Teen sex: A guide for parents

Last updated 11:05 21/03/2013
Teenage romance
YOUNG LOVE: Give teenagers the room to make mistakes.

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Everyone's at it, or so us teenagers are led to believe. That's right, teenagers are capable of talking about sex (eww, gross sex) as well. Except, suddenly, the eww gross factor isn't so relevant, because we the teenagers don't find it as gross as parents would like to hear.

Let's be honest here, teenagers are having sex. We're growing up in a highly sexualised culture - if you've watched any rap video, you'll know what I'm talking about. What was once a taboo subject is now everywhere, and teenagers are curious. Chances are, by the time we're 15, one of our friends will have had sex. By the time we're 16, some of our friends will have had it. At the ripe old age of 17 sex is almost a give in when entering a relationship with someone. I'm not trying to justify it, I'm just telling you that it's happening.

So the question is not, how do we prevent this horrible dreadful thing? The question is, how do we support teenagers to make good choices regarding sex?

As parents, unfortunately, when it comes to things like sex (in the broadest possible understanding of the word) these things will happen. Teenagers are exploring who they are as human beings, they're growing up and sex is one of those things that goes with that. So instead of stifling their growth and preventing them from having sex, the best thing to do (and while it's probably not the preferred option) is to allow your teenagers the space and freedom to have sex. You don't have to like it, but the best thing for your teenagers is to offer them the support and knowledge that they need in order to have safe sex.

Furthermore, it's important to ensure that they know how to have safe sex regardless of their sexuality. While heterosexual/straight sex can result in pregnancy without protection, it's vital that your teenagers know how to practice safe sex with members of the same sex as well. If they are straight, gay, or bisexual, or are having sex with someone of the same sex, it's important that they know how to prevent STIs.

Talking about sex and demystifying it is probably the easiest way to ensure that your teenagers are at the very least having safe sex. Create an open home environment where sex can be talked about and discussed in a way that's non-judgmental, where they feel safe talking about sex.

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Lastly, I'd like to remind you all that teenagers are not children, and frankly it's an insult to their intelligence to refer to them as such. While they are legally minors until they are 18, I think it's important to give credit where credit is due. The majority of teenagers aren't getting it too badly wrong. Teenagers deal with real world problems on what is sometimes a day to day basis. Decisions that they make can affect the rest of their lives. At the same time, everyone makes mistakes. Give your teenagers the room to make mistakes, because they will learn from them. By not allowing them to try something, they could potentially be missing out on really valuable life experience as well.

Erin Walsh is 17.

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