Additional Resources

Becoming Sexually Active

Informing your parents you are sexually active doesn't mean you have to tell them all the details of your sex life or bear your deepest feelings if you don't want to (though you can). Your sexual experiences are private and it's your choice to decide how much you want to share with the people in your life. If you do choose to tell your parents you are sexually active there are a few tips that will make the conversation easier.

Your parents will eventually find out that you are sexually active, so it is often advantageous to tell them yourself so you can set a foundation for future conversations about things like STIs, birth control and relationships. Individuals have a multitude of different reasons for telling their parents they are sexually active. Some have questions stemming from their sexual experience or have health issues they need to share. Others just want to share the experience and their feelings with their parents. Some simply want their parents to know for health reasons (planning doctor's appointments, getting contraceptives, etc.). Adolescence and earlier is the best time to discuss these issues since in the developed world, three-quarters of women will have had sex by the time they reach 20 (3). Remember that if your parents are worried about your health, they have good reason to be. Teenagers and young adults are at a high risk for STIs. Only 25% of the sexually active population in America are teenagers and young adults, but almost half of all STI diagnosis are in this age group. (4) Make sure you respond to your parents' concerns about your health and you can even share with them what safer sex methods you use to stay healthy.

Think about why you want your parents to know this information and this will help you bring it up to them. Do you need to make a gynecologist's, doctor's or STI testing appointment (after you become sexually active for the first time you should always make a gynecologist's or doctor's appointment)? "Mom and Dad, I need to make a gynecologist appointment, because I had sex recently and want to stay healthy" (or some variation of that) can be a good way to break the ice. It also shows your parents that you are being proactive about your health and will send the message that you are sexually responsible.

Many parents will feel relieved that you shared this experience with them. They may see you as more mature since that you had the confidence to breech this potentially uncomfortable topic with them. Discussing this experience can often bring parents and their teenagers closer. Recognize that your parents will probably see this experience as a landmark in your growing up, and that can sometimes make this an emotional discovery for them. They may be excited or scared, curious or reserved. Regardless of how they react, remember that your sexual activities are your decision and that taking responsibility for and being confident in your sexual choices will positively influence your sexuality and your sexual health in the future.

3. Guttmacher Institute. Teenagers' Sexual and Reproductive Health: Developed Countries . 2001. http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_teens.html

4. Weinstock, H. Sexually transmitted diseases among American youth: incidence and prevalence estimates, 2000 . Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health Vol. 36. 2004.