How to talk to your teen about STIs

The conversation around sexually transmitted infections can, at times, be awkward. Discussing STIs with their teenage child can be exceedingly awkward, at times challenging and albeit a bit frightening for many parents. Despite being an uncomfortable topic to talk about, it is a valuable conversation to have.

Reports suggest that every four minutes, a young person in England is diagnosed with an STI. Statistics such as these show how increasingly common STIs are amongst young people. There are numerous reasons why teens are at a higher risk of getting an STI compared to adults. For instance, many do not know that they need tests to check for STIs. Some do not use protection correctly every time they have sex.

Conversations around STIs and other personal stuff, such as puberty and sex, should not be one standalone talk at a certain age. Instead, it should be a conversation that starts early, slowly building upon your teen’s understanding of the topic and the different aspects. By 10-13 years old, most young people will have a basic understanding of what sex is and are ready to learn about what STIs are.

If you are looking to talk to your teen about STIs but don’t know where to start, here are just a few things that could help you begin the conversation.


Understand The Basics

Every teen needs to know accurate information on how to prevent STIs. With Relationships and Sex Education becoming a compulsory topic in schools across England, having the additional information and further education at home could be beneficial for many teens across the country.

Teens whose parents talked to them about sex and how to prevent STIs are not more likely to have sex it means that they are more inclined to make healthier choices about sex when older. It includes knowing what the risks are and how to protect themselves.

As a parent, it will be beneficial to you to understand all of the basics when it comes to STIs. It will help you with explaining different topics around STIs. However, it will be helpful should your teen have any questions. Here are a few points around STIs, some of which you might already know.

  • Another name used for STIs is STD, and the most common examples include chlamydia, gonorrhoea, genital herpes and HIV.
  • These infections, or diseases, are common.
  • STIs are spread through sex. However, some STIs can spread through close contact with another person’s body fluids or genitals. Additionally, some STIs can also spread during any activity that involves skin-to-skin sexual contact.
  • Many STIs can be cured with the help of treatment. If an STI goes untreated, it can cause an individual to experience health problems.


How To Prevent Contracting An STI

After explaining what STIs are and how they can be contracted, the next thing is to explain how to prevent them. The best way to prevent an STI is complete abstinence, meaning not having any kind of sexual contact. A choice for some but not all. The second best way to help prevent contracting and STIs is through using condoms.

When explaining ways to prevent contracting an STI, ensure that your teen knows how to use a condom – even if you do not think they are sexually active. Whilst it might seem like awkward conservation, it doesn’t have to be. Offer to help them get condoms if your teen is unsure of where to go.

Just as you are being open and honest around STIs, encourage your teen to be the same when communicating with their partner. Be encouraging towards them talking with their partner about STI prevention before having sex. Let them know that you completely understand that it might not be an easy discussion to have, however, your teen must speak up and be open about it.


Know What Treatment Is Available

When talking to your teen about STIs, ensure that you include information around what treatment and support are available if they were to contract an STI. Providing them with this information about what is available, will be helpful to them should they ever show symptoms of having an STI. Even if they are not showing any symptoms, it is still essential to go for check-ups if they are sexually active. It will allow them to seek treatment sooner rather than later if they do have an STI. It will also prevent the STI from developing from a treatable infection to a serious health problem.

Offer your teen information about sexual health clinics and why they should go for check-ups. Be open about the importance of visiting a clinic and how they can help with treatment, should they need it. There is a stigma around visiting sexual health clinics, so by lifting the taboo, you can help your teen feel more comfortable with the concept of visiting a clinic. For instance, inform them that those that work at the clinics are doing their job and will not judge them for their visit. They have tested a variety of infections and seen countless people. As such, there is nothing to worry or feel embarrassed about.

Your teen must develop a strong, trusting relationship with either their doctor or nurse. If you have gone to the clinic or medical centre with them, step outside the room to allow your teen to have privacy as they ask about STD testing and prevention in private.

Not all STIs can be cured, for example, HIV and herpes. Whilst there is treatment available for STIs like herpes that will help to clear up symptoms, the blisters can come back. A common treatment used for treating herpes is aciclovir. Aciclovir for herpes helps with minimising the severity and length of an outbreak. You can read about aciclovir for herpes on the Chemist Click website, where they go into great detail about the tablet as they answer common questions about taking aciclovir for herpes.


Starting The Conversation

Knowing about STIs, how to prevent them and how to treat them are essential things teenagers need to learn. One of the best ways to learn these facts is by being taught by someone that they know and feel comfortable with asking questions.

In addition to being taught about this subject that they know, being in an environment they feel comfortable with will also help to ease any awkward tension during the conversation.

Understandably, this will not be an easy conversation for you either. It is only natural that you both might feel a little uncomfortable about the topic. As such, be honest and open about how you feel with your teen. By being honest with them about how you are feeling, the chances of them being equally as honest with you are higher.

During your talks, you might find that your teen will ask a question that you might not know the answer to. If that’s the case, tell them you are not sure and search for the answer together.

Even if your teen is a little bit older and you have yet to have a conversation around STIs, it’s important to know that it is never too late. Having a late talk is far better than not talking at all.

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