Let's Talk

November 18, 2011

October: National Family Sexuality Education Month

Talk about it.
Parents want their teens to be healthy, to make responsible choices about sex, and to develop good relationships. However, teens are getting sexual messages from many unreliable sources. Peers may have picked up incorrect information and passed it on to your child. By the time they reach adolescence, young people have watched thousands of hours of television, and dozens of movies. They have listened to hundreds of song lyrics, and seen countless ads in magazines, newspapers, and on the Internet. The content of many of these media messages is sexual -- and a lot of it is unrealistic or unhealthy.

With so many messages about sexuality bombarding young people, you want to be sure your teenagers can sort out the facts from the fantasy. You want your kids to develop healthy, respectful relationships. A good way to do this is to have an ongoing conversation about their lives, their opinions, and their relationships.

Whether or not you're thinking or talking about it, parents are the primary source for their children's information about sexuality. That's why it's important to be clear about what you want to teach your children. Sharing your values about sexuality can help your child feel connected to you, to your family, and your community. Studies show that family connectedness plays a prominent role in preventing too-early pregnancy. Young people who feel close to their families are more likely to postpone intercourse, and when they finally have sex, they have fewer sexual partners, and use contraception more effectively. In fact, a recent poll found that 67 percent of teens who had talked openly with a parent about sex would speak to a parent first if they were considering beginning a sexual relationship.


Sharing Values
It may be hard to talk about values without having your teen "tune out," so avoid making the conversation a lecture – communication should go both ways. Remember that it is important to communicate your expectations to your kids. Share your values, and let your teens know why you have them, and give them the accurate information they need to stay healthy. Be the source of accurate information and reliable support for your teens, and keep an open ear when they need it.


Emphasize Health
Make the subject as normal as oral hygiene. You're not embarrassed to tell your kids to brush their teeth. Tell them about their reproductive health in the same way. It may be easier for you to communicate a message of health to your teen, so start with something that will ease your anxiety or discomfort, and go from there.

When you talk about sexuality with your kids, and they share their views with you, really listen to them. If they feel valued by you, they will learn to value themselves. If they value themselves, they are less likely to participate in risky behavior. Instill a sense of pride in their becoming responsible young men and women. Encourage them to take pride in their growing capabilities and to take steps to protect and nurture themselves


Don't worry about being an expert.

There are lots of printed materials and programs to give you information. Talk about what's important to you, including the health and well-being of your teen, and keep in mind that what you are hoping to do is build a stronger, more connected relationship with your child. For help and information, contact Planned Parenthood, or any of the organizations listed on the back of this brochure. Also check the resource list for books and other materials.

References:

Additional Guides for Parents:

First Trip to the Gynecologist

Talking About Sex: An Overview

How To Talk With Your Child About Sexuality (From Birth to Teens)

Teen Sex? It's OK to Say No Way!

Talking About Birth Control

How to Be a Good Parent

A national coalition effort to promote family communication about sexuality.

The NFSEM coalition members who support this effort:

Academy for Educational Development

Advocates for Youth

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

American Academy of Pediatrics

American Association for Health Education

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

American Association of School Administrators

American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists

American College Health Association

American Counseling Association

American Federation of Teachers

American Psychiatric Association

American Red Cross

American Youth Work Center

Association of Reproductive Health Professionals

Boys and Girls Clubs of America

Camp Fire, Inc.

Catholics for a Free Choice

Children's Defense Fund

Council of Jewish Federations

Families International

Girls, Inc.

Jewish Community Center Association

International Planned Parenthood Federation

March of Dimes

Mothers' Voices

National Asian Women's Health Organization

National Association of Community Health Centers

National Association of School Nurses

National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

National Council of Jewish Women

National Council of La Raza

National Council of Negro Women

National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

National Council on Family Relations

National Education Association

National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association

National Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Parenting, and Prevention (NOAPPP)

National Partnership for Women and Families

National Urban League

National Women's Political Caucus

Nurses Association for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Ounce of Prevention Fund

Parents Without Partners

Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc.

Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S.

Society for Adolescent Medicine

Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality

The Coalition on Sexuality and Disability, Inc.

Union of American Hebrew Congregations

United Church Board for Homeland Ministries

YMCA of the USA

YWCA of the USA

Zero Population Growth