Beyond the Birds and the Bees

Why your kids need to talk to you about sex.

Admit it: It's easier to ask your boss for a raise than to talk to your child about sex. But a new national survey from Seventeen magazine and the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that these conversations are more crucial than ever.

The study of 15- to 17-year-olds found that close to half of the teens surveyed have never talked with their parents about sexual issues such as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, or even how to discuss their sexual decisions with a date. And nearly 40 percent of sexually active teens said their parents don't know they are having sex. Interestingly, a separate report from the University of Minnesota Adolescent Health Center had similar results, finding that half of all mothers of sexually active teenagers mistakenly believe their children are still virgins.

When children are younger, they'll often bring their sex-related questions to us, but teens are much more hesitant to start up a conversation about sexual issues. The Kaiser study reports that teens worry that their parents will think that mere curiosity means they are having sex. The vast majority (83 percent) of the teens surveyed said they didn't talk about sexual issues with their parents because they are worried about their parents' reaction.

Our kids need our help to figure out how their Christian values impact their sexuality. That's why we need to step out in faith and make conversations about sexual behavior as normal as conversations about math class.

Sarah Brown, director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, says that the best offense against early sexual activity is a parental relationship in which teenagers feel they can easily approach their parents, and parents who keep close tabs on their kids. That means knowing who their friends are and what they do together as well as providing a warm, loving environment for teens and their friends. "When a house is open to young people, there is this sense they can be themselves," says Brown.

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