As a parent, one of your most important roles is to be a good listener so that your kids can share their concerns with you openly and honestly. The best thing you can do for your teens is be an “askable” parent.
Being askable is very important when it comes to sensitive issues like sex. Research shows that teens who know the least about sex experiment more and at earlier ages than teens who have more information. Research also shows when young people are able to talk with a parent or other trusted adult about using contraception or condoms they are less likely to have early or unsafe sex than teens who have no trusted adult with whom to talk.
Being askable is so important, but many adults have difficulty talking about sex with their kids. Here are some suggestions that may help you.
1. Think about your own feelings and values about sex. Remember how it was when you were a teenager. Think about how you feel now about things like birth control, women’s roles, and what teens and their parents should tell each other.
2. Talk with your teens about your thoughts. Be ready to listen more than to speak. Remember that openness and respect are always the basis for good relationships. Listening to each other is the best way to understand each other.
3. Encourage your teens to take charge of their own health. Support your teens in making and keeping health care appointments.
4. Learn about emergency birth control pills (also called emergency contraception, the morning after pill, or Plan B®), how they work, when to take them, their side effects, and where young women can get them. Click here to get the facts. Then talk to your teens about them. Make sure your teen understands these facts about emergency birth control pills:
- Emergency birth control pills are not the abortion pill. Emergency birth control prevents pregnancy. It does not end it.
- Emergency birth control pills must be used within three days of unprotected sex to be most effective.
- Emergency birth control pills do not provide protection against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Make sure your teen has condoms and knows how to use them!
5. Encourage your teen to have emergency birth control pills on hand ‘just in case.’ Help her find a provider and get a prescription for the pills, then help her find a pharmacist who keeps them in stock and will fill your teen’s prescription. If she is 18 or over, help her find a pharmacy that stocks Plan B® when it becomes available without a prescription in 2007.
6. Respect your teen’s need for privacy with his/her health care provider. Young people need private time with their doctor or nurse practitioner in order to be able to ask questions freely, especially about difficult and personal issues. It’s important for your teen to get the health care she/he needs.
For more ideas and guidance from sex education experts, click here.