The time for kids to learn about sexuality is before they become teens. Since the late 1960's, traditional sexual ground rules have changed, and popular culture's emphasis on using sex to sell has led to an increasing amount of sexual pressure for young people. Teens must be taught the physiological (fiz-ee-uh-LODGE-uh-cal) dangers of sex outside of a committed relationship, such as sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy. However, sex education by parents should go way beyond that. You must be proactive in talking with your kids about sexuality and its joys and consequences. Many organizations have developed various programs to help educate both children and parents, as well as other adults who influence the behavior of adolescents. Be aware of some risk factors in a teen's environment that can lead to having sex. These can include alcohol and drug use, having a steady boyfriend or girlfriend, lack of parental monitoring, and having only one or no parent in the home. You also should be a role model for the kinds of relationships, behaviors, and attitudes you want your kids to develop. If you believe adolescent sex is O-K, or that it's inevitable, or you engage in nonmarital sex yourself, an adolescent who looks up to you may also believe it's O-K. Let your teen know what your expectations and ground rules are in advance. If your teen already has had sexual experiences, make it clear that it isn't too late to change both attitudes and behavior.
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