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U.S. News

When Teens Are Having Sex

July 10, 2009

How parents respond to the news that their teen is having sex can open communication lines, or sever them, at a key time in the child's life, according to Maureen Lyon, a clinical psychologist at Children's National Medical Center in Washington.

Lyon and Christina Breda Antoniades recently wrote a guide that aims to steer parents toward appropriate ways to respond to such a revelation: "My Teen Has Had Sex, Now What Do I Do?" (Fair Winds Press).

"We wanted to provide ways kids and parents could talk," said Lyon. In her work, she sees the results of poor parent-teen communication on the topic: STDs, unwed pregnancies, and broken relationships.

Though many parents prefer to think that their teen is not sexually active, the book cites statistics that suggest otherwise: 17 percent of seventh- and eighth-graders have had sex at least once, as have 33 percent of ninth-graders, 44 percent of 10th-graders, 56 percent of 11th-graders, and 65 percent of 12th-graders.

Lyon said parents should try to adopt as neutral and non-judgmental a tone as possible. Arguing and screaming often serve only to inflame an already difficult situation, she cautioned. "This can be a teachable moment about the value of sex in the context of a relationship," said Lyon. "It doesn't have to end up being a power struggle."

"First, find the right time, a time when you'll be uninterrupted and calm, and a private place to speak truthfully from your heart," Lyon suggests. "Second, share with your teen what your values are and what your concerns are. Third, now that he or she has engaged in adult sexual behavior, let them know you have scheduled an appointment to meet with their pediatrician or adolescent medicine or family doctor for a checkup."

Back to other news for July 2009

Adapted from:
Detroit Free Press
06.21.2009; Cassandra Spratling

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Quiz: Are You at Risk for HIV?
10 Common Fears About HIV Transmission
More HIV Prevention Guides for Parents


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