What is a Condom?

“What is a Condom?”

Whether you are prepared or not, your child may develop curiosity about condoms one day. If he or she asks you about it, how can you respond?

By Focus on the Family Singapore | 2 November 2020

The Tween Years (Ages 10-12)

Remember that your non-verbal response is just as important as your words. If you find yourself startled at your child asking you this question, try to take a breath and remain calm. It is helpful not to make speculative assumptions about why your kid may have this question at this point.

You can answer the question simply and factually: “A condom is something a man uses to cover his penis when he has sex with a woman. The condom is used to prevent the woman from becoming pregnant when they have sex.”

The Teen Years (Ages 13-15)

If your child asks you the question at this age, you can offer a more detailed explanation of what a condom is and what it does: “A condom is a temporary device a man puts over his erect penis when he has sex with a woman. It is usually made out of latex rubber. When the man reaches orgasm, he ejaculates his sperm, and the condom collects the man’s ejaculated sperm, so that they do not enter the woman’s vagina.

“A condom usually has two purposes: it can be used to prevent the woman from conceiving a child and/or it can be used to lower the risk of the man or woman contracting a sexually transmitted infection from their sexual partner. This is only effective when a condom is used correctly and consistently every single time, but that is not always the case.”

Emerging Years (Ages 16-19)

At this age, you can afford to give more information about condoms. Explain to your child that condoms are a method of contraception, and no contraception is perfect or completely foolproof. The only 100% way to prevent pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is abstinence.

You may wish to take this opportunity to share with your teenager about your family’s values on sex and marriage. Share with them that marriage is the best and safest place for a man and a woman to develop and deepen emotional and physical intimacy. That is why sex within a committed marriage is beautiful and a gift to be enjoyed by the husband and the wife. Abstinence before marriage is not only realistic, but it helps to ensure one’s quality of marriage and sexual intimacy.

Give them or ask them to research other facts about condoms, such as:

Condoms are not always effective in preventing STIs and unintended pregnancies.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

  • While correct and consistent use of condoms provides a high level of protection against most STIs, this is not typical of real-life situations. Condom usage errors, breakages and slippages are common worldwide, occurring in as many as 40% of sexual encounters.
  • When it comes to HIV transmission, consistent condom usage with the same partner provides only around 71–77% protection.
  • Because condoms cannot cover all infected areas of the body, they do not protect against STIs that spread through skin-to-skin contact, such as syphilis, herpes, human papillomavirus, genital warts, molluscum contagiosum virus, chancroid, etc.


  • While correct and consistent use of condoms are 98% effective in preventing unintended pregnancies, imperfect real-life condom usage yields only about 82–85% effectiveness.
  • That means that there is around 15–18% pregnancy rate even with the use of condoms.

You may want to bring up (whether in this conversation or future ones) that while condoms may provide some level of protection from the physical consequences of sex, it does not shield a person from the emotional repercussions. Many teenage boys and girls regretted becoming sexually active too early and wished they had waited longer. Sexual regret has been associated with negative psychological outcomes, like loss of life satisfaction, loss of self-worth, and depression.

Sex creates a deep bond between sexual partners and is meant to be enjoyed by a husband and a wife in a loving, committed marriage. Teach your teenager the importance of not entering into marriage with emotional baggage, which may decrease the quality of sex and marital happiness, and increase the likelihood of divorce.

© 2020 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.


Teenage transition is one of the most exciting yet challenging periods of life, with many physical, mental and emotional changes. In particular, teens start to mature sexually. As parents, how do we help them through this major life transition? Join our interest list for the Relational Health & Sexual Intelligence webinar—and get equipped to converse with your child about sexuality for their long-term relational health.

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