Deciding to do it

When to become sexually active is one of the biggest decisions in life. Once acted on, our level of responsibility for ourselves and even for others increases exponentially. Helping a youth prepare for this decision can be one of the most important roles a mentor can play.

What to Consider...

Sex. Their friends are doing it. Their partner wants to. It almost happened last weekend. So what could go wrong? As a mentor, your job is to help them make the right decision. And the better informed they are, the happier they’ll be with their decision. Here are some things to keep in mind: Talk is Tough Talking about sex can be uncomfortable. But if they trust you enough to come to you with questions, be adult enough to deal with a bit of discomfort—they obviously need you. Pregnancy Prevention Teens may act like they know everything. But often they really don’t. Make sure that what they think they know is accurate. And direct them to a doctor or Planned Parenthood to make sure they’re getting the right medical information and protection. Family Matters Help them think through how this decision will effect their relationship with their family, their religion, their partner’s family and the chance of starting a new family. Beyond Pregnancy Help them understand that ‘pregnant’ isn’t the only thing they can get from sex. Both males and females are at risk of STD’s (Sexually Transmitted Diseases). Learn more on the types and treatments here.

What to Do

In this case, the best thing you can do is overcome any discomfort surrounding talking about sex. The more comfortable you can seem, the more trust you’ll earn. Talk. Talk. Talk. Encourage them to talk about why they want this. Is it to please someone else? Or is it what they want for themselves? Pros. Cons. More talk. Get them to open up on what they understand to be the pros and cons of the decision. Often just talking about something helps a person see the issues more clearly. Who to call. Where to go. Make sure they know to talk to their doctor or visit Planned Parenthood to have all the information and protection they need. Making this decision without this first step could be disastrous. Be there. Once their decision is made—and they’ve taken the necessary steps to proceed—support their choice. And let them know you’re there for them going forward.

Helpful Info

Here are some resources on a range of sexual and reproductive health topics that you can use to help inform your conversations: Department of Health and Human Services (HHS): Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine:

The Bigger Picture

According to the Guttmacher Institute teens in the United States, on average, become sexually active by the age of 17. Although rates of sexual activity in teens younger than 15 have declined slightly in recent years, the number of teens becoming sexually active between the ages of 15 and 19 has remained steady over time at 44% of girls and 49% of boys.

From The Blog

The Chroncile of Evidence-based Mentoring

Teens look to adults when evaluating risk

Adolescence is a perilous time of life. It’s a time of heightened risk taking — reckless driving, risky sex, excessive drug and alcohol use. For decades the prevalent view — the common wisdom of parenting manuals — was that teenagers feel invulnerable, immortal. They simply perceive less peril in dicey situations and believe they have much more control than they actually do. In short, they underestimate life’s very real risks and dangers.

But scientists who study adolescent decision making now dispute this common parenting wisdom. Teenagers do indeed underestimate risk — sometimes — but at other times they overestimate how risky and harmful a situation is. So the actual risk taking cannot be simply explained by a diminished perception of risk.

To read more click here.

When to alert a Professional

For many teens, initiating a sexual relationship is also a time of uncertainty. With this uncertainty comes the potential that they may normalize harmful relationship behaviors. As a trusted adult, you are in a position to identify possible negative and alert the proper institutions or authorities. Here are some helpful tips on how to identify signs that your teen might be in an abusive relationship:
  • your teen’s weight, appearance or grades have changed dramatically since they started seeing this person
  • they worry about how their partner will react to things your teen says or does
  • your teen feels that their needs and desires come second to their partner’s
  • your teen is frightened of this person, maybe not before but lately
  • your teen thinks twice about expressing their thoughts and feelings in the relationship
For more signs, click here.