Help Teens Develop Healthy Relationships

During the adolescent years, teens begin to develop closer relationships with peers and
intimate partners.  Some adults might prefer that teens wait until adulthood or marriage to
become sexually active. Yet, the reality is that half of all teens have had sex by 17.5 years of age
and most teens have had sexual intercourse and/or a romantic relationship by the age of 20.
Both hormones and changes in the adolescent brain affect teens’ sexual development, desires,
and decisions.

Teachers and healthcare providers can use the following strategies to help teens develop
healthy sexual relationships:

  • Help teens, parents, and everyone working with youth to recognize that sexual
  •   development is a healthy, normal part of adolescence.
  • Implement developmentally appropriate and age appropriate programs that help teens
  •   to make healthy decisions.  Social emotional learning (SEL) curricula, integrated into
  •   classrooms across the country, have been shown to improve students’ interpersonal
  •   skills, reduce problem behaviors, and improve academic performance.
  • Implement evidence-based, effective family life education programs that teach young
  •   women and young men skills in negotiation, communication, and refusal and that
  •   emphasize joint responsibility and mutual consent.
  • Before they become sexually active, teach teens about the importance of using birth
  •   control, including condoms.  Make sure teens know where to go for confidential
  •   sexual health services.
  • Healthcare providers know that confidentiality is extremely important to teens. To
  •   help protect teens’ privacy, establish procedures to protect confidentiality in
  •   scheduling, billing, and follow-up care.  The following steps can help to ensure
  •   confidentiality for teen clients:
    • o Include a statement of confidentiality on advertising materials and on clinic
    •    forms.
    • o Display a statement of confidentiality in a visible area of the waiting room.
    • o Clearly and consistently explain to teens (and their parents) the extent and
    •    limitations of the confidentiality protection that adolescents will receive.
    • o Explain the meaning of informed consent.