Drugs, Alchohol, and Sex

by Super User

Risky behaviors like alcohol and drug use, and teen sexual activity are not isolated behaviors.  Often decisions about these activities occur simultaneously.  It is difficult to say which comes first, or that one leads to the other, but facts show that for many teens, alcohol and drug use are closely tied to sexual activity and other risk taking.   In fact, one study found that teens aged 15 and older who drink are 7 times more likely to have sexual intercourse.[1]

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What Your Kids Want to Know

by Super User


When should I talk to my child about sex?

Although there is no “right” age, since each child, family and situation is different, it is a reality that children are exposed to sexual content at earlier and earlier ages.  You want your child’s primary information to come from you; not their friends, and certainly not the media.  Waiting until they are 14 or 15 is too late; studies show that some students are becoming sexually active in the 6th and 7th grades. Start talking very early: talk to your child about friendships and love in grade school.  Around age 8, consider telling your child about the way that parents show their love and make babies. Keep it simple; you don’t need to go into great detail with diagrams.  Stress how beautiful sex can be, and that it is something special to be shared between two committed adults.

My child is only 11.  How do I inform her without giving too much information?

When answering questions or providing information to preteens, you do not need to go into graphic detail. Younger children are often curious in a factual way, and are satisfied with simple answers. Be clear, and open. Above all, be sure to convey your values and expectations. 

I didn’t wait until I was married to have sex, but I definitely want my child to wait.  How do remain truthful with my child, but not send a mixed message?

First and foremost, don’t lie to your child. But DO remember that your past experiences certainly do not need to be the focus of your talk.  Unless your child specifically asks or brings up your history, you should center the conversation on your child’s feelings and your expectations.  If your behavior is addressed, you could choose to share reasons why you became sexually active.  Focus on how things are different today, such as now there are more STI/STDs.  Enforce the idea that you have high expectations for your child.  You know he or she is capable of living up to your standards.

Our lives are so busy!  How can I find the time and space to really talk with my child?

The “talk” does not need to be a big production.  There are different issues surrounding your child’s sexuality that can be addressed singly.  For example, when watching a movie with an explicit love scene, ask your child what he or she thinks about the fact that through TV we are put in other people’s bedrooms each day.  Or use normal life experiences, like a friend’s pregnancy to open up lines of discussion.  It is also a good idea to start conversations in the car.  Teens are actually more open to having serious discussions in the car, and with your busy schedule it may be the only place to have your child’s undivided attention.

I don’t think that I know all the answers.  Where can I find resources to help me inform my child?

There are lots of organizations and printed resources designed to give parents information and tools to help educate their children.  Look through this website, and the list of additional resources (link) for more contacts and materials.  Please DO preview any material you give your child.  All sex education materials vary; some may be very graphic, or promote a behavior that is not consistent with your value system.

I’m just really uncomfortable talking to my child about sex.  My parents never had “the talk” with me and I’m not sure if I can do it now.

Talking about sex can be hard for anyone at any time. Despite the media’s treatment, most people view sex as an extremely private and intimate act.  Some people even view sex as shameful or they’ve had negative experiences.  Those feelings about sex can be difficult to overcome.  But you need to talk to your child if you want your child to make healthy decisions.  Start by educating yourself about some of the behaviors and pressures that affect teens today. You’ll feel more confident if you know what’s going on.  This can include looking through a teen magazine, watching a TV show that your teen regularly watches, and asking your child and his or her friends general questions about what the most important things are to them.  Then, keep your radar out for a good moment to start talking to your child.  While discussing, try to relax and remain calm.  You are the parent, but be sure to listen to your child.  If your child is very uncomfortable too, you may need to bring up the subject several times before the discussion really takes off.  Try various techniques, like story-telling or using humor to break tension and think about rewarding a good discussion with a fun outing.  Keep trying, it will pay off.

I think my child is already sexually active.  What should I say?

Begin an open conversation.  Express your concern for your child and tell him or her that there is nothing that he or she can’t tell you.  If your child has been sexually active, don’t judge. Your initial response may be one of anger or disappointment; however, yelling at your child isn’t going to gain anything.  Talk about some of the reasons your child chose to have sex; there may be other issues in your child’s life that need to be addressed.  Then stress the choice of “secondary virginity” or a renewed commitment to abstinence.  Sexual abstinence is a way of life that anyone, regardless of past experiences, can choose to follow.  Someone who has been sexually active often has compelling reasons to recommit to abstinence, and refocus on his or her future goals and positive friendships.

So, how many teens really are sexually active?

Maybe less than you’d think, but a lot more than we would hope! The most recent statistics show that 46% of high school students have been, or are, sexually active.[1] This is the lowest that teen sexual activity has been in years. As the age of students rise, however, so does the likelihood that they have had sex. Where 34% of 9th graders report sexual activity, 61% of high school seniors say the same. You need to continue to talk with your child about sex.  Having the talk once in middle school is not enough.

What’s this I hear about an STI/STD epidemic?

It’s true.  Due to the number of STI/STDs, it is more accurate to talk about numerous epidemics.  Just as an example, over 65 million people are currently living with an incurable (but treatable) STI/STD in this country.  Over half - 45 million - of them are infected with Herpes.[2]  That’s more than the entire population of Canada!  Teens are particularly at risk of contracting an STI/STD.  One out of every four new infections occurs in a teen, and these infections often go untreated for a period of time.

My child just started a sex education class in school.  I’m not sure what is being taught. What should I do?

It is a great opportunity to talk to your son or daughter. Instead of saying, “What did you learn today?” ask, “Tell me about one thing you learned in (teacher’s name) class.” Follow that up with, “How did you feel about that?” Or, “It is wonderful to learn about how the body works.”

Most schools include a review process for sex education materials; be sure to take advantage of these opportunities. If you are concerned about the information your child is learning, you might want to speak with the teacher. It’s best to take a friendly approach with the teacher, especially if you haven’t already established a relationship. It’s possible your child is reporting what is being said on the playground rather than in the classroom.

What is abstinence, and is it really something teens do?

Abstinence is a decision to wait to have sex, and it’s a commitment that a growing number of teens are making. A commitment to abstinence means not having sexual intercourse, and not participating in the sexual activities that lead up to intercourse.  Teens decide to abstain for a variety of reasons such as avoiding health risks such as STI/STDs or teen pregnancy, adherence to a value system, or just not feeling ready. Abstinence education is much more than learning to say, “no,” (though that is important too). It involves learning life skills such as establishing and maintaining positive relationships and goal-setting skills.

[1] CDC: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, 2001 Survey Results

[2] CDC:Tracking the Hidden Epidemics, Trends in STDs in the United States 2000” - Published in 2000