Font Size:

News and Events

Are Parents and Teens Talking About Sexual Health?


Contrary to popular belief, teens want to hear from their parents about love, sex, and relationships. However, a lot of parents today remain nervous and hesitant to have these conversations with their own children. Some parents even feel almost incapable and result to relying on schools, other influential people, society or the child's interest to seek information on their own.       

Some of the hestitation involving engaging in conversations about sexual health can be contributed to 6 most common fears:

  1. Their parents did not talk to them about sexual health
  2. Overall discomfort with the subject matter
  3. Parents think the child will eventually initiate the conversation
  4. Fear of not being properly equipped to handle the conversation and provide the correct and appropriate answers
  5. Fear of encouraging curiosity or making them feel as if they are giving them permission
  6. Fear of what they already know or level of current or past sexual behavior

According to a survey conducted by OnePoll, "parents with children between five and 18 to examine their own views about sex, including how they’ve addressed the topic with their kids. Fifty-eight percent of respondents have already spoken to their children about sex, and 21 percent plan to do so in the future. However, the same percentage (21%) don’t plan to bring up the “sex talk” at all."

Facts and Statistics

Although teens are open to talking with parents, some reasons why they may not want to talk to their parents about sexual health include:

  • 83% of teens are worried about their parents reaction
  • 80% worry parents may think they have already have had sex or are going to have sex soon
  • 78% are embarrassed
  • 77% of teens (83% of females; 71% of males) don't know how to bring it up

Additional adolescent-parent communication facts and stats:

  • 58 percent of parents whose kids are 10 to 13 and 57 percent of parents with kids between five and nine have had some level of communication about sexual health
  • Half of parents of children under four also had those conversations with them
  • Interestingly, men were more likely to discuss sex with their kids than women (61% vs. 56%).
  • Of the 42 percent of parents who haven’t talked to their kids about sex, 37 percent cited their child’s young age as the main reason.
  • One in three reported that their kids are learning sex education in school, and one in four said the other parent is taking the lead.
  • Although some parents may feel uncomfortable, seven in ten parents agree that a basic level of sexual health information should be discussed early, specifically because of how often kids are exposed to similar topics on social media and in other parts of daily life.
  • Seven in 10 say they want their children to feel comfortable discussing anything with them, even if it’s about sex education.

Does talking with teens about sexual health make a difference?

Most people learn about sexuality and sex early on in their youth, both directly and indirectly. Although seeking information is normal and okay, receiving education from reliable trusted sources to provide medically accurate and age-appropriate information is essential. According to the National Coalition for Sexual Health, youth are more likely to abstain, delay sexual relationship engagement, practice safer sex minimizing the risk for an unplanned pregnancy and the acquisition of STIs after receiving sexual health education.

By not talking to our kids about what to expect with puberty and sexual health, we are inadvertently sending the message that these topics are off limits, inappropriate, or shameful. Kids are curious by nature, so they will most likely look for this information elsewhere if it is not provided. Today, information is easily accessible on the internet, which is often false or medically inaccurate if you don't know where to look.

In national surveys conducted by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, teens report that their parents have the greatest influence over their decisions about sex—more than friends, siblings, or the media. Most teens also say they share their parents’ values about sex, and making decisions about delaying sex would be easier if they could talk openly and honestly with their parents.

Studies have shown that teens who report talking with their parents about sex are more likely to delay having sex and to use condoms when they do have sex. Parents should be aware that the following important aspects of communication can have an impact on teen sexual behavior:

  • What is said
  • How it is said
  • How often it is said
  • How much teens feel cared for, and understood by, their parents

Starting age-appropriate conversations early and continuing into early adulthood will help young people make smarter decisions regarding their sexual health. Sexual health education should progress by topic and complexity. The information should be ongoing and match the phase of development they are experiencing, expanding as they grow and mature. 

Talking to your teens does matter! 


Advocates for Youth
Positive Parenting Practices (CDC)
The Rites of Passage

Page last updated: November 6, 2023