By Nicole Angresano
VP Community Impact,
United Way of Greater Milwaukee
Parenting is tough work. My son is 6 years old, and in the first grade. It seems as if our time together, once so open and unstructured, is becoming increasingly filled with sports, homework and play dates. Between school drop off, soccer, swimming, negotiating bedtimes and monitoring TV watching (mine and his)—sometimes it feels like we are on fast forward all day long—and then it starts over again.
We make time to talk, though. Lucas asks more questions than Jeopardy’s Alex Trebek. Last week, at an unnamed superstore, he asked me –LOUDLY—“Mom—how old do I have to be to kiss a girl that isn’t you?” I took a deep breath, and answered him as sincerely as I could: “46.”
And let’s be serious—that was not a hard question. But he asks those, too, just like your kids do. The tough questions range from topics about bodies, babies, love and families to everything in between. As his mother, I do the best I can to answer each and every one. I have to, because if he doesn’t get the answer from mom or dad—he’s going to seek it elsewhere. And often, those other sources—Johnny from up the street or Wikipedia—don’t really cut it, do they? And the MYTHS? Oh, my. The amount of false information floating around is staggering—and the internet makes it even worse. We address this in our newest public awareness campaign, focused on empowering parents to have factual information so they can be the first and best sexual health educators for their children. Kids who feel like 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 released survey data in a report called “With One Voice” (2012). Believe it or not, youth said that it is parents who most influence their decisions about sex—more than friends or peers, TV or popular culture, or coaches or 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. Here are a few of my favorites:
Baby Can Wait Parent Portal: On this site you can find United Way of Greater Milwaukee’s Let’s Talk Month Toolkit, available in English and Spanish, for talking with your kids about
Advocates for Youth’s Parent Sex Ed Center: http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/parents-sex-ed-center-home?task=view
It’s That Easy: http://www.itsthateasy.org/
Web MD: http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/guide/talking-to-your-kids-about-sex
It’s OK not to know all the answers. What you know is a lot less important than your willingness to have the conversations. If you show your children that no subject, including sex, is off limits to talk about within your family, you are off to a great start.