People who believe that discussing sex with their children just once is the best approach to sex education better think again, for a survey has revealed that a one-off discussion is not enough to fill the communication gap between parents and adolescents.
"To the contrary, our study's results suggest that such a discussion is unlikely to make teens more positive in their perceptions of the parent-adolescent relationship or parent-adolescent communication," stuff.co.nz quoted behavioural scientist Steven Martino from the Research and Development Corporation in the United States as writing in the journal Pediatrics.
Martino says that 312 teenagers and their parents were surveyed several times for the study, which showed that teens who had more conversations about sex with their parents felt that they could talk more openly to them about other topics too.
He says that discussing sex repeatedly gave parents a chance to reinforce key messages, and offered children the opportunity to "ask clarifying questions".
Several previous studies have also shown that adolescents whose parents talk openly about sex are less likely to have sex at a young age, more likely to use contraception, and have fewer partners.
Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond believes that parents should continue holding discussions with their children on the subject, even if they felt uncomfortable.
"If they can talk to their children about sex, they are more likely to be keeping the lines of communication open on other issues too," she said.
Helen Webber, the principal of a Tawa-based school for teenage parents called He Huarahi Tamaraki, said that sex education had to go beyond the mechanics of reproduction.
"Kids may know 'the facts', but they have to be discussed in a meaningful context, that takes into account their relationships, how to deal with peer pressure ... and their own self-esteem," she said.