How to Talk with Your Teenagers About Sex

Helping your kids get through their tumultuous teen years and safely into adulthood is one of the chief aims of parenting. Along the way, you want your kids to develop character, confidence, and - if you are a person of faith – a Christian world-view.

 Getting them there is not easy. It is a long, 20-year journey filled with few accolades. Rarely does anyone tell you, “You’re doing a great job as a parent.” Your kids certainly don’t. And, unfortunately, you don’t know if you have been successful until you launch them into adulthood.

 During your kids’ adolescence, it’s almost as if your daily marker of success is going to sleep at the end of the day knowing that they didn’t do anything stupid that will derail their lives. Sure, every kid will make his fair share of bone-headed decisions, but as long as it isn’t anything huge or life altering, it will be okay.

Three Big Minefields

Beyond the typical immature behaviors that teenagers exemplify, there are three areas where their careless thinking and poor choices may have serious consequences. It is in these three areas that parents must be on their “A-Game” through every stage of their child’s development, if only because the stakes are so high.

To keep from potentially blowing up their lives, your kids need your help navigating the minefields of driving, drugs/alcohol, and sex. My guess is that you have a plan for two out of three of those. 

1. Driving (Without Dying)

If you are raising a teenager, you know that this will be a stressful process, but you have a plan. You have conversations about safety and you strive to model good driving practices all during early adolescence. You help them pass a rules test at 15 and then supervise their “permit” driving for a full year. You probably pay big bucks for a driver education class and help them practice for their test. At 16, when they get their license, you usher in a season of “probation” with driving restrictions and severe penalties by both the state and your home. You know that if they are foolish behind the wheel of a car, they could literally die. So you take it very seriously.

2. Drugs and Alcohol

It is likely that you know someone who got hooked on drugs or alcohol as a teenager, so you are likely very focused on teaching your kids wisdom in this area. You have conversations throughout adolescence, painting a picture of how dangerous drugs can be. You make sure they pay attention to any anti-drug programs at school or church. If you’re like my mom, you require your kids to come kiss you goodnight when they get home after being out with friends. (It was only in adulthood that she told me that this was her subtle way of checking my breath.) Whatever you do, the message of “drugs and alcohol are incredibly dangerous” is common in your home.

3. Sexuality

Teaching kids about healthy and wise sexuality is the one job that even the best parents neglect. While we are intentional at home in the other two areas (and have support from school, friends, and our faith community), few parents have a real plan to help their kids develop healthy attitudes and behaviors about sex. I would suggest that foolish choices in this area have the power to derail your kids’ lives just as much as a terrible car accident or a drug addiction.

We've seen this up close in the relationships that my wife and I have developed with more than 500 newlywed couples over the past decade. They are the first generation to enter marriage after growing up with smartphones in their pockets. The stories they tell us are devastating. For the most part, their parents didn’t talk about sex, so they were left to figure things out on their own.

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What can happen to young adults who aren’t equipped to make wise choices regarding their sexuality during adolescence?

The absence of information, conversation, or equipping from their parents leads to two undesirable outcomes. They either start exploring their sexuality with zero guidance or they wrongly come to believe that sex is bad or dirty, when the truth is that it was created by God for their good. 

They learn about sex from porn. The overwhelming majority of teen guys are regularly looking at porn. And the fastest growing segment of porn users is teenage girls. Many get addicted. Porn ends up being detrimental to every aspect of their lives.

They get bad information from their peers. The absolute worst place a clueless teenager can go to find out about healthy sexual behaviors is to another clueless teenager.

They become sexually active before they have the maturity or the right relationship (marriage) to experience it in a healthy way. If they fail to address their promiscuity, they run the risk of bringing baggage into their marriage.

They enter marriage with one of two extremes: sex means everything (not true) or sex means nothing (also not true).

This list could go on and on as the impact of the early sexualization of the next generation is far-reaching. We must help our kids start developing a healthy view of their sexuality long before they are headed to a honeymoon. As parents, we can’t be so naïve to think that that is the first time sex crosses our kids’ minds. (And if that was true for you, then you are a freak of nature. Congratulations.)

Studies have shown that while teenagers feel incredibly awkward talking with their parents about sex, they still want information and guidance. Without their parents, they are left to “google” the answers to their questions. And I assure you, you don’t want your kids heading to the internet if they are curious about sex.

There’s help for parents who want to get this right.

We have created a few resources for teenage guys and girls that help parents to have these critical conversations about sex and romantic relationships with their kids. These tools have been specifically designed to share truths with young people in a way that mom and dad can then add their perspectives.

They cover all the things you want to talk about with your kids but aren’t quite sure how: dating, porn, social media, identity, purpose, the influence of friends and God’s incredible design for sex.

Our ground-breaking book, The Talks, has helped more than 25,000 parents equip their kids to develop a healthy view of sex and relationships.

Our innovative resource for teen boys, The Young Man’s Guide to Awesomeness, has given thousands of guys the tools they need to make wise choices about porn, girls, and the direction of their lives.

Meet Me in the Middle offers a God-focused perspective about 10 key issues that teen girls are facing. And it does it in a format that invites a girl’s father into the conversation.

You’re just one click away from getting a plan to help your teenager to navigate our hyper-sexualized culture with wisdom. Our resources are practical, easy-to-read, and offer the biblical perspective you want your kids to embrace. And for a limited time, they are all deeply discounted.

Just ask any of the 10,000+ people who subscribe to our online content each month (or read our reviews on Amazon) and you’ll hear the same thing: I.N.F.O. for Families offers the practical tools families need to face the critical conversations of our day. Get your hands on the resources that will help your kids to get to adulthood without derailing their lives sexually.

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About Barrett and Jenifer Johnson & I.N.F.O. for Families:

Barrett and Jenifer Johnson have a regular family just like yours, with five kids aged 26 to 11. They have launched two sons and two daughters into adulthood and have one more to go. Their work through I.N.F.O. for Families is committed to helping “Imperfect & Normal Families Only” to become more intentional when it comes to talking about sex, porn, the impact of technology, and romantic relationships.

Barrett and Jenifer have been featured on FamilyLife Today, Relevant Magazine,, and have been coaching families about sexuality and cultural issues in their live “Critical Conversations” events for nearly a decade.

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