Discussing sexuality with teens and tweens (a.k.a the birds and the bees) is a sensitive matter for the parent and the child. And setting the tone for a successful talk (trust is key!) can often take time which we (pediatricians) often don’t have much of during wellness visits. So, this study does not really surprise me. However, there are ways to make it successful. Here are three tips to think about before arranging your pre-teen’s next visit with the pediatrician.
If your pediatrician doesn’t bring it up, you should. Before the visit, voice your concerns about your teen’s sexual activity or risky behavior with your pediatrician.
Honor the privacy of your pre-teen and the doctor. You shouldn’t be in the room for their discussion nor should you pester your child about what was shared. This would negate the trust you’re trying to establish with your doctor and teenager.
If your pre-teen is tight lipped, , find an alternate communication method. Does your pediatrician’s practice offer email or phone consultation? Many kids are uncomfortable discussing sex in a face-to-face meeting with their doctor. Finding a compromise that might help your child to open up.
Don’t forget to set the tone early. It’s important to let your pre-teens know that they can rely on their doctors, that they can speak to them in confidence, that we can offer advice and education, and, if necessary, treatment.
Ari Brown, MD