Teaching Parents How to Talk about Sex to Teens

Coaching parents at work on how to talk to their adolescent children about sex could be an effective way to reduce risky sexual behaviour among teens, according to a study in the United States.

Many parents of sexually awakening or active teens find it awkward to have that “birds-and-bees” conversation about birth control, sexually-transmitted disease and the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy.

A team of researchers in the United States led by Mark Schuster of Harvard Medical School wanted to find out if a little advice from sex education professionals might help parents overcome their reluctance.

Schuster enrolled 569 American mothers or fathers of children aged 11 to 16 in an eight-hour parenting program spread over eight weeks.

The training was given in the workplace during one-hour lunch breaks.

The parents were quizzed one week, three months and then nine months after the program, and the same questions were put to parents in a “control” group who had not received any coaching.

The results showed that a bit of help significantly boosted parents’ ability to talk with their children about sexual health – and translated into concrete changes in behavior.

Few parents, for example, had taught their children how to use a condom before the program began.

But a week after its completion 18 percent of adolescents confirmed that their parents had shown them how, compared to only three percent for the control group.

After nine months, the corresponding figures were 25 percent and five percent.

“We’d teach them some skills one week, and the parents would come back the next week bubbling over with excitement that they’d talked with their teen about relationships, love or sex,” said Schuster.

Few parents were willing or able to participate in training programs in the evening or on weekends, making the lunch-hour option a good solution, the study noted.

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