Updated: May 5
Dear Dr. K, I need to have "the talk" with my teenage son. What do I need to tell him?
In today's environment, teenagers are exposed to more information and disinformation about sex. It's difficult to know where to begin. My parents, and probably most parents of their generation, were uncomfortable talking about any activity that went on "in the bedroom." Lucy and Ricky slept in twins beds for Pete's sakes! But, somehow they managed to have Little Ricky. What guys learned was mostly locker room "knowledge" mixed with images from Playboy and Hustler.
Kids in elementary school now know as much or more about sex than college students a generation ago.
But, you can't assume how much your child knows, so I would recommend starting with the basics. If you get the "Oh, Dad" eyeroll, then you should move beyond the "ABC's" and just ask what they know and whether that information is "off base." Here are a few misconceptions I've overheard.
"If I pull out before I come, can she still get pregnant?" That's a "Yes." A small amount of semen is discharged before orgasm, (pre-ejaculate or "pre-cum") so semen may be deposited in the vagina. And withdrawing the penis when an orgasm is about to explode requires more self-discipline than most teenagers have.
"She can't get pregnant if she's on her period." Maybe, maybe not. Sperm can survive for several days and if she is at the end of her period, there is a chance of sperm getting to its target.
"It takes more than one time to get pregnant." WRONG
"She's on birth control. So she can't get pregnant, right?" Maybe. If she has just started the pill or is changing the type she is taking, there is a chance of pregnancy. The pill creates a state of false pregnancy, so the uterine environment is not ready to allow implantation. It may take a couple of cycles for the pill to be effective, so other precautions need to be taken to prevent pregnancy. And, the pill does not prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STD's).
"Putting on a condom is a bummer." Being a teenage father is a bigger bummer.
"I used a condom, but she still got pregnant." If the condom is too small or the activity is vigorous enough,it can break. If it is too large or you don't hold onto it when you come out, the condom can slip off and some semen can be left behind.
Mainly, you need to be open and frank with your discussion. This is an uncomfortable subject for most men to be open and fell free to talk about with their children. Let them know you are available and receptive to answer their questions. Be willing to share your own experiences and if there is something that you can't answer just say so and be willing to investigate to find the answer. If it was important enough for your child to ask, then it is important enough for you to find an answer.
Along with the information, it is important to try to instill a sense of responsibility. Not only to be responsible for their own actions, but also to feel responsible for the other person and how what they do affects more than just the two of them.