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It’s one of the things that parents dread the most, and kids look forward too just as much — the sex talk. It’s awkward for everyone involved. But apparently this awkwardness has cause many parents to delay having the conversation until after their children have had sex for the first time. This isn’t an intentional strategy, however, but rather laziness on the parent’s part.

A recent article in the Baltimore Sun said, “according to a new study appearing in the journal Pediatrics, ‘more than 40 percent of adolescents have already had sex by the time their parent had talked to them about sexually transmitted diseases and birth control.’”

Way to go parents! Good job! That’s how you inform you kids about condoms and birth control so you don’t wonder why they just pop up pregnant. Oh, wait… we must have been reading two different articles. I apologize.

The parents, who had children ranging from 13 to 17, were asked whether or not they had about 24 different topics pertaining to sex — from body changes during adolescence to how condoms prevent STDs — and then asked the children separate surveys about their sexual experiences. While the study was done on a fairly small sample group (only 141 families), I’d be more than willing to bet that this is a prevalent trend among parents today, whether they’d care to admit it or not.

Parents are largely afraid to talk about sex with their children, and that’s to both parties’ detriment. Parents know about sex and kids are obviously willing to learn, but of course, at that age — honestly, any age — it’s weird to hear your parents talk about sex. But that’s part of a parents role — to teach and lead and guide the child, even in the difficult and uncomfortable time. If the parents do not teach the children, be it sex in this case, or anything else, please trust that they will learn it from somewhere — it’s inevitable. So parents, if you’d rather your child learn about sex from their classmates, or perhaps just by experimenting themselves, please, feel free to contribute to this growing statistic and stay silent. Just don’t complain about how you don’t understand why you child did this or that when a simple conversation could have gone a long way towards preventing it.

Now, when I use the term, “children” I do mean children, and not teenagers. The average age for first intercourse is 16.9 years for boys and 17.4 years for girls, but that is an average. Another study showed, in lower income situations, “one in four children between the ages of 11 and 16 reported having sex, with their first sexual intercourse experience occurring at the average age of 12.77.” If the average is at 12, that means that there were plenty of children below that age having sex. In that study, there were a handful of kids who first had sexual intercourse at 8 or 9 years old, and even a young man, “who reported having sexual intercourse for the first time at age nine [and] had fathered four children by the time he was 18.”

Are you getting the picture here, parents? Do not wait until your kids are 16 or 17 to talk to them about sex! If kids are having sex as young as 9 or 10, that means you just start the conversation before that. If you don’t know what to say, there are plenty of resources available. They understand far more than you realize and by waiting around and ignoring the issue, you only raise the risk for them to come home with an STD or an unplanned pregnancy.

[Written by Stuart McDonald for Elev8.com. For more from Stuart, check out his personal blog and follow him on Twitter]

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