You may not be leaping at the opportunity to chat with your daughter about birth control, but it’s one of those parenting necessities that’s unavoidable once she hits her tween and teen years.
To help smooth the process and guide you along, we checked in with top experts in the field to gather some tips. Here’s what they had to say:
When is the appropriate time to jump into the convo?
There’s no magic age when you need to have these talks, but ideally, it should be before she’s 13 years old. And a good time to start discussing contraception more directly is when she starts to experience puberty-related changes like breast and pubic hair development.
“Ultimately, you want your teen to come to you first for information and for your teen to feel like you will be open to talking about it, rather than hearing things through peers or the internet first,” Jennifer Dietrich, chief of pediatric and adolescent gynecology at Texas Children’s Hospital.
Equally as important: Talking with your daughter about healthy relationships when she’s young, says Diane Tanaka, medical director of the teenage and young adult health center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. The idea is to establish open communication and allow the conversation to evolve as she grows older.
How can I break the ice?
You’ll feel much more comfortable starting a conversation about birth control with your daughter once you have a have a few icebreakers up your sleeve.
Dietrich recommends finding quiet time together on the weekend. “It may be a good time not only to talk about school and friendships, but about whether teens her age have started to talk about sex, birth control, and sexually transmitted infections,” she says.
However you go about the conversation, you’ll want to let your teen talk about what she knows first. “From there, the conversation can cover these important topics based on how you feel your teen responds to the information, how interested she is in learning more, and what topic is important for her to learn more about,” Dietrich says.
Tanaka suggests sitting down together for to do some research online, where you can read about different birth control methods and determine which one might be right for her.
No matter how strongly you feel, experts agree that it’s important to keep your judgment at bay.
Most importantly, pay attention to your daughter’s emotions and how she’s responding to questions. This might require checking in from time to time to ask if she’s comfortable with the conversation. This can help you gauge how much to discuss at any given time, Tanaka says, adding that you’ll need to be more firm in pushing the conversation if you know she’s already having sex.
No matter how strongly you feel, experts agree that it’s important to keep your judgment at bay. It’s wonderful that your child wants to speak with you about contraception, so you don’t want to express judgment when they ask you questions, Dietrich says.
What do I need to cover?
It’s important to make sure your daughter knows she has a bunch of different birth control options that are safe, effective, and tested, Tanaka says. From there, you can move on to discuss the different types of contraceptives available. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common options out there:
Releases hormones that prevent ovulation. It’s taken each day and is available in many different varieties.
Placed inside the vagina and removed after a few weeks, according to a strict schedule.
Also known as Depo-Provera, this option involves getting a shot every three months.
Worn during sex to prevent sperm from making its way into the vagina.
Needs to be placed on the skin weekly for three weeks before taking a week off and then repeating the cycle.
A long-acting reversible contraceptive that is low-maintenance and last somewhere between three and ten years.
But that’s not all: It’s also crucial to chat with your daughter about sexually transmitted infections and how she can protect herself against them. “It is very important to stress that while contraceptives are effective for birth control, they do not prevent sexually transmitted infections,” Dietrich says.
What if I don’t know how to answer something?
If she asks you a question you don’t know the answer to, your best bet is to admit what you don’t know, rather than allowing dishonesty to get in the way of future conversations.
“They are very good at picking up when you are just faking it,” says Tanaka, who recommends making an appointment with a doctor who will know the answer to your daughter’s question.
In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends teens first see an OB/GYN sometime between the ages of 13 and 15. This physician can be a great resource to answer any questions your child may not feel comfortable asking you or that you’re not equipped to answer.
You can also take your daughter to a local teen health center, Planned Parenthood, or make the most of online resources like the handouts available through North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology (NASPAG). The truth is, you’re never on your own when it comes to talking with your daughter about contraception.