Talking to your teen about sex is never an easy conversation.  But here’s why it’s worth doing.  A 2016 review of more than three decades of research found that teenagers who communicated with their parents about sex used safer sexual practices.

So, does that mean parents should accept their teens want to have sex, and talk to them about engaging in it safely?  In today’s post, Cindy and Raquel answer the questions you may encounter as parents of teens.

Do we really need to accept our teens are having sex?

Cindy: While in high school, my teenager daughter told me her friend was having sex with her boyfriend. Her friend’s mother refused to take the girl to get birth control and told her daughter she didn’t think having sex in high school was appropriate. But the girl was having sex anyway. Behind her mother’s back. My daughter was concerned because her friend had told her the condom had broken during sex several times. My daughter’s friend asked her to go with to buy a pregnancy test.  When my daughter told me this story, my first reaction was “That’s just scary.”  It made me realize that if you don’t accept your teen is having sex with a boyfriend or girlfriend, you are fooling yourself.

Raquel: I agree that you need to accept it.  You may not like it.  But you can not be everywhere your teen is and you don’t want your teen to get pregnant . I would rather have the sex conversation than the pregnant conversation.  I think the best way to be parent is to  make sure your teen – girl or boy- is protected. If they have a boyfriend or girlfriend, chances are they are going to have  sex with or without your approval.

Do you just need to worry if you have a teen girl?

Raquel: I have a girl and a boy but being the mother of a boy scares me the most. You have no control over the teenage girl’s decision to keep a baby if she gets pregnant. Your son may not be ready or want to be a dad and the girl will make that decision for him whether he likes it or not. That’s what you need to tell him.

If you find out your teen is sexually active, do you let him or her have sex in your house? Would you rather they do it in the car, or at a park, or somewhere else?

Raquel: Of course you don’t want them to do that, but you also want them to be safe.  If they do have sex in my house, I would rather not know.

Cindy: I’m with you on that one Raquel.

Do you take your daughter to get birth control?

Raquel: Yes.  You need to build that trust. Some of the choices and decisions your daughter makes might not be one you would have made as a teenager, but it’s not about you. It’s about your teen and what’s best for her. If she asks you to take her to the doctor to get birth control, not bringing her does NOT mean your teen will not have sex. It just means she will have it without birth control.  You have to make a decision.

Cindy: I feel like teen girls should go on birth control their senior year of high school. They may not have sex until college or even after college, but at least you, the parent, can take her to get it and have a discussion about the responsibility that’s involved in being on the pill or some other form of birth control. It could also be a good time for the conversation about self respect.

Do you buy your son condoms?

Cindy: Yes. I bought a box and put it in the bathroom. I let my son know it was there. By the end of high school, all of his friends had used them. At least I knew they were all having safe sex.

If you learn your son or daughter is having sex on a regular basis with a love interest, do you let the parent of the other teen know ?

Raquel: No. It’s so personal. If the teen doesn’t want to share with his or her parent that’s his or her business. It’s that unspoken truth and you just don’t go there.  You don’t advertise it.

Cindy: Of course, that answer is much easier if you don’t have a relationship with the parent of the other teen. If it’s the son or daughter of a close friend, you will need to prod a little to find out what her or she has revealed.

You see a pregnancy test in the garbage. Do you ask your teen about it, or leave it alone?

Raquel:  I was in that situation and I did ask my daughter. It turned out it was a friend’s who didn’t want to do the test at her own home.  Whether or not that was true, I took that opportunity to tell my daughter to please make sure she doesn’t skip a day of her pill and I explained that being a teen mom wasn’t just a fun reality show.

When you have a conversation about the risks of sexual activity  — pregnancy, infection, the potential for heartbreak – do you also have a conversation about the rewards such as intimacy and love?

Cindy:  It’s easy to talk to teens about the risks. It’s much harder to talk to have a  conversation about why we are sexual beings, or how we express love. I once read that it’s better to have short meaningful conversations about sex and relationships over time than one big conversation they will brush off. I have tried to follow that advice. I think the most important thing is let your teen know they can talk about sex with you rather than being sneaky or hiding it.

Okay parents, we tackled some pretty awkward questions in this post. If you disagree with our answers or have your own take on these scenarios  please share, or send questions our way and we will do a follow up post.