Teen sexuality stirs a myriad of emotions in us all, especially when you have a teen living under your roof. The average age for first sex in the U.S. today is about 17.2. About 70% of 15- to 19-year-olds have had intercourse. Perhaps even more important than whether or not a teen is having sex is why they’re having it. Let me share some common reasons girls I have counseled have given for why they engage in sex.

Limiting beliefs about themselves: Life experiences like being excluded by your friend group or having an estranged parent can cause teens to question themselves. Unfortunately, this can lead to negative private logic, such as they are not good, important, loveable or attractive enough. These beliefs make them vulnerable to giving into sexual advances because their level of self-confidence and deservability is low.

Poor boundaries: Good girl conditioning is still alive and well. We often train girls to be obedient, nice, submissive and more worried about others’ needs than their own. They confuse assertiveness with aggressiveness and haven’t had enough practice setting clear, firm boundaries.

Not trusting intuition: We don’t do a good job of teaching teens to access and trust their gut intuition or how to recognize what might blunt their internal alarms.

Not thinking it through: Very few teens have created criteria for dating relationships and sexuality. Creating your own standards while quiet and clear-headed is a much better proposition than trying to make good decisions in the heat of the moment when your emotions can override your prefrontal cortex.

So, what’s a parent to do? Have open discussions about sexuality, protection and reasons why someone might experiment with sex. Talk about the need for them to become aware of any limiting beliefs they’ve accumulated and how these might impact their ability to make good choices. Demonstrate how to practice self care. Increase their awareness of how society conditions them and how it impacts their behaviors. Have them practice setting boundaries at home, even doing some role playing so they learn how to be clear and firm. Guide them to see that pursuing what’s best and right for them is far more important than being wanted. And teach them about noticing when their internal alarms go off and trusting their gut intuition in those moments.

Let your child know that you love them and encourage them to love themselves. They will take care of themselves in direct proportion to what they feel they deserve. If they truly believe that they are loved, important and deserve the best, their actions and decisions will match that belief. Sex education is not a one-off conversation but rather many, many discussions over the years, preparing them to be in charge of their experiences.

Tim Jordan, M.D., is a Behavioral Pediatrician who counsels girls aged grade school thru college. Listen to his weekly podcast, Raising Daughters, to gain information on raising strong, resilient girls. For more info on Dr. Jordan’s retreats, summer camps and books visit drtimjordan.com.