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December 7, 2009

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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Posted by Kelly Brewington at 7:09 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Pediatrics


This country is hung up on sex.

Sex crimes almost always receive much more harsh sentences than even murder.

Anything to do with sex is controversial and cannot be discussed. Is it any wonder we have many more issues and crimes regarding sex than most other developed countries?

The continuing reference to these discussions as a SINGULAR event "The Talk" implies both what the real problem remains in far too many homes and where the solutions continue to lie.

The biology lessons (plural) should start as early as the child is conscious of genitalia. The sexuality lessons (again plural) including the MANY and VARIOUS ways of expressing and sharing emotions and relationship (short of intercourse) can begin as early as consciousness of that are observed.

Observe your children. Engage and talk with them. Act.

Your first act should be to acquire good quality accurate and objective information to base your discussions on.

The guidelines the schools use for when to teach the various topic are almost always AFTER the time when the parent should have covered that information.

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About Picture of Health
Meredith CohnMeredith Cohn has been a reporter since 1991, covering everything from politics and airlines to the environment and medicine. A runner since junior high and a particular eater for almost as long, she tries to keep up on health and fitness trends. Her aim is to bring you the latest news and information from the local and national medical and wellness communities.

Andrea K. WalkerAndrea K. Walker knows it’s weird to some people, but she has a fascination with fitness, diseases, medicine and other health-related topics. She subscribes to a variety of health and fitness magazines and becomes easily engrossed in the latest research in health and science. An exercise fanatic, she’s probably tried just about every fitness activity there is. Her favorites are running, yoga and kickboxing. So it is probably fitting that she has been assigned to cover the business of healthcare and to become a regular contributor to this blog. Andrea has been at The Sun for nearly 10 years, covering manufacturing, retail , airlines and small and minority business. She looks forward to telling readers about the latest health news.

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