Talking to Your Kids About STDs

It is important for parents to talk to their kids and teens about STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). Your kids need to understand how STDs spread and how to protect themselves.

What Are STDs?

STDs (also called sexually transmitted infections, or STIs) are infections that spread through sex (vaginal, oral, or anal). Some STDs can spread through close contact with the genitals or body fluids.

Does Talking About Sex and STDs Make Teens More Likely to Have Sex?

Talking to kids and teens about sex and STDs does not make it more likely that they'll have sex. But if they do become sexually active, they will understand the risks and know how to protect themselves.

When Should I Talk to My Kids About STDs?

Talking about STDs and other personal subjects like sex and puberty shouldn't be one big talk at a particular age. Instead, start the conversation early, and slowly build on your child's understanding. By about 10–13 years old, most kids understand what sex is and are ready to learn about STDs.

But even if your child is older and you haven't started talking about STDs, it's not too late to have the conversation. A late talk is better than no talk at all.

How Do I Bring Up the Subject of STDs?

Sometimes it can be hard to find the right time to talk about STDs. A good time to start the conversation might be:

  • if your child asks questions about sex
  • during a TV show or movie that shows a romantic relationship. You might ask, "What sorts of things do people in a relationship need to think about?" 
  • when your child gets the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. You could say, "This shot protects you from a type of STD. Do you know what an STD is?"

What Should I Talk About?

Talk about the types of STDs:

Cover these key points:

  • STDs mainly spread through sex. But some STDs can spread through close contact with someone's genitals or body fluids.
  • The best way to completely prevent an STD is to not have sex (oral, vaginal, or anal). If someone decides to have sex, using a latex condom every time can prevent most STDs.
  • Some people with an STD have discharge from the vagina or penis, or sores in the genital area.
  • Some people with an STD have no signs or symptoms. Even then, a person can spread the infection to a sexual partner.
  • If someone has an STD and does not get treatment, it can lead to medical problems such as long-term pain and trouble getting pregnant later.
  • Antibiotics can cure some STDs (like chlamydia and gonorrhea). But some STDs (like herpes or HIV) have no cure.
  • You can get an STD the very first time you have sex.

Where Can We Get More Information About STDs?

You can get reliable information about STDs at:

What if I Have Trouble Talking to My Kids About STDs?

If you don't feel comfortable talking with your kids about STDs, make sure they can turn to someone else for accurate information. This could be a doctor or nurse practitioner , counselor, school nurse, teacher, or a trusted family member.

Kids and teens need to know about STDs. It's best if they get the facts from someone reliable.

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