Should you have condoms available in your home for teens to access?
Having a very honest and open discussion with your teenager about sex and protection is crucial, the earlier the better. Parents should not wait until their child asks but bring up the topic before they are old enough to have sex.
To remain silent and just leave a box of condoms in the bathroom without explanation, hoping “for the best”, is not the most effective way to communicate. Let’s face it, teenagers are exposed to and bombarded by sexual information but also by a lot of misinformation. Condoms are not just used for contraception but more importantly to protect against sexual transmitted infections (STIs).
Not every parent may be aware of this but these days a large number of teenagers engage in oral sex, as they see this as not having “real sex”. Girls in particular do it to be popular, or because of peer pressure. Both boys and girls don’t realise that by not using a condom they are very likely to contract an STI. About one in 20 young Australians have chlamydia and many more are undiagnosed as it is often asymptomatic. For both sexes, it can lead to infertility.
Yes, having condoms in your home is a very good idea and so is discussing why!
Matty Silver, sex therapist and columnist, www.mattysilver.com.au
Making the choice to have condoms in the house for your teen to access is very much a personal decision based on your family values and openness to discussing sex. If you’re asking the question I’m guessing you are open to the idea, so I’d encourage you to continue the conversation past the point of condoms to included hormonal contraception (for young women), and the fact that it’s the responsibility of both partners to ensure contraception is used. It’s also important that your teen be aware that if they choose to be sexually active, condoms are their best protection against sexually transmitted infections, but no guarantee. Common STIs such as herpes and HPV are transmissible from skin-to-skin contact, including oral and anal sex, so barrier protection should also be used if engaging in these sexual activities. Young people between the ages of 15-24 are in one of the fastest growing risk categories. There are often no symptoms for STIs, so the only way to be certain of a potential partner’s health is to be tested by a GP or sexual health clinic. Negotiating STI testing with a partner requires a certain level of maturity, communication and respect.
It’s important not to presume that your teen holds the same kind of relationship values you do, and it’s worth helping them to consider their plans for future long-term relationship(s). Perhaps talk about the fact that even though all relationships carry a level of risk, casual relationships or hooking-up carry a greater risk – emotionally, socially, mentally and physically. It’s also a great idea to empower your teen to access health services more readily. If they are over the age of 15, they are eligible to have their own Medicare card, giving them a greater sense of responsibility for looking after their physical and sexual health.
Communication and respect are the underpinning of any healthy relationship, and providing condoms is a great way to model that skill, assisting your teen to incorporate positive conversations with their partner around contraception. But remember to place the importance on their overall wellbeing and sense of responsibility, because sex is so much more than just physical.
Liz Walker, sex educator and founder of Youth Wellbeing Project, www.youthwellbeingproject.com.au
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