Talking to kids about sex, early and often

1 Jan

The blog discussed the impact of careless, uninformed, and/or reckless sex in the post, A baby changes everything: Helping parents finish school http://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/a-baby-changes-everything-helping-parents-finish-school/ Let’s continue the discussion. Some folks may be great friends, homies, girlfriends, and dudes, but they make lousy parents. Could be they are at a point in their life where they are too selfish to think of anyone other than themselves, they could be busy with school, work, or whatever. No matter the reason, they are not ready and should not be parents. Birth control methods are not 100% effective, but the available options are 100% ineffective in people who are sexually active and not using birth control. So, if you are sexually active and you have not paid a visit to Planned Parenthood or some other agency, then you are not only irresponsible, you are Eeeevil. Why do I say that? You are playing “Russian Roulette” with the life of another human being, the child. You should not ever put yourself in the position of bringing a child into the world that you are unprepared to parent, emotionally, financially, and with a commitment of time. So, if you find yourself in a what do I do moment and are pregnant, you should consider adoption. Before reaching that fork in the road of what to do about an unplanned pregnancy, parents must talk to their children about sex and they must explain their values to their children. They must explain why they have those values as well.

Parents who believe the “head in the sand” method is the best approach will find themselves behind the curve because children will access information about sex on their own. Jan Hoffman writes in the New York Times article, Sex Education Gets Directly to Youths, via Text:

While heading to class last year, Stephanie Cisneros, a Denver-area high school junior, was arguing with a friend about ways that sexually transmitted diseases might be passed along.

Ms. Cisneros knew she could resolve the dispute in class — but not by raising her hand. While her biology teacher lectured about fruit flies, Ms. Cisneros hid her phone underneath her lab table and typed a message to ICYC (In Case You’re Curious), a text-chat program run by Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

Soon, her phone buzzed. “There are some STDs you can get from kissing but they are spread more easily during sex,” the reply read. “You can get a STD from oral sex. You should use a condom whenever you have sex.”

Ms. Cisneros said she liked ICYC for its immediacy and confidentiality. “You can ask a random question about sex and you don’t feel it was stupid,” said Ms. Cisneros, now a senior. “Even if it was, they can’t judge you because they don’t know it’s you. And it’s too gross to ask my parents.”

Sex education is a thorny subject for most school systems; only 13 states specify that the medical components of the programs must be accurate. Shrinking budgets and competing academic subjects have helped push it down as a curriculum priority. In reaction, some health organizations and school districts are developing Web sites and texting services as cost-effective ways to reach adolescents in the one classroom where absenteeism is never a problem: the Internet.

In Chicago, teenagers can subscribe to Sex-Ed Loop, a program endorsed by the district that includes weekly automated texts about contraception, relationships and disease prevention. Through Hookup, California teenagers can text their ZIP codes to a number and receive locations for health clinics.

Many services, like Sexetc.org, a national site run by and for teenagers, offer both privacy and communities where adolescents can learn about sexuality and relationships, particularly on mobile devices, eluding parental scrutiny. Services offer links to blogs, interactive games, moderated forums, and Facebook and Twitter pages.

The messages, rendered in teenspeak, can be funny and blunt: for Real Talk, a technology-driven H.I.V. prevention program run by the AIDS Council of Northeastern New York, teenagers made a YouTube video, shouting a refrain from a rap song, “Sport Dat Raincoat,” during which a girl carrying an umbrella is pelted with condoms.

When we ask young people what is the No. 1 way they learn about sex, they say, ‘We Google it,’ ” said Deb Levine, executive director of ISIS Inc., an Oakland, Calif.,-based nonprofit organization that administers texting services and checks content for medical accuracy. “But most of the time, the best information is not coming up in those searches.” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/31/us/sex-education-for-teenagers-online-and-in-texts.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

This leads to a question for some parents about whether they should spy on their kids. David Crary, AP national writer has penned the provocative article, Parental Dilemma: Whether to Spy On Their Kids?

Perhaps the best advice comes from Carleton Kendrick in the Family Education article, Spying on Kids

Staying connected

So how do you make sure your teens are on the straight and narrow? You can’t. And don’t think you can forbid them to experiment with risky behavior. That’s what they’re good at during this stage, along with testing your limits. You can help them stay healthy, safe, and secure by doing the following:

  • Keep communicating with your teens, even if they don’t seem to be listening. Talk about topics that interest them.
  • Respect and ask their opinions.
  • Give them privacy. That doesn’t mean you can’t knock on their door when you want to talk.
  • Set limits on their behavior based on your values and principles. They will grudgingly respect you for this.
  • Continually tell them and show them you believe in who they are rather than what they accomplish.
  • Seek professional help if your teen’s abnormal behaviors last more than three weeks.

The key is open communication.

Lisa Frederiksen has written the excellent article, 10 Tips for Talking to Teens About Sex, Drugs & Alcohol which was posted at the Partnership for A Drug-Free America

1. Talk early and talk often about sex. “Teens are thinking about sex from early adolescence and they’re very nervous about it,” explains Elizabeth Schroeder, EdD, MSW, Executive Director, Answer, a national sexuality education organization based at Rutgers University.  “They get a lot of misinformation about sex and what it’s supposed to be like. And as a result they think that if they take drugs, if they drink, that’s going to make them feel less nervous.”

Take this quiz to sharpen your talking skills.

2. Take a moment. What if your teen asks a question that shocks you? Dr. Schroeder suggests saying, “‘You know, that’s a great question.‘ or ‘I gotta tell you, I’m not sure if you’re being serious right now but I need a minute.‘” Then regain your composure and return to the conversation.

Learn how to handle personal questions from your teen like: “How old were you when you first had sex?” and “Have you ever used drugs?”

3. Be the source of accurate information. Beyond many school health classes, teens have lots of questions about drugs, pregnancy, condoms, abstinence and oral sex.

Find out what one mom discovered when she sat in on her daughter’s sex ed class.

4. Explain the consequences. Since teen brains aren’t wired yet for consequential thinking and impulse control, it’s important to have frank discussions with your teens about the ramifications of unprotected sex and the importance of using condoms to prevent the spread of STDs, HIV and unwanted pregnancy.

Find out how to guide your child toward healthy risks instead of dangerous ones.

5. Help your child figure out what’s right and wrong. Teens need — and want– limits.  When it comes to things like sexuality, drugs and alcohol, they want to know what the rules and consequences are.

6. Use teachable moments. Watch TV shows (like “16 and Pregnant,”  “Teen Mom,” “Jersey Shore” and “Greek”), movies, commercials, magazine ads and the news with your teen and ask “What did you think about that?” “What did you notice about how these characters interacted?”  “What did you think about the decisions they made?” For us, one of the best ways to talk about a number of heavy topics was to take a drive — that way we weren’t face-to-face.

7.  Explain yourself. Teens need to hear your rationale and why you feel the way you do. One approach is to talk about sex, drugs and alcohol in the context of your family’s values and beliefs.

One of the most challenging moments for me was when my daughters brought up the subject of intercourse.  I explained that my hope was they would not do it until they were in a committed, mutually caring relationship and that it would be a choice, not an attempt to hold onto a relationship and that it would be mutually satisfying.

8. Talk about “sexting.” Texting sexual images and messages is more prevalent than you may think. Read more.

9. Remember how you felt. I know when I started puberty I had many thoughts, feelings and questions that weren’t discussed in my family. Things like body changes, feelings of attraction, acne, weight gain, emotional confusion and the desire to push your parents away.  I wanted to help my daughters avoid that confusion.  I wanted them to understand early on that puberty is a hardwired, biological change that happens to all humans so they become interested in sex for the purposes of procreation. It’s natural to have impulses and feelings that are part and parcel to puberty. Teens don’t have control over these feelings and impulses, but they do have control over whether they act on them.

10. Persevere. Dr. Schroeder warns that your teenager may not want to talk — he or she may shrug and walk away. “Adolescents are supposed to behave in that way when inside what they’re really saying is ‘Keep talking to me about this. I need to know what you think. I’m trying to figure this out for myself as a teenager and if I don’t get messages from you, then I’m not going to know how to do this,’” she explains.

In truth, a close relationship with your child will probably be more effective than spying. Put down that Blackberry, iPhone, and Droid and try connecting with your child. You should not only know who your children’s friends are, but you should know the parents of your children’s friends. Many parents have the house where all the kids hang out because they want to know what is going on with their kids. Often parents volunteer to chauffeur kids because that gives them the opportunity to listen to what kids are talking about. It is important to know the values of the families of your kid’s friends. Do they furnish liquor to underage kids, for example?  How do they feel about teen sex and is their house the place where kids meet for sex?

So, in answer to the question should you spy on your Kids? Depends on the child. Some children are more susceptible to peer pressure and impulsive behavior than others. They will require more and possibly more intrusive direction. Others really are free range children and have the resources and judgment to make good decisions in a variety of circumstances. Even within a family there will be different needs and abilities. The difficulty for parents is to make the appropriate judgments and still give each child the feeling that they have been treated fairly. Still, for some kids, it is not out of line for parents to be snoops, they just might save the child and themselves a lot of heartache.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

One Response to “Talking to kids about sex, early and often”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. CDC report: Contraceptive use among teens « drwilda - July 24, 2012

    [...] The blog discussed the impact of careless, uninformed, and/or reckless sex in the post, A baby changes everything: Helping parents finish school http://us.mg5.mail.yahoo.com/2011/12/26/a-baby-changes-everything-helping-parents-finish-school/ Let’s continue the discussion. Some folks may be great friends, homies, girlfriends, and dudes, but they make lousy parents. Could be they are at a point in their life where they are too selfish to think of anyone other than themselves, they could be busy with school, work, or whatever. No matter the reason, they are not ready and should not be parents. Birth control methods are not 100% effective, but the available options are 100% ineffective in people who are sexually active and not using birth control. So, if you are sexually active and you have not paid a visit to Planned Parenthood or some other agency, then you are not only irresponsible, you are Eeeevil. Why do I say that? You are playing “Russian Roulette” with the life of another human being, the child. You should not ever put yourself in the position of bringing a child into the world that you are unprepared to parent, emotionally, financially, and with a commitment of time. So, if you find yourself in a what do I do moment and are pregnant, you should consider adoption. Before reaching that fork in the road of what to do about an unplanned pregnancy, parents must talk to their children about sex and they must explain their values to their children. They must explain why they have those values as well.  http://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/talking-to-kids-about-sex-early-and-often/ [...]

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