Our friends at The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy came up with some ways to make it a little less painful.

By Marisa Nightingale

It's not easy, but it's essential. So our friends at The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy came up with some ways to make it a little less painful.

Most parents know that they need to talk with their teens about sex, love and relationships. But knowing that you need to do it—even wanting to do it—doesn't make it any less complicated. You might be thinking, What if I mess it up and then my teen never comes to me again? What if I say something that accidentally encourages my kid to do something I was trying to discourage? What if it’s so awkward that one or both of us never recovers? Nearly 9 out of 10 teens say that it would be much easier for them to postpone sex and avoid pregnancy if they were able to have more open, honest conversations about these topics with their parents. Your sons and daughters really want to hear from you (even if they don’t act like it). Here's how to find all the right words.

  1. Use their imagination. One of the best ways you can help is by getting your teen to think about how they would handle a sexual situation before they’re in the heat of the moment. Nearly 4 in 10 teens have never thought about how a pregnancy would affect their lives; if they’ve never thought about it, why would they think about prevention? If your teen isn't ready for sex, help them figure out what they would do if they were alone with someone and getting pressured. Worry less about giving them instructions and more about making sure they have a plan they can stick to.
  2. Ask their opinion. Remember: "The talk" is a two-way street, not a dead-end road. Be clear about your values and be sure to listen to their thoughts as well. If they have questions, don't freak out and assume they're already doing whatever it is they're curious about. Try to keep your cool. Otherwise, the only thing your teen may remember about your talk is how deeply awkward it was. They are listening even if they don't act like it. Many teens say that when their parents don’t talk with them about sex, pregnancy and how to prevent it, they assume that their parents either don’t care or don’t think it’s important. 
  3. Address Social Media. Chances are your teens have some big questions: How do I know when I’m in love? Can you say no to sex even if you’ve said yes before? How do I let someone know I’m interested without having it backfire? Unlike their parents, teens also have to figure out how social media fits in. Ask your teens to help you understand how they use different social media platforms to communicate with friends, meet new people or project a particular image. What do they consider private and what’s public? A new survey on teens, technology and romantic relationships from the Pew Research Center found that about a third of teens ages 13 through 17 without dating experience have friended or interacted with a crush on social media (for example, by liking or commenting on a post). Digital interactions with romantic partners increase with a teen’s relationship experience.

What your teens are ready to hear and what they are curious about evolves over time. What doesn’t change: that they want to hear from you.

In partnership with Family CircleThe National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has new survey data, helpful tips, dos and don’ts for The Talk and more. And check out Family Circle's feature on talking to teens about social media, television and taboo topics.