What Parents Should Know About Adolescent Sex Exposure

by Jill Taylor on December 14, 2012

in Parenting

Last year in Texas over 50 percent of high school students reported having sexual intercourse. This statistic is hard to ignore, as sexuality affects more than half of our young people.

To address this concern, parents need to be prepared and aware. Scott & White provider Dr. Meera Beharry specializes in adolescent medicine and suggests we engage our youth early.

Start the Discussion Early

Talking about sexuality should start early in a child’s life on a level they can understand.

You can begin as children become curious or discover their genital parts. Parents can teach their child the function and proper biological names of these parts, to take away some of the silliness or giggling.

“You can teach them that these are just another part of the body,” says Dr. Beharry. “Just like the knee has a specific function, we have private parts for a special reason.”

Dr. Beharry also suggests talking about “good touch or “bad touch” with your child to protect them from the evils of sexual abuse. She says as many as one in four young women and one in six young men has  been a victim of sexual abuse.

“Parents need to remember they are the experts in this…They’ll explain things to the young person in the way they know best”.

“Parents need to remember they are the experts in this, in the context of the child and the family,” says Dr. Beharry. “They have had experiences, they know their children, and there’s nothing that they’ll say that’s wrong. They’ll explain things to the young person in the way they know best.”

If you are unsure how to start the discussion with your child, health professionals are willing to help you better explain the biology and give you some tips that are useful.

Make “The Talk” an Ongoing Conversation

“When you think about it, the entertainment industry is spending billions of dollars using sex and sexual imagery to sell products,” says Dr. Beharry. “Parents having a discussion every day would only begin to counteract some of the effects of the entertainment messages out there.”

Discussing sexuality early with your child may not be enough. Dr. Beharry suggests having multiple conversations with your child as they grow and mature into their body.

As your child goes through puberty, his or her body is going through many changes. It is wise for parents to use this time to talk to their child about their physical and emotional development, as well as dating. Discussing when your child will be ready to start dating and what they will look for in a partner are two places to start. Dr. Beharry cautions parents to never assume heterosexuality because many young people experiment with same-sex orientations while developing their sexual identity. Talking about gay, lesbian or bisexual orientations is also part of teaching about healthy sexual relationships.

Be Aware and Discuss the Risks

As you venture into conversations about sexuality with your children or teenagers, it is sensible to be aware of some of the risks or pressures facing them.

Pornography. Young people across the nation are being exposed to pornographic images at an alarming rate. According to a national study, the vast majority (87%) of youth who report looking for sexual images online are 14 years of age or older. Younger children who have looked at pornography are more likely to report traditional exposures, such as magazines or television.

Dr. Beharry suggests that exposure to pornography can lead to an unrealistic expectation of healthy sexuality. To combat this, professionals suggest limiting screen time, putting the computer in a public place, checking the child’s web history, and discussing suggestive movie scenes alongside your child.

Oral Sex. Another pressure facing young people is to engage in oral sex before vaginal intercourse. There is widespread misunderstanding about virginity, the risks or oral sex, and the implications of engaging in these activities.

Two-thirds of Americans aged 15 to 24 have engaged in oral sex, according to a broad new survey of young people’s sexual habits published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Statistics Reports (CDC), and about one-quarter of young people try oral sex before they engage in intercourse.

Physical Risks. Dr. Beharry says some young people don’t realize they can contract a sexually-transmitted disease through oral sex or vaginal sex. Additionally, she cites a CDC report stating the majority of young people do not use any type of birth control or condom at their first sexual act. This leads to risks including unplanned pregnancy and exposure to diseases including Chlamydia, gonorrhea, HPV or genital warts, and herpes, among others.

Emotional Risks. Talking to your teenager about the emotional risks of sexuality can also prepare them for possible pitfalls. One common emotional problem professionals see is young people who regret becoming sexually active at a young age. These youth may also be bullied or teased at school or struggle from the pain from a broken relationship.

Modeling Healthy Relationships. “Parents need to be aware that young people are and have been watching their interaction with other adults,” says Dr. Beharry. “Parents can help young people negotiate these relationships by talking about their own personal experiences with sexuality as well as the experiences of other friends and family members.”

As a parent, if you are concerned that your child may become or is already sexual active, it is a great time to take them to a health professional. Dr. Beharry and others will spend time with your adolescent and can talk about their sexual activity, risks, and future plans in a professional and safe environment.

Previous post:

Next post: