[Ask Lina] Any tips for parents answering sex-related questions from TEENS (ages 12-17)?

Ask Lina” is a special editorial series where we invite you to send us your parenting questions in the comments below and our teen & tween emotional expert, Lina Acosta Sandaal, gives you tips that will help you navigate these crucial “in-between years.”

To read the letter sent to Lina about this topic and for tips for tweens (ages 7-11) please click HERE.

Lina Acosta Sandaal Stop Parenting AloneI would like to start with the one conclusion research presents that all parents need to understand: TALKING ABOUT SEX DOES NOT CAUSE A CHILD/TEEN TO HAVE SEX.  It is actually the opposite.  The more we speak openly to our children about sex, the less promiscuity and acting out from the kids.  So the answer is to talk, talk, talk about sex BUT in an age appropriate way.

To soothe your fear and discomfort with the topic of sex remember that we develop sexually from the moment we are born, and in this manner it should be approached like when you taught them to walk, eat, go to school, bathe.

Continue to address what you did in the tween years as well as what follows.

  1. Inquire and be open to dialogue about their values and expectations as it pertains to sex for them and how they see it play out in their social group (this is a time to listen, not time to lecture).
  2. Use media and subculture to take the opportunity to tackle conversations about sex.  It’s difficult for adolescents to discriminate between what they think they should do and what they are actually comfortable doing when they are influenced by subculture.
  3. Speak honestly with children about partying.
  4. Be “the house.”  Peers are the strongest influence on the values, attitudes and behaviors of adolescents.
  5. Speak to them about their cellphone and how to use it. Speak about the temptation of posting or sharing racy/naked pictures. This is the new form of flirting with the boy/girl you like.  It calls for a discussion not a “don’t do it.”  Wonder with them about the temptation and pressure to do it.  The male conversation is to not ask for the picture.  Wonder with them why they would want it and what it means about respecting someone they care about.
  6. Sexual assault primarily happens under the age of 18. Talk about safety, consent and stepping in when they see that a peer is being inappropriate with someone.  This is a very important discussion to have with boys.
  7. Explain and speak about consent. Role play.  A great site to visit for ideas is http://www.datesafeproject.org/

This is a difficult topic but an important one.  Please speak to your children about sexual development, sex, and how to be in relationship.  They are listening.  They are wondering about it.  It is best for them to get the most information from you.

To ready more “Ask The Nest” posts, please click HERE.

To read tips for parenting tweens, please click HERE.


Have a tween/teen parenting question for “The Nest?” Great! You can add your question in the comments below and Lina will be happy to answer in a future post.



Lina Acosta Sandaal, MA

Lina Acosta Sandaal, MA, LMFT is a psychotherapist, child development expert and founder of Stop Parenting Alone, a parenting and therapy center in Miami, FL. She is the parenting expert on Telemundo’s national morning show Un Nuevo Dia, a co-chair from the Florida Maternal Mental Health Collaborative and a consultant for MomsRising, a national organization advocating for children and family rights

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