By Nicole Angresano
Vice president, Community Impact, United Way of Greater Milwaukee
Is there anything parents look forward to more than talking to their children about SEX? I mean, I don’t know about you, but when my 4 ½ son asks me where babies come from, I throw a party! “Bring it on,” I say. “What else do you want to know?” Actually, here’s what is more likely to happen:
My son: “Mommy—why can’t boys have babies?”
Me: Blank stare, lots of blinking, frantic search for his father— and then, I take a deep breath, exhale and answer his question. Because as a parent, I need to be my child’s first and best health educator.
Kids who feel they can talk with their parents about sex are less likely to engage in high-risk behavior as teens than kids who do not feel they can talk with their parents. Despite what you may think, it’s not peers or the media that have the greatest influence over teens when it comes to sex and relationships—it’s parents.
A recent study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and Essence Magazine showed nearly half (47 percent) of teens surveyed ranked “how to have a good relationship” as the topic about which they most want to talk with their parents. Two-thirds (67 percent) say that if more teens were able to have open, honest conversations with their parents about sex, fewer teens would get pregnant. So whatever your child’s age, it’s very important that you talk with them about sex—and not just once, but many times, over many years.
Easier said then done, right? For most of us, talking about sex isn’t easy under any circumstances—let alone when the conversation is with our children. Luckily, October is Let’s Talk Month, a national observation of the importance of parent-child communication about sex, and there are tons of great resources out there for parents just like you and me. Here are a few of my favorites:
Baby Can Wait’s Parent Portal— on this site you can find United Way of Greater Milwaukee’s Let’s Talk Month Toolkit, available in both English and Spanish, for talking with your kids about sex: http://www.babycanwait.com/Healthcare/InformationforParents/Lets-Talk-Month/Lets-Talk-Month-Parent-Resourc.htm
Advocates for Youth’s Parent Sex Ed Center: http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/parents-sex-ed-centerhome?task=view
It’s That Easy: http://www.itsthateasy.org/
It’s ok not to know all the answers. What you know is a lot less important than how you respond. If you can show them that no subject, including sex, is off limits to discuss within your family, that is a great place to start!