According to a 2011 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 34 percent of teens had sex in the three months prior to the survey and nearly 40 percent of those did not use a condom. Teen sex can lead to unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and even moral issues that may trouble teens. It’s not feasible for parents to watch their teens at all times, but there are actions you can take to discourage your teen from having sex.
Express Your Own Beliefs and Values
Children often adopt their parents' values and the chances are good that you've been communicating your values when it comes to sex to your child all along, at least by example. Even so, let your teen know where you stand on sexual activity in teens, what you would expect out of a relationship if you were in her position, and how you feel about sex before marriage. Use your own teenage years as a model for how you talk to your teen about your values and beliefs; if you were sexually active at a young age, explain why you believe she shouldn't make the same choice. Discuss the difference between love and sexual desire, and talk about how the two can sometimes be confused.
Monitor Your Teen’s Activities and Friends
According to Planned Parenthood, teenagers are less likely to engage in risky behaviors -- including sex -- when an adult is nearby. If there’s a gap in time from when she comes home from school and you come home from work, have her go to a neighbor or friend’s house where an adult is present, or if that’s not possible, set firm boundaries with her, letting her know it’s unacceptable for anyone to be in the house when you’re not there. Get to know your teen’s friends and their parents. Teenagers are highly influenced by their peers, so make sure she’s not hanging out with other kids that might pressure her to become sexually active. Make sure if your teen is at a friend’s house or party that there is an adult present to help deter sexual activity among the kids. Being aware of where your teen is and who she is with at all times can not only help discourage her from having sex, but may also prevent her from becoming involved in other risky activities.
Talk About the Risks
Perhaps the best line of defense to help prevent teen sex is to talk to your teen early and often about the risks of engaging in sexual activity. Expressing your moral views on sex is a start, but talking to her about the health consequences of sex might do the trick. Most teens know that unprotected sex can lead to pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, but give her some hard facts. Tell her that the CDC reports in 2009, more than 8,000 people between 13 and 24 years old had HIV and over 400,000 teen girls gave birth that year as well. There are 19 million new cases of STDs every year and almost half of those are people aged 15 to 24. Let your teen know that even if she thinks she’s being careful -- using a condom or other form of contraceptive -- the only fool-proof way to not contract an STD or become pregnant is abstinence. Further, explain to the teen how pregnancy and diseases can affect their entire lives, their future and their dreams, and always let your teen know that although you disapprove greatly of teen sex and hope she will make the right choices, you are there for her if she ever needs to talk about feeling pressured to have sex or concerns if she’s already had sex.
Set Dating Boundaries
Teens are undoubtedly interested in dating, but dating often leads to sex, so don’t encourage your child to date. Planned Parenthood notes that teenagers who begin dating at an early age are more likely to engage in sexual activity. They recommend not allowing steady dating before the age of 16 and even after that age, not to let your teen date anyone significantly older and discourage getting in a serious relationship. You don’t have to forbid your teenager from dating -- this may make her want to date even more -- but don’t encourage it.
- The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy: Ten Tips for Parents
- Planned Parenthood: Keeping Teens Healthy by Setting Boundaries
- Planned Parenthood: Parenting Teens Who May Be Sexually Active
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Sexual Risk Behavior: HIV, STD, & Teen Pregnancy Prevention