How much did your parents talk about sex to you?
Mine kept it short and sweet, because in their day, the only protection they "needed" was a breath mint.
Oh, times have changed. And having frank and detailed discussions about the topic ain't easy.
Who really wants to talk about lube, anal sex and HIV with their mom? And most parents are not eager to go there either. But how much of a role does this apprehension "to go there" play in the sexual and reproductive health knowledge gap?
A new survey conducted by Planned Parenthood and the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health (CLAFH) sheds light on the importance of parents to keep it 100 with their children about sex — and the findings were interesting:
— By age 21, 1 in 5 parents have never talked with their teen about strategies for saying no to sex, birth control methods or where to get accurate sexual health information.
— Over 30 percent of parents have never talked with their teens about where to get reproductive health care services. These are crucial topics for parents to discuss with their teens.
— The majority of parents (61 percent) report wanting young people to wait to have sex until they are ready to handle the responsibilities that come from having a sexual relationship — far more than support waiting until marriage (45 percent). However, only 52 percent of parents report ever talking specifically about these values with their children.
— Among teens and young adults ages 15-21 who reported having vaginal sex, 91 percent of their parents knew. However, among teens having oral sex, only 40 percent of their parents knew.
And while the need for comprehensive sex education is crucial, parents have to step up, too.
This survey is important because studies show that while it may seem that pop culture and peers may be shaping the minds of teens, parental influence is still huge in helping teens navigate their sexuality and delaying sex.
“The survey shows that parents are talking, but they’re not talking about some of the topics that are most critical to protecting their children’s health. As teens get older, they need help with specific strategies for negotiating relationships and where to get information and services. It’s important for parents to both ask clear, direct questions about their children’s relationships and activities, so they know what is happening in their children’s lives and can have the opportunity to share their own values,” said Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, PhD, co-director of CLAFH.
He added, “Parents can make a real difference in their teens’ decisions about sex — if they talk regularly about the things that influence decision making.”
So what can the grown-ups do moving forward?
Well for starters, parents can utilize Planned Parenthood’s Let’s Talk resources to help get a better grasp on what to talk about, how to talk about it and the importance of expressing their values. And for teens, there are games, quizzes and guides to learn about HIV/AIDS, STDs, alcohol and risky sexual behavior, and also talks about why it’s OK to wait, too.
We all have to be more open to speak freely about sex. Hopefully this survey can be a stepping stone to make that happen.
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(Photo: JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images/Corbis)