Talking with Your Teenager/Rangatahi about Safer Sex – English version
Parenting teenagers can be exciting and rewarding. It can also be a challenge. Your teenager learns from watching you, however they may also learn by experimenting and risk-taking. You may worry about the choices they are making or worry that their friends have a negative influence on what they do.
Should you talk to them about sex; or are you better to say nothing and trust their judgement?
This pamphlet will give you some information on how to start talking with your teenager about safer sex and protection from pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It can be hard to talk about sex with your teenager, but it is important that you do. We know that teens who talk to their parents about safer sex are more likely to make healthy choices and protect themselves.
STIs – The Facts
- STIs, especially chlamydia and gonorrhoea, are increasing among young people.
- Rates of these infections in New Zealand are many times higher than rates reported in Australia and the UK.
- STIs can lead to infertility (being unable to have children) or cause complications during and after pregnancy.
- They can be painful, cause a discharge, itching and bleeding. They can also have no symptoms and be unnoticed.
- The risk of getting an STI, including HIV, is greatly reduced by using a condom during sex.
Questions and Answers
How many young people are having sex?
We know that many young New Zealanders are having sex. One study found that over 20 percent of secondary school students were sexually active, while others suggest that 30 to 40 percent of 14 and 15 year olds are having sex.
Will talking to my teenager about using condoms make them more likely to have sex?
No, talking about condoms and sex will not increase the chance that your teenager will have sex. However it does increase the likelihood that they will use condoms if they do have sex. Condoms give protection from unplanned pregnancies and STIs.
How do young people find out about safer sex?
Parents have a vital role in teaching young people about sexual health. We know that young people also get information from other sources. A 2001 New Zealand survey found that school was the main source of information about sexual health for school students, followed by friends, then parents, magazines, books and television.
Is it true that if an STI is left untreated it could cause infertility?
Yes – untreated infection can go on to cause pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility (the inability to have children). It is also possible for a baby to be infected during childbirth.
How you can help your teenager protect themselves
Discuss the wider issues
Teenagers/rangatahi need to know the facts about STIs and the need for safer sex. Understanding that sexual relationships also involve caring, concern and responsibility is important as well. Discussing the emotional aspects of a sexual relationship will enable teenagers to make better decisions in their relationships.
Consider the world you teenager lives in
Young people are constantly receiving messages about how to behave sexually from the media, youth culture, friends, family, religion, and music. These messages can be exciting and persuasive; misleading, conflicting and confusing. Ensure your voice is the voice of reason and includes many positive messages.
It is helpful for young people to think about their own values about sex and sexuality, and decide what they feel comfortable with before getting into a sexual situation. It’s OK to say 'no' to sex. They need the skills to say 'no' if that's what they choose. They also need to know how to protect themselves if they do have sex.
Give clear and simple messages
Using condoms during sex can give protection from pregnancy and infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and HIV. An untreated infection can lead to complications during pregnancy and may result in infertility.
Condoms must be used correctly and used every time a person has sex to be effective.
Provide further information
There are a number of resources on sex and sexuality developed for young people. These include information about STIs and safer sex. Have these available to reinforce your messages.
Contact your local Family Planning or Sexual Health Service. Family Planning has several useful resources for young people and parents including:
Open and honest – a booklet for families on how to communicate with children about sex and sexuality.
Your Choice – a booklet for young people making decisions about sex, relationships, drugs and alcohol.
For further information:
- Family Planning education courses for parents, information about puberty and teenage sexuality – www.familyplanning.org.nz
- Local Iwi health organisations
- The Word - www.theword.org.nz
- Presbyterian Support Services – www.ps.org.nz
- Relationships Aotearoa – www.relationshipsaotearoa.org.nz
Remember, the message to your teenager is simple: If they are having sex, they should use a condom – every time.