Talking to teens about sex is a must for modern parents, but that doesn't mean it s easy. ParentMap s Malia Jacobson gives us tips for making the talk a little easier.

Why is the talk something parents shouldn't skip?

It s another health and safety issue that we have to cover with our kids whether we like it or not, just like smoking, drinking, drugs, even something as simple as seat belt use. Sex is really no different. The stakes are just too high for parents to ignore the issue.

The statistics are sobering. Nearly half of teenagers are sexually active, and of those, 40 percent are not using condoms. Three in 10 high school girls will become pregnant before age 20.

Young people 15-24 account for half of the nation s 19 million new STDs diagnosed each year.

At what age should parents start the conversation?

Ideally, the right time to start is right around kindergarten when children start asking questions like how did the baby get into the mommy s tummy. I know this from firsthand experience volunteering in my daughter s kindergarten classroom 5 and 6 year olds are very interested in pregnancy! So you can start explaining how children are conceived and born, and that leads the way to more open conversations about sex and sexuality as your child gets older.

Later on, the conversations might switch to focus more on the emotional aspects of sex. Of course middle schoolers and high schoolers might roll their eyes and squirm a bit. But the really crave the information, so keep talking.

How can parents keep teens safe with all the technology these days?

We all hear about media limits and why these are so important for children. Well, media limits are still important for teens. Teens need to hear from their parents what is and is not acceptable in terms of media use. When children help set limits themselves, the limits are more likely to stick. Many teens see their friends making mistakes like texting a nude photo that gets passed around. These types of things are all opportunities for parents to ask things like how would you feel if that happened to you?

Tips for parents on talking to teens about sex

  • Stay neutral: When discussing sex with a teen it s often helpful to talk about a third party, like a news story or something that happened to a friend. This depersonalizes the topic and makes it more approachable.
  • Watch together:Schedule some couch time with your teen. Popular prime-time shows like Glee can be rich conversation-starters for discussions about sex and relationships.
  • Keep media accessible:Place computers in main living areas instead of in teens bedrooms, so you can monitor what s happening on social networks.
  • Leave your comfort zone:When you re talking about sex and relationships, don t be afraid to make kids a bit uncomfortable. You might be uncomfortable yourself, but you ll get through it. Talking about sex with kids helps parents build a more meaningful, communicative relationship with their children. To read the article on ParentMap, visit their website.
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