Parents wait too late to talk to teens about sex
It's among a parent's most dreaded tasks: talking to their teen about sex.
Medical experts and public health advocates say it's not just what you say to teens about sex, but when you say it. Too many parents, it seems, are waiting too long to have "the talk."
More than 40 percent of adolescents have already had sex by the time their parent had talked to them about sexually transmitted diseases and birth control, according to a new study appearing today in the journal Pediatrics.
The findings are based on a survey of 141 parents with children aged 13 to 17. Parents were asked whether they discussed among 24 sex topics -- from body changes during adolescence to how condoms prevent STDs. Researchers followed up with surveys three, six and 12 months later to gauge progress. Meanwhile, participants' children answered separate surveys about their sexual experiences.
While parents did talk to their adolescents about various sexual topics before their first encounter, many parents didn't specifically address birth control options and the proper way to use them, the authors found.
Both parents and clinicians should step up their efforts, the authors suggest, because timing can be critical in helping a child avoid a pregnancy or STD.
The findings don't surprise me as I'm sure many parents of teens shy away from these cringe-worthy conversations for as long as they possibly can. (And teens surely would rather wash the dishes or take out the garbage than talk to mom and dad about sex. Hello awkward!)
But the study's small sample size is certainly a limitation. And I wonder if more parents are discussing these issues with their teens these days in the era of Gardasil commercials and the increasing attention the drug has brought to cervical cancer.
Are you the parent of a teen? Have you had the dreaded talk?
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