Encouraging Abstinence

Early sexual activity carries both physical and emotional risks. Kids need to understand the risks as well as be able to recognize sexual pressure and how to deal with their sexual feelings. Research reveals that kids are more likely to postpone sexual activity if their parents ask them to. In fact, 9 out of 10 young people said it would be easier to not become sexually active as teens if they had more conversations with their parents.1 How can you encourage your child to say no to early sexual activity?

Encouraging Abstinence from Teen Sexual Activity

  • Make the case that you want your teenager to say no to sexual intercourse. Tell him that most teens are not having sexual intercourse and that kids are more likely to succeed in life when they postpone having sexual intercourse until they’re older.
  • Be honest (and explicit) about your opinions on which sexual activities are okay (and not okay) for teens. What do you think of oral sex? Touching another person’s private parts? Masturbation? Kissing? Holding hands? Why?
  • Be frank about how your kids are getting bombarded with messages from the media about teen sexual activity. Try to limit what your child sees, and talk about what she is observing. Researchers found that teenagers who watched a lot of sexual content on television were twice as likely to experience a teen pregnancy within the subsequent three years compared to their peers who saw much less.2
  • Teenagers are more likely to have sexual intercourse when they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.3 Read Underage Alcohol Use to find tips and advice on how to teach your child to make good choices regarding alcohol.
  • Talk about your values. Which values are important to you, and why? Act on those values. Values can include respect, self-control, honesty, equality, integrity, and more. Six positive values (caring, equality and social justice, integrity, honesty, responsibility, and restraint) are included on the list of Developmental Assets.

Talking about teens and sex makes many parents very uncomfortable. But it’s the only way to make sure that your child has the necessary knowledge and positive values to make good decisions when it comes to early sexual activity. Make sure that you take the time to explain your values and what you expect of your child before she gets her sexual education somewhere else.


1. Bill Albert, America’s Adults and Teens Sound Off About Teen Pregnancy: An Annual Survey, (Washington, DC: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2007).

2. Anita Chandra and others, “Does Watching Sex on Television Predict Teen Pregnancy? Findings from a National Longitudinal Survey on Youth,” Pediatrics 122 (2008): 1047-1054.

3. Denise Hallfors and others, “Which Comes First in Adolescents: Sex and Drugs or Depression?” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 29, no. 3 (2005): 163-170.



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