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:

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:

The Facts Printable:

  • Instead of asking your teen what they are doing or thinking about doing sexually, ask about others or whether they’ve heard of a particular behavior or trend. For example, “Who of your friends are in relationships now?” or “Are kids starting to have sex, or not yet?” “I heard something on the radio today about teens taking other people’s phones and texting porn videos to other people. Is that really happening?”
  • Make sure you talk as much about what not to do to others as you do about what they should do if someone harasses or assaults them. Talk about not being just a bystander, but speaking out if something happens to someone else.
  • Talk to your teens about digital safety including what to avoid posting online, the consequences of sexting, and cyberbullying.
  • “You can always talk with me if you feel you or anyone you know is in an unhealthy relationship. If you or they don’t feel you can come to me or another trusted adult, go online to “Break the Cycle.”
  • “The only 100% effective way of avoiding an STD or avoid getting pregnant when you don’t want to be is by not having unprotected, vaginal, oral, or anal sex. If you do have sex, using internal or external condoms can really help reduce your risk of getting an infection, and using birth control can reduce your risk of getting pregnant.”
  • “Technology and social media are fun, great ways of being able to communicate and share things with other people. It’s never okay, though, to forward private texts or photos to other people without someone’s permission. If you send partly or fully naked photos of yourself to someone – even a romantic partner – you may have broken the law. And you may have opened the other person to break the law because they have possession of those photos.”
  • “You should never do anything sexual with another person you don’t want to do. It doesn’t matter if you’ve already done it before, even with that person. You should never force or pressure another person into doing something sexual they don’t want to do. If they are hesitant, assume they really don’t want to, and stop. And remember, you can only give consent if you and the other person are sober and not under the influence of drugs or alcohol”
  • “I want you to have a boyfriend/girlfriend who respects you.”
  • “I want you to have a boyfriend/girlfriend you feel really comfortable being around.”
  • “I want you to enjoy your relationship with your boyfriend/girlfriend and enjoy fulfilling and healthy relationships with other people who care for you.”

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.

There are lots of ways to get involved in your child’s education. Reach out and connect with your local school board, school administrators, teachers, support staff, as well as other community organizations for inspiration and resources. 

School-based Resources: Visit the school’s website to locate contact information for the following staff. Reach out to them with your questions or concerns:

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:

Social Emotional Learning

Responsible Decision Making

How can I help my child . . .

  • recognize and handle peer pressure
  • make safe, healthy, responsible choices
Social Emotional Learning


How can I help my child . . .

  • get/stay organized and manage their time responsibly?
  • take initiative and develop independence?, (communicate problems and ask for what they need, stay organized, and set and reach goals)
  • be responsible and reliable?
  • better manage stress and strong emotions?
Social Emotional Learning

Social Awareness

How can I help my child . . . 

  • recognize others’ emotions and develop empathy?
  • be aware of their own impact on others?
  • be open to and accepting of differences?