According to statistics compiled by the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) in 2011, approximately 5.8% of teenagers in Peninsular Malaysia aged between 13-24 years have engaged in premarital sex. The study elaborated that 7.9% of males and 4.3% of females were or had engaged in some form of premarital sexual activity.

The study also revealed that those in the 18-24-year-old age group were the most sexually active. This is no surprise since teens become more independent at this age and many start moving out of the house to live on their own.

As parents, we cannot help but feel concerned for our children, and for good reason. The media often reports cases of baby dumping, depression in teenage mothers, increase in sexually transmitted diseases amongst the young, and an array of other problems linked to premarital sex in adolescents.

There is a higher chance that your child may participate in sexual intercourse if he or she is:

  • A teenage boy
  • Between the age of 19-24 years-old
  • Not enrolled in formal education (jobless/working/not in school)
  • Does not live with the family
  • Lives in a broken family structure
  • Portrays negative behaviour towards sexual and reproductive health
  • Poor self-control
  • Taking illegal or harmful substances (cigarettes, alcohol or drugs)
  • Has a friend that takes illegal or harmful substances or exerts high-risk sexual behaviour
  • Practices a high-risk lifestyle
  • Low attachment or interest in going to school
  • Easy access to electronic media

Luckily, there are protective factors that can shield your adolescent from making bad decisions:

  • Has good knowledge regarding sexual and reproductive health
  • Maintains good relationships and communicates well with family members
  • Good family management practices (e.g. discipline, positive reinforcement, monitoring, and supervision) at home
  • A positive perception of neighbourhood issues
  • Easy access to printed media

Knowledge of sexual and reproductive health being the key protective element should be emphasised by parents when inculcating values and setting limits or rules for their teens.

Some tips on how to speak to your teenager about sex and what to talk about:

  • Start talking about sex early, in a step by step manner suitable for your child’s developmental age. For example, you can start to introduce the names of their reproductive organs and that of the opposite sex to children as young as 3-5 years old. As they get older, more detail can be included in the explanation.
  • When talking about sex, use accurate terms. Do not use slang or euphemisms as it may send the wrong signal that talking about it is taboo or shameful. In fact, it is perfectly normal and should be encouraged in order to empower children with knowledge needed to make good decisions.
  • Talk about your teen’s future plans and what is needed for them to pursue those plans. They must understand that making the wrong decisions now can set them back in life.
  • Role-play sexual advances they might encounter and teach your child how to be firm and assertive when it comes to saying ‘NO!’ Some children fear backlash from their boyfriends or girlfriends or are concerned that the relationship might end if they do not give in. Hence, it is important that parents understand real-life situations that might happen and empathise more of what the child feels or is concerned about.

What’s in it for you & your child?

Teens who are used to talking about sex with their parents will seek their advice, if and when they are not sure of sexual issues – definitely better than them turning to the internet or their similarly clueless peers.

A stronger parent-child relationship is forged because effective communication, support, love and trust becomes the foundation of which it is built.

Your child is better prepared to make informed decisions when a situation arises that might significantly impact their future.

Your child is empowered with the knowledge on how to recognise inappropriate sexual advances and will know how to avoid or, what to do if they have been sexually abused.

An educational collaboration with National Population and Family Development Board Malaysia.

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