Reducing Teens Risky Sexual Behavior

by: Dan Florell, Ph.D.

The father and his teenage son got into the car on the way to go to a ballgame. Once the car got onto the road, the father started talking to his son.

“I have noticed that you have been spending a lot of time with your girlfriend recently. I’m glad things seem to be going so well. So well in fact, that I think it is time you and I had a conversation about sex and all of things that go along with it,” said the father.

A look of horror spread across the son’s face as he frantically looked for a way to not have this conversation. However, the car was moving and the boy settled in for what he knew would be one of the most embarrassing conversations he would ever have with his father.

Many adults have similar stories about the time they had the “sex talk” with their parents. Odds are that they will or already have been on the other side of the conversation, giving the same type of talk to their children. While it can seem like an embarrassing rite of passage for both, it is something that needs to occur.

Parents who monitor their teens and enforce family rules in regards to relationships help protect teens from engaging in risky sexual behavior. These parents know who their teens are dating and who their friends are. They also keep track of teens’ whereabouts and what they are doing.

This level of monitoring can be seen as invasive by teens so it is important for parents to have good relationships with them. Actions such as having the “sex talk” with parents, while awkward, shows that parents care about what is going on in their teens’ lives. It also gives permission for teens to come to parents later and talk about other sensitive subjects such as being pressured to have sex with a girlfriend or boyfriend.

The family rules parents impose on teen relationships is about limiting opportunities to engage in risky sexual behaviors. These rules can include curfews, who is allowed in a bedroom, and requiring adult supervision of some sort during outings.

Teens tend to delay initiating sexual activity and have higher contraceptive use when their parents have on open style of communication with them, monitor their behaviors, and enforce family rules. While it can be easier to monitor younger teens’ behavior, it is important for parents to continue to monitor their teens, even as they get older.

Teens should not have to deal with the additional stressors of getting pregnant or acquiring a sexually transmitted disease. In order to delay these risks, parents have to continue to keep an eye on their teens’ behavior and establish clear rules and expectations even when their teens want to be left alone. A clear channel of communication can help smooth out the disagreements that will inevitably occur with this increased level of monitoring. However it will be worth it over the long run.

This article was published in the Richmond Register daily Friday on February 19, 2016.

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