Teenagers and JIA - Why is it important to talk about safe sex?

It’s a topic that can make even the most relaxed and chilled parent/carer squirm, however talking about sex and relationships is important. Evidence has shown that informed and educated young people are much more likely to consider their choices in relation to intimacy and friendships and even delay having sex.

A teenager with JIA is just as likely as their peers to want intimacy and have relationships but for some, the medication they take might mean that they have to be especially cautious.

Methotrexate, for example, can cause foetal abnormalities and miscarriage, so it might be wise to suggest doubling up! I.e. as well as taking the contraceptive pill, use a condom too. Reliable forms of birth control are important.

Surprisingly most teenagers want to learn about sex and relationships from their parents/carers and the reasons why parents/carers usually hold back is because they think talking about it will be taken as permission for their teens to become sexually active! This is just not true. Researchers have proven that sex education in any format and from different sources does not increase sexual activity.

Typical sex education in a school setting is about anatomy and doesn’t really cover the topics important to teenagers, like sexual feelings and relationships.  Use everyday opportunities to talk about sex and relationships. You don’t want your teenager to think sex is scary but you equally don’t want them to think it’s something they are missing out on and should rush into.

I have two boys, one is twenty and the other is 17. When they were much younger, I was able to attend a course specifically teaching parents/carers how to talk to their children about sex and relationships. It was mind blowing and all my prejudices about this topic disappeared. I bought my boys a book – “Living with a Willy”. It was factual and covered every single topic. I left this book in the bedroom they shared at the time and it was obvious that both were taking it in turns to read it.

It got me out of a lot of awkward questions, and it meant I was able to focus on helping them understand the importance of healthy loving relationships, how to be respectful and generally talk everyday things through with them. If a child or young person feels comfortable talking about their feelings and they understand how to respect others, this lays the foundation for healthy sexuality and healthy relationships later on.

My boys were both under ten when I started this journey and I would like to think that whilst they are not perfect, it could have been a lot worse!