Talking to Teenagers about Sex and Values

Talking to teenagers about sexuality is never an easy thing for parents. Many parents feel inadequate and worried they will be asked something they don’t know how to answer. They are uncomfortable and afraid to bring up something before a child is ready. It isn’t hard to see that children and teenagers today are bombarded with messages about sex through the media, their peers, and the internet. This is happening more and more. Consequently, there are many misconceptions that young people have about sexual intimacy. As society pushes more varied messages towards teens and children, it has become even more important for parents to teach their children clear values and facts about how to manage their sexuality. 

The National Physicians Center for Family Resources released a booklet entitled, Sex Q & A: Kids’ Questions- Parents’ Answers in 2011 to offer a guide for parents in answering a variety of questions. In this booklet, research and information on adolescent development, pregnancy, sexual diseases, adolescent self-esteem, and relationships are explained by medical professionals in an understandable way. Here are some guidelines on having a conversation with kids about sex, taken from this resource:


Having a Successful Conversation about Sex with Your Children

  • When young children ask questions, give them clear answers with adequate detail.  But don’t start explaining any more than they ask for. Often, they really want just the answer to their question and nothing more. Use correct terminology and be direct enough to avoid confusion. 
  • Set high standards for your children that reflect your family’s values, and help your children know that you believe in their capacity to meet them. 
  • Make yourself available for your child. Show him that you will listen to the little things; gradually he may open up more about the really important things. 
  • Be honest if you do not know the answer to a question.
  • Emphasize the positive aspects of sex in marriage and of abstinence before marriage.
  • Remember that adolescents, whose brain areas are still developing reasoning skills, are likely to make more impulsive decisions based on feelings and immediate consequences. In addition to talking about the long-term consequences of sexual decisions, be sure to discuss with your child the short-term consequences of decisions. These include missing out on things due to being pregnant and not being able to do as well in sports or school. 
  • Model responsible behavior for your child. Your child will likely not apply the values you want them to learn if they do not see you live them.
  • Be aware of what curriculum your child is being taught in sex education at school. If there are messages that are not in harmony with your values, find a way for your child to be excused.
  • Create a relationship with your child in which she knows that you will love her even if she makes mistakes, and in which she feels that she can always turn to you and speak about things should she fail to meet the standards. 


“According to many scientific surveys and studies, American parents and their adolescents overwhelmingly agree that sexual issues should be taught in the home. However, over one-third of adolescents recently surveyed say they have never had a helpful conversation about sex with their parents.” -National Physicians Center: Sex Q &A

Take responsibility for ensuring that your children have the guidance and information to help them not only avoid serious health and emotional problems but reach their true potential. 


* The book, Sex Q & A: Kids’ Questions- Parents’ Answers can be purchased from



Lightfoot, D., Anderson, J., Austin, M., Barham, D., Bedsole, G., Bell, R., … Yearwood, T. (2011). Sex Q &A: Kids’ questions- parents’ answers. Birmingham: The National Physicians Center for Family Resources. 


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3 Responses to “Talking to Teenagers about Sex and Values”

  1. Dr. Cretella December 30, 2019 at 10:56 am #

    Be sure to check out ACPeds Resources at this link:

  2. William Hammond December 31, 2019 at 5:57 am #

    I agree that children should be given answers, as and when they ask questions, with just enough information given to satisfy their curiosity. That way, children learn about sex in incremental stages. In the school setting, this incremental approach is impossible. In any one classroom, there will be children in various stages of emotional developmental and also large age differences depending on the time of enrollment. Many will not want, or even be ready to receive this information. The option of removing children from sex-ed may reassure some parents but I see this as a diversion. Children talk to each other all the time. Of course, the liberal / left argument is that many parents are simply not up to the job of teaching their own children. Sadly there is some truth in this, but the solution is not for schools to take over. The solution is to enable parents by teaching them how to teach their own children.

  3. Randolph Matthews January 1, 2020 at 3:32 pm #

    I agree with the point about having high expectations. So often folks give kids a confusing message when they say “it is BEST not to have sex outside of marriage but we know you will likely do it so here are the ways to prevent pregnancy and disease>” That almost makes teens feel like “if I am not having sex, there must be something wrong with me.”

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