by Nicole Angresano, Vice President, Community Impact,
United Way of Greater Milwaukee
My son is 5 years old. Well, 5 ¾, actually—he’s at an age where every extra month counts. He is the cherry on top of my family’s ice cream sundae—and there isn’t a thing we wouldn’t do for him. Some choices are obvious: we feed him healthy meals, and make sure he visits the doctor and dentist. We buy him clothes and shoes that fit—and try not to let him watch too much TV. But there are other parental duties that might not be as obvious—or as easy. Let’s take, for example, taking about sex. As parents, we need to be our child’s first and best health educator. It’s true! 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.
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy recently released survey data in a report called “With One Voice” (2012.) Once again, youth said that it is parents who most influence their decisions about sex—more than friends or peers, TV or popular culture, or coaches and teachers. And, once again, teens reported that they would welcome more conversations with their parents about sex and avoiding teen pregnancy.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: babycanwait.com
Advocates for Youth’s Parent Sex Ed Center: advocatesforyouth.org
It’s That Easy: 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!