Young couple in love and holding hands

If your teenager is like any other teenager, he/she will be curious about sex and sexuality and the many emotions that go along with it. Your teen will wonder about love, self-esteem, struggle with peer pressure, even feel conflicted by what you expect of him/her, and what friends think.

It’s Time to Start Talking

Mother and daughter lying in bed, making a pink promise

When do you start talking about sexuality issues with your teen? Actually, there’s no better time than the present. After all, you’ve guided your teen through his/her first steps, on what is right or wrong, and what is important to the family.

You should be the first person your teen should talk to about love and sexuality. That’s because if you don’t, someone else with different values from your family might. So, just get talking. Your teen may cringe and not like what you say, but remember, you are your teen’s most reliable source of information. And after ‘The Talk’, your teen will also realise you are the one person they can always feel comfortable turning to.

Related: How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex

So What Do You Talk About?

Mother and song talking in the living room

A great place to start is by sharing your thoughts, experiences and maybe even the mistakes you’ve made, and what you have learnt from them. When you are ready to be open with your teen, chances are, he/she will be ready to open up to you.

  • Talk about relationships. Is your teen emotionally ready for one? Help him/her figure out what is a real attraction, a fleeting crush or peer pressure to get attached.
  • Help your child to understand and see the difference between love and sex. Explain in your own way what you believe love is, that it takes time and involves trust, respect and commitment. Make it clear that you can love someone and not have sex with that person. More importantly, share your views on the causes and consequences of premarital sex.
  • Help your child understand the importance of preventing an unplanned pregnancy. Have a discussion with your teen about the social, moral and ethical issues that come with dealing with such a situation.
  • Share with your teen the risks of contracting sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS. Read up on the facts and speak about it as objectively as possible, without scaring your teen.
  • Do build your teen’s self-esteem. Let your teen know that feeling good about himself or herself goes beyond being attractive or popular. Help your teen discover inner strengths, his/her best qualities and what you are most proud of.

Related: Information Is the Best Defence

What Is Love?

A young couple looking at each other lovinging while the girl rests her head on the guy's shoulder

No one has the perfect answer to what love is. But you can help your teen navigate the confusing issues of love, infatuation, desire and attraction, and more importantly the difference between love and sex.

Infatuation, sexual attraction and desire are often mistaken for love. Teens get confused and assume that having sex is the same as ‘making love’, and that being attracted to each other is the same as being ‘in love’. The danger is when sexual desire and gratification becomes more important than other aspects of a relationship, such as trust, friendship and common interest.

Related: How Soon Can You Start Having Sex

When Love Turns Violent and Abusive

A young girl covering her ears with her hands while a guy scolds her

While you hope your teen will never face it, dating violence can happen. It is important that your teen is aware of any psychological or emotional aggression in their relationship. These include controlling behaviours or jealousy; physical violence, such as hitting or punching; and sexual violence such as non-consensual sexual activity or rape. Your teen can be a victim or the person causing the dating violence. If you suspect your child has been abused, report it to the authorities immediately.

Related: Protect Your Child from Sexual Abuse

Safe Dating

A young couple in a loving embrace

Teen dating can be safe, and a healthy part of growing up. Share these safe-dating tips with your teen to protect them against date rape or uncomfortable situations.

  • Start with group dates. It’s safer in numbers, and more fun!
  • Avoid being alone with someone your teen or you don’t know well.
  • Do not go to isolated or dark places (e.g. someone’s house when nobody is around or quiet parks).
  • Stay aware and sober, which means avoid drinking alcohol or taking drugs.
  • Always express their feelings clearly and emphatically. If your teen feels uncomfortable at any point, he or she should not be afraid to say “No.”
  • Set limits before any sexual expression takes place — even kissing.
  • Do not feel pressured into giving sexual favours on a date.
  • Know that it is not OK to force any sexual behaviour on anyone.
  • Walk away immediately if a date tries to force inappropriate behaviour on you.

Related: What Is Sexual Health

Sex, When It Happens

A young couple lying in bed and smiling at the camera

Always encourage your teen to delay sexual activity. Remember, abstinence is the only 100% effective method for avoiding unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS.

However, if your teen decides otherwise, your teen should know that teenage sex can have long-term physical, emotional, social and legal consequences. As a parent, it’s good to know what they are so that you can engage in a meaningful discussion with your teenager.

Physical Consequences

There is the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), which are caused by viruses and bacteria. These are passed from person to person during sexual contact, through the exchange of bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal fluid, and blood.

STIs caused by bacteria are curable if treated early, while those caused by viruses are treatable but not curable. So an infected person could experience a recurrence of the infection throughout his or her life, and possibly become infertile.

Not all STIs display obvious signs and symptoms, so infections can be spread unknowingly. Some sexually transmitted infections are:

  • HIV/AIDS
  • Genital Herpes
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Syphilis
  • Hepatitis B

If you suspect your teenager is at risk, do send him/her for a medical check-up.

Teenage Pregnancy

Pregnancy also has its own associated physical risks such as miscarriage, or the onset of high blood pressure.

Emotional Consequences

There can be feelings of guilt, fear, self-hatred, or pain at being taken advantage of and being used by another person for sex. This can impact your teen’s self-esteem, and result in other risk-taking behaviours in future e.g. self-harm, smoking, alcohol or drug abuse, etc.

Social Consequences

Your teen could want to hang on to a soured relationship because of sexual involvement or marry just because of an unplanned pregnancy.

Legal Consequencesp>

In Singapore, it is illegal to have sex with a girl below 16 years of age with or without her consent. The guy can be charged in court and sentenced to either jail or caning (or both). Having sex with a girl below 14 years old with or without her consent is considered statutory rape, and is punishable with jail-time or caning (or both).

Teenage parents who abandon their babies can be fined or jailed.

Related: Prevent HIV with ABCD

Abortion

An array of birth control pills

Abortion is a sensitive issue. However, it is an important discussion you should have with your teen. Talk about the facts and controversies, and share how you feel about it. Keep in mind every person’s view is influenced by religion, personal values, or life experiences. Speak honestly and openly with your teen and do not let the discussion turn into a debate or an attempt to challenge their views.

Instead, use this as an opportunity to simply listen and talk.

Related: What Do I Expect During My First Antenatal Visit?

What If Your Teen Gets Pregnant Or Gets Someone Pregnant?

Mother and daughter hugging each other while sittinga at the sofa

Of course, you will feel anger and disappointment. However, it will be more helpful to stay calm and discuss all options with your teen — whether to keep or to abort the pregnancy, keeping in mind your family circumstances and values.

If you are unable to handle your emotions, there are professionals who can help. A trained counsellor can work through this situation with you and your teen.

If your daughter is under 16 years of age and decides to abort the pregnancy, she will be required to go through mandatory pre-abortion counselling before the abortion can be carried out.

If it is your son, highlight to him that he will need to take responsibility for his actions. You should try as much as possible to have empathy and help the girl and her family.

Related: Preventing Pregnancy with Contraception

Keep Talking

Mother and daughter hugging each other tightly

Your teen may rebel, may not want to hear what you have to say, or may disagree. But don’t give up. Keep talking and reaching out; keep the channels of communication open. Work on earning your teen’s trust by being honest and upfront about your views and decisions. The best thing you can do for your teen is to be always there for them when they need help or simply just to talk.


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