Parent Tips

The tips on this page will help you develop better skills to build a healthy relationship with your teen.


Parents have the largest influence on their adolescent’s decisions about their sexual health, even ranking above friends! Research shows teens who have a good relationship and open communication with their parents wait longer to have sex. When they are ready, they are more likely to use contraception. In fact, 6 in 10 teens wish they could talk openly about sex with their parents. Because teens want their parent’s advice, it is important to be approachable so they feel comfortable coming to you with sexual health concerns and questions and will include you in making choices that are safe, reflect their values, and support their future goals and plans.

© The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy


Research shows that teens with active fathers make better sexual health decisions. A study conducted by the Power to Decide (formally known as The National Campaign) shows the majority of young women seek the advice of their fathers over their mothers about romantic relationships and sex. The study showed that fathers did not view themselves as influential regarding their daughter’s decisions about relationships and sex. However, the research showed that young people are looking to their parents (not just mom) for advice on relationships and sex.

It is imperative that fathers be open and prepared to talk to their son or daughter about sex, love, and relationships. Click here to learn more about how dads matter!

Tips to Have “The Talk”

Timing – Early and Often

Start the conversation early! Parents or caregivers can start the conversation using age-appropriate language to discuss relationships and intimacy. “The Talk” is not a one-time conversation. Parents may dread the “Where do babies come from?” question posed by their 5-year-old, however this can start the conversation that will be continued throughout their adolescent development.

Values and Attitudes – What is Sex?

Be clear about your own values and attitudes about sex, love, and relationships. It may not seem like it but teens want to know your values and attitudes about these subjects. Before you talk to your teen, consider your attitudes regarding teen dating, being sexually active, abstaining from sex, and contraception. When promoting abstinence, be sure to clearly define what sexual activity you want your adolescent to abstain from. It is important to be specific when you talk to your teen about your values and attitudes regarding sexual activity.

Listen – Be Open to Questions!

Just because your adolescent has questions about sex, does not mean they are engaging in it. Many teens say they are afraid their parents will “freak out” if they have questions about sex. Listen to their questions without assuming potential motives behind the question. Teens are exposed to sexual content in movies, music, social media, and magazines. This exposure raises a lot of questions that you can help answer. Keeping your answers short, simple, and factual can help address any uncomfortable feelings on either side.

Accurate and Mature Language – Keep it Real!

Use accurate and mature language when discussing sex with your teen. This can help establish the trust in your knowledge as a good source of information. Using slang terminology can cause embarrassment on both sides. If you don’t understand the terminology your teen is using, let them know! Asking what their slang means can help establish rapport and build trust as they see you actively engaging with them to understand their perspective.

Look It Up – Not Having all the Answers

It’s okay if you don’t know all the answers to your teen’s questions. Be honest with them if you don’t know the answer. You can suggest looking up the answer together. Remember this is an ongoing conversation, so if you don’t know the answer right away, you have time to look it up!

*Tips listed are a compilation of tips from resources below*

To learn more about how to start the conversation with your teen, check out these great resources!

» Are you an Askable Parent?

Supporting Sexual Differences in Your Teen

These articles present information on how you can address and support the needs and risks specific to the sexuality of your teen.


Parents can promote positive health outcomes in their teen’s transition into adulthood, including LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning) youth. LGBTQ youth are more likely to experience bullying, physical violence, and rejection compared to their heterosexual peers.

A supportive family environment can serve as a protective factor against depression, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, and contracting a sexually transmitted disease(s) such as HIV.

The following steps are recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how to support the health and well-being of your LGBTQ teen:


Visit the websites below for more resources to support your LGBTQ teen:

*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health: LGBT Youth. 2017; Accessed August 31, 2017.

Talk and Listen

Parents who talk with and listen to their teen in a way that invites an open discussion about sexual orientation can help their teen feel loved and supported. Parents should have honest conversations with their teens about sex and how to avoid risky behaviors and unsafe situations.

Stay Involved

Parents who make an effort to know their teen’s friends and know what their teen is doing can help their teen stay safe and feel cared about.

Provide Support

Parents who take time to come to terms with how they feel about their teen’s sexual orientation will be better able to respond calmly and use respectful language. Parents should develop common goals with their teen, including being healthy and doing well in school.

Be Proactive

Parents can access many organizations and online information resources to learn more about how they can support their LGBTQ teen, other family members, and their teen’s friends.


Are you an approachable parent?

  1. The best time to start talking with your child about sex and sexuality is around the age they start to have sex.


    Talking with your child about sex and sexuality should start at a young age. Children are curious about their bodies and if you initiate the conversation early, not only does if let your child know you are open to communication but it also takes the stress of The Talk off your shoulders.

  2. The best setting to talk to your kids about sex is:

    At the dinner table with all family members present
    One on one with them on the couch
    While engaging in an activity such as hiking or cooking

    Talking with kids about sex can be awkward for them. You don’t want to bring up uncomfortable conversation with lots of people around but you don’t want all the attention on them either. Studies show teens communicate best in uncomfortable situations when all the attention isn’t on the topic. Your teen will feel more comfortable talking to you because they can focus on the activity rather than the awkwardness of the conversation.

  3. When you are talking to your teen about sex, the best approach is to:

    Know all the information and instruct your teen over all the facts
    Tell them about what it was like when you were their age
    Provide an open conversation where both of you can share thoughts and ask questions
    Sit back and listen while they tell you everything

    The last thing your kids want to hear about is how it was when you were their age. Times have changed and things are different now. It is important for you to know the facts and to be a good listener but your kids still need some direction. It is important to lead the conversation but make the communication open so your teen feels comfortable to ask you questions and share their feelings.

  4. Your son or daughter shares with you that they are thinking about having sex. Your reaction is to:

    Tell them the thought of having sex at their age is completely out of the question
    Drive them to the health center and get them every type of birth control imaginable
    Ask them why they are having these feelings and listen carefully to their responses so you can offer them the best advice and resources when making the decision
    Talk to them in a loud and stern voice so they understand why this decision is such a terrible one

    One important characteristic to being an askable parent is to not overreact in tough situations. This is a rough time in your teen’s life and by overreacting you are only showing you aren’t open to their feelings and that they can’t come to you with their concerns. Don’t overwhelm your teen with information or resources because you are nervous about this new step in their life. It is better to address specific concerns or questions with simple answers in mature language they can understand.

  5. Your son or daughter comes home from school and tells you that their classmate just found out she was pregnant. In this situation you:

    Tell them you never did like that girl and that it is probably her fault because of her choices in friends
    Start a conversation about how this happened and how it could have been avoided
    Ignore the conversation completely. Your son or daughter already makes good choices and would never end up in a situation like their classmate
    Nod your head in acknowledgment so your son or daughter is aware you heard them and then return to what you were doing

    Opportunities like this will come up frequently during your child’s adolescence. Take advantage of these occasions to talk to your child about safe sex and healthy relationships while leaving the conversation open so they can share their feelings on these situations as well.