sex on TV

If you are watching TV and there is a sexual scene, think about how you react. If you change the channel, change the subject or make a joke, every time that the subject of sex comes up, your children are more likely to believe that sex is secretive, dangerous, embarrassing or something to be ashamed or afraid of. If that’s what they believe, then they are unlikely to ask any questions or turn to you for advice. If they don’t get advice from you, then they are most likely to get it from magazines, online or from friends at school. Instead, try to use story lines on TV as an opportunity to talk to your children about sex or get hold of some leaflets to help start the conversation.

Use it as a chance to find out their thoughts on sex and relationships. Using this is a good way to find out what your children know and think about sex. You can talk about: 

  • the characters
  • whether they love one another
  • whether they are using contraception
  • whether what they are doing is risky

It also provides a chance for you to explain your views about sex and relationships. It is an opportunity to help them understand the responsibilities that go along with having sex and that they can talk to you if they need to. 

Teenage pregnancy

If you hear that your friend's teenage daughter is pregnant think about your reaction. How you react will demonstrate to your child how you might react if they wanted to talk to you about sex and relationships. It also shows them how you might react should they ever be in the same situation. Use the situation to talk about why it is important to think carefully about sex and relationships, and let them know that they can come to you for support, whatever happens.

It is important to try and perhaps use role play in a positive way and possibly discuss the situation with your child as if you were facing this issue with your own child.  If they can see how you would deal with this, it might help them to make more informed choices when necessary.

If you hear that the teenage son of a friend has got a girl pregnant, dismissing the situation may give the impression that a man does not need to act responsibly when it comes to sex and relationships, and that there are no consequences to his actions. Use the situation to talk about taking care of people in relationships and how to prevent conception. Talk to your son about caring for his health and the realities of being a parent.

Talk about the situation and explain that unplanned pregnancies can happen. You can also use this as an opportunity to talk about sex being about commitment and caring for your partner, whatever happens. Teenagers say that they would much rather learn about sex and relationships from the parents than through friends or onlines. Your response shows him that you can be approached for help and support.

Supporting your teen

Your child will appreciate knowing that you are open-minded and will be there for them whatever happens. It may also encourage them to go to you for advice and support when they are thinking about relationships and sex. You might also use the situation to open up a conversation with your child on sex and relationships. 

Talking about sex may not always be easy for parents but these days there are lots of different avenues that can help to open up conversations such as television, media etc.  The more knowledge teenagers have the more informed they will be but ensure that your teen knows you are there to give them guidance and advice too. They might forget that you have been a teenager yourself but try and keep communication channels open regarding sex.

Further resources 

It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us online via our live chat service, email us at askus@familylives.org.uk or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker. 

How do you talk to your teenager about sex without feeling embarrassed?

This page was updated on September 2021

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