How do I talk to my mom about being sexually active?

Great question! It’s awesome that you want to talk to a parent about this part of your life. Talking about sex at all—let alone with your parents—can feel embarrassing, awkward, or be difficult for other reasons. The fact that you want to talk to your mom about sex says a lot about your maturity and the strength of your relationship!

You know your mom, so trust your instinct on this. Choose a time when she isn’t in a hurry, or clearly stressed out about anything. Is there a time of day she’s particularly relaxed? Sometimes, it’s easier to talk about difficult subjects while you both do something else, like washing the dishes or going for a ride in the car.

You can start by asking her, “Can we talk about something?”

That sets the tone by giving a clear indication that you want to talk about something serious. It also gives her a chance to let you know if then isn’t a good time to talk. Exactly what you say from there really depends on you and your Mom’s personality, how you think she’ll react to what you say, and whether you’ve talked about sex in other contexts.

It’s unclear from your question whether you’ve recently started having sex or you’re thinking about having sex.

Here are some suggestions for bringing up sex in both contexts:

  • “I want to be totally honest with you, so I want to tell you that I recently started having sex.” / “I want to be totally honest with you, so I wanted to let you know that I’m thinking about having sex.”
  • “So, I just wanted to let you know that I recently started having sex.” / “So, I just wanted to let you know that I’m thinking about having sex.”
  • “Me and [your partner] have recently started having sex, and I wanted to talk to you about it.” / “Me and [your partner] are thinking about having sex, and I wanted to talk to you about it.”
  • “I’m thinking about having sex, and I want to be safe. Can we make a doctor’s appointment?”
  • “I’m thinking about having sex, but I’m not sure if I’m ready. What do you think being ‘ready’ for sex means?”

If it’s true, tell your mom upfront that you are using birth control and condoms or another barrier method.

Reassure her that you made this decision, and that no one pressured you into it. If you want to, you can explain why you feel ready for sex. Your mom may have other questions. If you feel comfortable, answer honestly.

How you continue the conversation depends on how your mom reacts, and what you want to get out of the conversation. Do you want to talk about how to have safer sex? The emotional side of sex? How to tell if you’re ready for sex? Do you want help getting birth control, condoms or other barrier methods? Or do you just want to be honest with your mom and let her know about what’s going on in your life? Think about what you want from the conversation, and let that guide you.

Listen to what your mom has to say in response.

Chances are she’ll be proud of you for being mature enough to talk about sex with her. It’s also possible that she may need some time to digest the information. This doesn’t mean that she’s disappointed or even worried about you. Lots of parents need some time to get used to the idea that their children are growing up. Respect her response.

If she reacts negatively, try to avoid getting angry or upset. Instead, explain again that you wanted to talk about being sexually active because you wanted to be honest, and you trust her. Explain that you think your decision makes sense for you, and that you’ve seriously thought about this.

If you have other questions about sex or sexual health, or need birth control or STI testing or treatment, you can make a free, confidential appointment at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center.

Good luck!