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Do you want to know when your kids are having sex?
Do you want your guardians to know when you’re having sex?
We have some good reasons to say yes.
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(t-shirts, sweatshirts, posters, clits, masturbating monsters coloring books)

Dr. Lindsey Doe: Recently I was out with friends, and one of them said to me "I know you tell  me that my kids are having sex, but I don't want to know about it! I don't want to think about it!"

In our culture we're taught to act queasy at the thought of our kids having sex, and disgusted with our guardians having sex. In general, most of us try to imagine that our relatives are celibate. But what if doing this is harmful?

-- Intro Cut Scene --

I thought for a moment before I spoke back to my friend. Do I really want to know if my kids are having sex? And then I said confidently "I absolutely want to know when my kid are having sex." Research suggests that when sexual interaction is accepted and approached as a quote "normal, anticipated and potentially healthy part of adolescent development, the rates of teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections are lower" because adolescents are more assertive in their sexual decision making and take fewer risks. But what do the grownups do? We insist the sexually mature adolescents act like they aren't sexually mature.

"Don't dress sexy! Don't ask questions about sex. There's nothing to learn here! Just don't do it!" And you know what that's like - it's confusing, and scary, and sex happens anyway (but in secret, and with not the best people, and not the safest places for maybe not the right reasons.)

And then the adults are like "How to know when your child is having sex", "The telltale signs of sexually active teens", "Is your kid having S-E-X?" Acting like private eyes, acting all coy-like when instead they could have just had open conversations and asked.

In Montana, the age of consent is 16. Meaning if you're 16 or older, you can legally have sex. I explained this to my two teen-aged daughters, and continued "if you choose to have sex, I want it to be great for you. I want you to care about the person or people you're with, and for them to care about you. I want you to feel you're ready, both physically and emotionally, and I want you to know what to do if it doesn't go well - like come talk to me!" I've also told them they can have sex in their own beds where they're comfortable. This might sound odd to you - of course it does, our culture tells you to think I'm bizarre. But I've heard too many sex stories that went terribly wrong because there wasn't a safe or private place to play and they didn't' feel it was okay to check in with safe adults.

I want to help young people, including my kids, make superb decisions about their health. Whether or not to have sex, how far to go when they do, and what kind of protective methods are the best for them?

My eldest asked if she could go for a ride with a guy she liked. And since I've talked to her about orientation, I know she's not asexual and gave one condition:

"If you can show me you know how to put on a condom."

I didn't assume that because she said she knew how to use condoms that she did. One study of condom use found that boys who say they know the most about condoms, even though their information isn't accurate, are less likely to use condoms than boys who aren't as confident about their knowledge. I wish I had the stats for more than the boys, but either way, knowing how to use a condom correctly is best assessed by demonstration, rather than verbal affirmation.

So, being that she was motivated, my daughter, 16, looked up the instructions online, grabbed a condom, and put it on her fingers. I gave her feedback, and then she did it again, a better way. We talked about the importance of not double-bagging, and how to know if there are holes by filling condom with water after sex. I explained latex allergies and wished her well on her date. A real;y important conversation to have, and there are hundreds of other sex talks!

Here are four of the big ones to get you started:

Number 1: It's ok to masturbated and fantasize - that's how you become aware of your preferences and learn that you don't need someone else  to experience pleasure.

Number 2: I want to be involved with your sexual health decision making - but I don't want to be in charge.

Number 3: I will honestly answer any question you have about sex - or help you find the answer if I don't have it. and 

Number 4: Oral sex and anal sex are definitely sex.

Sexually healthy adolescents are characterized by the National Commision on Adolescent Sexual Health (NCASH) as:

- appreciative of their own bodies
- responsible for their own behaviors
- knowledgeable about sexuality
- able to interact respectfully and appropriately with all genders, including how they express love and intimacy, and 
- skilled at evaluating their readiness for mature relationships.

NCASH also notes, healthy adolescents "...communicate effectively with their families about sexuality, attempting to understand and seek information about sexual values." In some cases, family isn't the best resource, but my hope is adolescents will seek adults who are.

I encourage you, the person who cares enough to learn from this video, to be honest, helpful and supportive of sexually maturing young people, and to model sexually healthy attitudes and behaviors. Being healthy sexually yourself, and having good intention dialogue with your kids, positions you  to learn what they need, and prepares them to succeed on their own. Know about your kids sexuality, ask for help from other caregivers or professionals when you need guidance, and most importantly: Stay Curious!

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