It’s the conversation practically every parent dreads: Talking about the birds and the bees with your kids. You know it’s going to be a little awkward. And some parents might even delay it, thinking that it could lead to your kids becoming more sexually active. But we have some good news: Talking about sex with your kids actually influences them to have safer sex, and doesn’t up the odds of them becoming sexually active sooner, according to new research.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, followed almost 12,500 9- to 18-year-olds and measured the effects that early sex talks with parents, including talking about safe sex practices and sexual health, had on teens. Those with parents who had open discussions were more likely to use condoms and be honest with their parents about sexual experiences. The chats had a deeper impact on some teens more than others, particularly those who had the talk at age 14 or younger, ones targeted to black or Hispanic youth, and talks that took 10 hours or longer.
“These are variables that make sense intuitively: reaching kids when they’re younger and, often, more willing to listen; involving both parents and adolescents; spending more time on the subject matter — none of those are particularly surprising,” Laura Widman, assistant professor of psychology at North Carolina State University (NCSU) in Raleigh and study first author, said in a news release.
Another bonus for moms and dads: Talking about sex with your kids didn’t influence the age when they started having sex. “In other words, the kids who were taught about sexual health did not become sexually active any earlier than kids who were not part of the interventions — but kids who were part of the interventions were more likely to use condoms when they did become sexually active,” Widman has said.
The study also found that dads were also very effective at giving The Talk. “We found only one intervention that targeted fathers, and it worked very well,” Widman has said. “Similarly, there was only one intervention aimed specifically at parents of sons, which also worked very well. This suggests that it may be worthwhile to pursue broader efforts to assess the effectiveness of gender-specific interventions for parents and adolescents.”
Consider this motivation to have that sex talk sooner than later. Just remember that the earlier and more you talk with your kids about sex, the more prepared and safe they’ll be!