Groping in the Dark

Ruthie Patriquin
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Signs of sex

A Parent Asks:

Q: How do I help my teenage children prepare for the possibility of sex?

A: Talk with them about "signs of sex." Recognizing signs that sex may happen in their relationship or with the person they are dating will give them time.

That could mean time to decide to stop and go no further, or time to stop and prepare for safer sex.

Many young people who experience a pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection (STI) say they didn't protect themselves because they didn't expect to have sex: it just happened.

They didn't know the "signs of sex."

So what are some signs that teens can watch for that will alert them that sex could happen?

- thinking that all your friends are having sex

- thinking that having sex will make you feel grown up, cool, special, loved

- thinking that having sex will help you keep your boy/girl friend

- thinking that you owe your date sex (including oral sex)

- getting dressed to turn your partner on

- thinking about being alone so you can touch and kiss

- planning to "drink" or "take" something to loosen up

- playing sexy music, watching sexy shows

- drinking alcohol or using drugs when you are dating

- being home alone with your partner

- being at a party where others are engaging in sexual acts

- touching each other in more ways and getting excited

- recognizing when you feel like you're being "carried away" (you can still stop.)

If teens recognize signs early enough they have time to think about what they want to do.

If they want to postpone sex, they can use refusal skills:

- say "no," tell your partner you want to wait

- use body language that says "no" - create a distance between you and your partner, look like you mean it

- use delay tactics: go to the bathroom, get something to eat, stop kissing and touching, say you have to call a friend

- suggest you do something else: meet some friends, go for a walk, play the Wii

- build the relationship: explain your feelings, let your partner know that your decision to wait is a personal one - regardless of who you are dating

Talk with your teens about a decision to have sex: importance of communication with their partners, emotional and physical consequences, effect on relationships, what happens if you break up, etc. Share your family values. If your teens decide that they are going to have sex, encourage them to get protection and learn how to use it properly before they become sexually active. Elaborate with them - they may not know how to set up an appointment with a doctor, where to get condoms, etc. With male/female couples, encourage them to always use condoms regardless of other birth control that is being used. (Same sex couples need condoms and other barrier methods against STIs.)

Keep the lines of communication open- make sexuality one of your family's ongoing topics of conversation around the dinner table, doing the dishes, or on a car drive.

For information on youth sexuality, contact a local community resources such as the Sexual Health Centre for Cumberland County, 11 Elmwood Dr., Amherst, 667-7500; the Department of Public Health at 18 South Albion St., Amherst (667-3319), The Teen Health Centre (located in Amherst Regional High School), a program of the Amherst Association for Healthy Adolescent Sexuality (661-2383 Ext. 137), Youth Health Centre (located in Springhill High - 597-4253), or your family doctor or nurse practitioner.

Parents, grandparents or other caregivers can submit questions to this column by emailing

Organizations: STI, Sexual Health Centre, Department of Public Health Amherst Association

Geographic location: Amherst, Cumberland County, Elmwood South Albion

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