Will talking to my children about sex make them sexually active?

The simple answer is no. It is ideal if you can talk to your children about sexuality (not just sex) from the beginning as they explore themselves and their world at their level of understanding and in words they can understand. Easily said. In my opinion as a mother of four and a professional, what parents need to do is examine their own values around sexuality and clarify their fears, misunderstanding, etc. they have that influences their attitudes toward sex. By dealing with those before talking to your children, you will gain confidence in your own ability and clear out the 'cobwebs' so you don't pass along fears and misunderstandings to them. Practice in the mirror to yourself first and to your partner so you are both on the same page and supporting each other. This is one of the most challenging aspects of parenting there is. 

Some kids ask a lot of questions about sex. Others never broach the subject with their parents, and the parents may need to initiate conversations. Either way, many parents worry about overloading their kids with details about sexual topics -- especially topics that they worry their children may not yet be "ready" to learn yet. A common concern is that kids, armed with information, will be more apt to become sexually involved. Well, fear not: One study, Emerging Answers 2007: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, reports that about two-thirds of evaluated sexuality education programs in the U.S. have positive effects on teen sexual behavior -- delaying the initiation of intercourse, improving contraceptive use, or both.

It's also important to realize that talking about sexuality isn't telling kids how to have sex. It addresses a range of topics that build the foundation for them to become sexually healthy adults, which may include communicating your values about sexuality, talking to your children about the relationship between sex and love, sharing information about reducing the risk of sexually transmitted infections, or explaining what HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is and how it can (and cannot) be transmitted.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.