Conversations with your teenage daughter about sexuality are built on years of open communication and emotional closeness. It’s important to start these discussions at younger ages and speak frankly about the physical mechanics of sex, use anatomically correct terms for genitals and talk about the physiology of conception. Before puberty starts, I recommend reviewing what changes girls’ bodies and minds will undergo. I’ve used the book The Care and Keeping of You 1 and The Care and Keeping of You 2: The Body Book for Older Girls, from American Girl with my own daughter and routinely recommend it to my patients.
It’s beneficial for teens to consider the decision to have sex way before they put themselves in situations where it might happen. As with many potentially risky behaviors, I recommend teenagers consider if their actions reflect their values and who they want to be. We have a saying in our practice: make the right choices for the right reasons.
Our girls are constantly bombarded with mixed messages about sexuality, especially from social and mainstream media. Talk to your daughter openly about popular culture and ask what they think about how their favorite singers move or the lyrics to a popular song. And share your opinion too!
Girls are often learning about sex from viewing pornography. In fact, most porn seen is unintentional. When girls want to know more about sex, they often turn to Internet searches. This, unfortunately, leads many teenagers to porn sites. As parents, we hope to be the main source of information regarding sex for our teens.
If teens ask you questions about sex, answer truthfully and remind them that you will always tell them the truth. Educate them about the risks of sex including pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections and emphasize the emotional side of sex. They should know that sex is not about performance but about pleasure in a healthy and committed relationship. We usually define a healthy relationship as one in which teen girls can communicate openly about what is right for them and that their wishes are respected.
Hook-up culture is a big part of high school life right now. Hook-ups can refer to any and all forms of intimate contact. It often focuses on the physical acts and not the emotional side of relationships. Alcohol can fuel hook-ups, so it’s important for parents to talk about how drinking can impair decision-making and how casual sex can be harmful.
Another related act is oral sex. Many teens don’t think of oral sex as actual sex. Parents need to speak openly about oral sex and how the act can also affect girls physically and emotionally.
Often I see teenage girls who report non-consensual sex. It’s critical that parents talk to their daughters about how to communicate openly with their partners. If girls are not able to have open and clear discussions about what is right for them sexually, then they are not ready to be sexually active. Girls should feel empowered to voice their expectations. It’s important to teach our teen girls that “only yes means yes” in terms of consent.
These conversations are not easy but are so very important in helping our teen daughters learn about staying safe and maturing in their sexuality.
Written by Dr. Shanna Garza, Adolescent Medicine Physician,
Clinic Director at Girls to Women/Young Men’s Health and Wellness
Shanna Garza, MD
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