Usually by the age of 15, teenagers will begin transitioning into puberty, experiencing several physical changes. By this age, most girls will also have gone through their first menstrual period, begun to develop breasts and grown pubic hair. As a result, your teenager should see a physician for her first gynecological exam between the ages of 16 and 18.
As your teenager navigates the physical and emotional changes brought on by puberty, it is normal for her to experience some anxiety. Be aware of how your child is coping with the transition and of the messages she is receiving from multiple sources. Peers and perceptions from the media can negatively impact your child’s body image, so be sure to stress the importance of being healthy rather than thin. Talk with her about the images she sees on television and in movies and magazines. If you believe your child may have developed an eating disorder, take action immediately.
How to Talk to your Child about Sex
While a sometimes uncomfortable topic to approach with your child, it is important to know how to talk to your child about sex, sexuality, safety and risks. Remember that it is better for you to provide your child with the right information, than to risk her getting the wrong information from a peer. If you are too uncomfortable, ask a physician or trusted family member for help.
During these discussions about female development and sexuality, you should make sure that she fully understands the risks associated with sex, such as pregnancy, emotional impact and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). While several methods of birth control are available for adolescents, only a condom will help protect against STIs. Two-thirds of STIs occur in those younger than 25, with teens being especially high risk. Between the ages of nine and 26, both boys and girls can also receive an immunization against HPV.
Try not to use a judgmental or accusatory tone when you talk to your child about sex. Although she will likely be reluctant to discuss the topic with you, these conversations are an essential step in keeping your child safe. As your child begins dating and exploring her sexuality, you should also be sure to discuss sexual abuse and assault. She should know that it is always okay to say “no” and how to react when made to feel uncomfortable or pressured.
When out in public or hanging out with friends, teach your teen to avoid secluded places, trust her instincts, say no to alcohol and drugs and stay with the group. Remember that the main goal of talking to your child about sex and other issues is to provide your teenager with the information she needs to stay safe.
For More Information
For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 847.570.5020.