Discussing “the birds and the bees” with your teenager can be an uncomfortable idea, but creating an open dialogue is the best way to reinforce safety and responsibility when it comes to sexual behavior. The adolescent specialists at Cone Health Center for Children recommend parents address the subject of sexual behavior and health many times throughout their sons’ and/or daughters’ adolescence, rather than just having one talk. The more teens know about sexuality, the more likely they are to make healthy choices.
Start discussing your values with your child early on and have clear conversations about what you expect of them. Research has shown that teens are more likely to postpone sex and practice safe sex when they have an open dialogue with their parents or guardians. When discussing sexuality with them, teach them body parts early on, using anatomically appropriate language. Help your teen understand what consent is and what a healthy relationship looks like, and teach your kids about safety and birth control options when engaging in sexual behavior. Your teen will most likely see examples of sexual behavior on TV, and you can use these opportunities to discuss what is realistic and to reinforce healthy behaviors. If you feel uncomfortable, try having these discussions in the car. It’ll be private and you don’t have to maintain eye contact.
In the state of North Carolina, teens can start making decisions about their own care at age thirteen.
The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the leading cause of cervical cancer, and certain strains can cause oral cancer, cervical cancer, and genital warts. Men and women can transmit the disease without knowing it, and while condoms are an important way to protect yourself from other sexually transmitted infections, HPV is unique in the fact that it only takes skin to skin contact to be transmitted. It is recommended that HPV vaccines are administered between the ages of 11 to 12 in both males and females, but can be given as late as age 21 for males and 26 for females. The vaccine is most effective when given before the individual becomes sexually active. It is not a mandatory vaccine, but it is the best way to prevent cervical cancer in women, and other cancers associated with HPV in all individuals. The current HPV vaccine protects against 9 strains of the virus and only requires two injections over a set period to be effective.
Cone Health Center for Children is an excellent resource for families in the community, with an exceptional team of adolescent medicine specialists, pediatricians and other children’s health professionals.
Brandy Wilson is a behavioral health intern at the Cone Health Center for Children. She received her Bachelor of Science in psychology from Mars Hill University and a master’s degree in recreation therapy from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Brandy is currently pursuing a master’s degree in social work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and will graduate in May 2018.