Currently, St. Louis is nationally ranked number one in chlamydia and gonorrhea, and is number five in the nation for syphilis and HIV. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that one in four teenage females, ages 14 to 19, has an STD, one in five teenage females has HPV and half of all teens are sexually active.
Yet, according to teen surveys, those who had close parent relationships were more likely to abstain from sex, wait until they were older to begin sexual activity, have fewer partners and use contraception more consistently.
Parents need to start talking.
Family communication about relationships, sex, and sexuality should be an ongoing process, not a one-time talk. So look for those "teachable moments" – those times when sexual issues come to the surface. For instance, romantic or sexual story lines in TV shows, advertisements, lyrics from popular songs, movies or news shows — Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl performance or Paris Hilton’s commercial washing a car are a couple of examples. Teachable moments are ideal opportunities to hear your child's questions and concerns, and to share your feelings and values about sexuality and sexual issues. Ask what your child thinks about the behaviors and relationships of the people involved and if your family’s values are helpful in understanding them. They may seem like they are not listening, or that they do not want to hear about sexuality from their patients, but they are listening. If you remain silent on sexuality, it sends a message as well. Speak up and you will both be glad you did!
A few online resources to help
Planned Parenthood Federation of America: Toolkit for Parents
Advocates for Youth
Families are Talking
Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
Talk With Your Kids
Teaching Sexual Health
There’s No Place Like Home … for Sex Education
Books About Talking with Your Children About Sexuality
How to Talk with Teens About Love, Relationships, and S-E-X by Amy G. Miron and Charles D. Miron
Sex & Sensibility: The Thinking Parent's Guide to Talking Sense About Sex by Deborah M. Roffman
Sexuality: Your Sons and Daughters With Intellectual Disabilities by Karin Melberg Schwier and David Hingsburger
Teaching Children with Down Syndrome about Their Bodies, Boundaries, and Sexuality by Terri Couwenhoven
Books for Children
There are books written about sexuality for children of different ages. Reading books about sexuality with your children is a great way for you to break the ice and start an ongoing discussion. And children will benefit from having books like these in your home to look at when they have questions about sexuality.
It's Not the Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends by Robie Harris (for ages 4 and up)
It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing up, Sex, and Sexual Health by Robie Harris (for ages 10 and up)
It's So Amazing!: A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families by Robie Harris (for ages 7 and up)
What's the Big Secret?: Talking about Sex with Girls and Boys by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown (for ages 4-8)
The “What's Happening to My Body?” Book for Boys: A Growing Up Guide for Parents and Sons by Lynda Madaras and Martin Anderson (for ages 8 to 15)
The “What's Happening to My Body?” Book for Girls: A Growing Up Guide for Parents and Daughters by Lynda Madaras and Marcia Herman-Giddens (for ages 8 to 15)