Umatter for Families logo

Puberty, Sexual Health, And Education

  • How can I help my teen learn about and manage their sexual health? (include some gender sexual identity here as well as a link to Self-awareness, SEL section)
  • How can I help keep my child safe from sexual abuse? 
  • How can I recognize signs of sexual abuse? 
  • What should I do if I think my child has been abused?

How can I help my teen learn about and manage their sexual health?

  • Discuss and reinforce the benefits of delaying sexual activity.
  • Promote birth control and STD prevention to help them reduce risk and protect their health if and when they become sexually active.
  • Encourage your child to evaluate their relationships. Reinforce that healthy relationships are built on trust and equal power.
  • Ensure that they know how to say “no.” Explain what mutual consent means and why it is important.
  • Share where they can access sexual and reproductive health care services in your community.

What is sexuality?  (Use the wheel and add some descriptions)

What Your Child Needs From You

As children enter their teen years, they generally look to their friends for answers and information. It’s important your teen knows they can come to you. At this age, your teen may still have many questions that they won’t ask about.

At this stage of development, teens should know all of the information from birth to 12 years old, plus know:

Why It Matters 

As children make their way through the teen years, they will keep looking to their friends for answers and information. Being approachable is important so your teen knows they can come to you when they need you. At this age, teens still have many questions that they won’t ask about.

Teens in this stage of development should know all the information from birth to 15 years old, plus know:

Check In:

Take this brief survey to identify your child’s strengths and areas for further development in some key sexual health skills.

Connect & Communicate:

Breaking The Ice

Sex is a staple subject of news, entertainment, and advertising. It’s often hard to avoid this ever-present topic. But when parents and teens need to talk, it’s not always so easy. If you wait for the perfect moment, you might miss the best opportunities.

Instead, think of sex education as an ongoing conversation. Here are some ideas to help you get started — and keep the discussion going.

  • Seize the moment. When a TV program or music video raises issues about responsible sexual behavior, use it as a springboard for discussion. Remember that everyday moments — such as riding in the car or putting away groceries — sometimes offer the best opportunities to talk.
  • Be honest. If you’re uncomfortable, say so — but explain that it’s important to keep talking. If you don’t know how to answer your teen’s questions, offer to find the answers or look them up together.
  • Be direct. Clearly state your feelings about specific issues, such as oral sex and intercourse. Present the risks objectively, including emotional pain, sexually transmitted infections, and unplanned pregnancy. Explain that oral sex isn’t a risk-free alternative to intercourse.
  • Consider your teen’s point of view. Don’t lecture your teen or rely on scare tactics to discourage sexual activity. Instead, listen carefully. Understand your teen’s pressures, challenges, and concerns.
  • Move beyond the facts. Your teen needs accurate information about sex — but it’s just as important to talk about feelings, attitudes, and values. Examine questions of ethics and responsibility in the context of your personal or religious beliefs.
  • Invite more discussion. Let your teen know that it’s OK to talk with you about sex whenever he or she has questions or concerns. Reward questions by saying, “I’m glad you came to me.”

Addressing tough topics

Sex education for teens includes abstinence, date rape, homosexuality, and other tough topics. Be prepared for questions like these:

  • How will I know I’m ready for sex? Various factors — peer pressure, curiosity, and loneliness, to name a few — steer some teenagers into early sexual activity. But there’s no rush. Remind your teen that it’s OK to wait. Sex is adult behavior. In the meantime, there are many other ways to express affection — intimate talks, long walks, holding hands, listening to music, dancing, kissing, touching, and hugging.
  • What if my boyfriend or girlfriend wants to have sex, but I don’t? Explain that no one should have sex out of a sense of obligation or fear. Any form of forced sex is rape, whether the perpetrator is a stranger or someone your teen has been dating.
    Impress upon your teen that no always means no. Emphasize that alcohol and drugs impair judgment and reduce inhibitions, leading to situations in which date rape is more likely to occur.
  • What if I think I’m gay? Many teens wonder at some point whether they’re gay or bisexual. Help your teen understand that he or she is just beginning to explore sexual attraction. These feelings may change as time goes on. And if they don’t, that’s perfectly fine.
    A negative response to your teen’s questions or assertions that he or she is gay can have negative consequences. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth who lack family acceptance are at increased risk of sexually transmitted infections, substance abuse, depression, and attempted suicide. Family acceptance can protect against these risks.
    Above all, let your teen know that you love him or her unconditionally. Praise your teen for sharing his or her feelings. Listen more than you speak.

It’s important that your conversations with your teen not focus just on the consequences of risky sexual behaviors. Many teens receive these messages in health education classes or elsewhere. As a parent, you have the opportunity to have discussions with your teen about other related topics. You can

  • Talk about healthy, respectful relationships.
  • Communicate your own expectations for your teen about relationships and sex.
  • Provide factual information about ways to prevent HIV, STDs, and pregnancy (e.g., abstinence, condoms and contraception, and HIV/STD testing).
  • Focus on the benefits of protecting oneself from HIV, STDs, and pregnancy.
  • Provide information about where your teen can speak with a provider and receive sexual health services, such as HIV/STD testing.

Conversation Starters:

  • What would your ideal relationship be like?
  • What are you looking for in a boyfriend/girlfriend?
  • What comes to your mind when you think of real love?
  • What do you think an abusive relationship would look and feel like?
  • Do you know anyone who has a healthy relation

Responsible Decision Making around Sex


  • If you are watching a movie or TV show with open homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, or unhealthy behavior, point it out. Talk about why that’s wrong, comparing it to other prejudices that are also wrong to laugh at. If you get pushback from your teen, you can remind them of something they might have experienced themselves and remind them that just because something is a joke does not make it ok.
  • Print the worksheet, “My Boundaries”. Ask your teen to complete one and complete one yourself, then compare your answers.
  • Talk with your teen about what they’d consider being abusive vs. healthy behaviors in a relationship. Ask them to complete the “Is It Abuse If…?” worksheet, and complete one yourself. Discuss your answers, especially the situations under which you might consider changing your answers.

Go to the doctor or health center with your teen and ask them to have some one-on-one time with the healthcare provider. This will help your child prepare to visit the doctor on their own. You can also show them where to find a clinic on our clinic map and help them make an appointment to go on their own.

Continue Learning:

LGBTQ youth

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) youth are twice as likely as their peers to say they have been physically assaulted and kicked or shoved at school. Twenty-six percent of LGBTQ youth say one of their biggest problems is not feeling accepted by their family. Clearly, it’s important for youth to feel supported and accepted by their families, but navigating how to support your teen – whether they are out or thinking about coming out – can be tricky.

Here are some resources to help you support your LGBTQ teen:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Umatter® for Families High School Resources

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The terms diversity, equity, and inclusion have become household words. These topics have been highlighted in recent times by nationwide race-related protests and social unrest.

Family Relationships and Wellness

Children feel secure and loved when they have strong and positive family relationships. Positive family relationships help families resolve conflict, work as a team and enjoy each other’s company. Positive family relationships are built on quality time, communication, teamwork, and appreciation of each other.

Internet Safety and Social Media

In our modern society, social media is one of the most common ways we communicate with one another. As parents, our main goal is to keep our children safe and healthy. One important way to help them stay safe is to teach them social media safety habits.

Mental Health

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Physical Health and Nutrition

Good nutrition, physical activity, and healthy body weight are essential parts of a person’s overall health and well-being.

Social Emotional Learning

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is an integral part of human development. SEL is the process that helps people develop healthy identities, manage emotions, feel empathy for others, maintain supportive relationships with friends or family members as well as make responsible decisions.

Supporting School Success

Parental involvement, such as attending school functions like back-to-school nights and concerts or volunteering in the library, is as important as helping with homework. Many working parents find it particularly hard to be a presence in their children’s school. However, research indicates that it is worth the effort.