October a good month to talk with teens about sexual health

“Advocates for Youth” hails October as “Let’s Talk Month.” AFY “champions efforts to help young people make informed and responsible decisions about their reproductive and sexual health.”

They envision a society that “views sexuality as normal and healthy and treats young people as a valuable resource.” They also believe that parents are the best people to deliver that message to their children.

Mary Ann Ornellas from Hale ‘Opio Kauai requested this article to be written, and gave me the website info. She also shared that Barbara Huberman, RN, MEd, and director of education and outreach for AFY, shared that “parents who act on the belief that young people have the right to accurate sexuality information are parents whose teens will delay the initiation of intimacy and use contraceptives when they choose to become sexually active.”

Since this is a column for teens, I’m suggesting that teens initiate the conversation about issues of sexuality they want or need to know about. Before you sigh, and shake your heads,“no,” consider the following: According to research done by AFY:

• Parents are the best sexuality educators for their children.

• Parents want to be good sex educators, but may not always understand how to do the job well.

• Children want sex education from their parents or legal guardians.

• Parents can learn to be an “askable” parent, a caring parent, and a wise counselor.

You may be experiencing a story similar to Natasha Vianna, who wrote “Let’s Talk Month: A Teen Mom’s Perspective. http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/blogs-main/advocates-blog/2071-lets-talk-month-a-teen-moms-perspective]

“My father didn’t talk about sex and my mother simply told me not to have sex. Yet, my brother was handed condoms regularly. I was left with a book on the male and female anatomies. This is how I learned where reproductive organs were located and the science behind reproduction.

“However, no one ever talked to me about personal and emotional relationships, media presentations for sexual involvement, or the social pressure of sexual relationships. I know this wasn’t the reason I became pregnant but it played an important role in how I perceived sex, relationships, and how I practiced safe sex. Having parents who I felt ‘would never understand’ or ‘would flip if I told them I was having sex’ made me feel like I had to make these decisions on my own. Unfortunately, I didn’t have all the tools I needed to make the best choices for myself.”

We need to expand our idea of what “human sexuality” is. According to Dr. Michael A. Carrera, “Sex, to many people means genital acts, either with a partner or alone. But this definition denies the completeness of our sexuality. Sexuality has to do with being female or male and is conditioned by the cultural and religious views we hold dear. Genital sexual expression can be a very important part of a person’s sexuality but it is a relatively small part of overall sexual learning.

The other important elements of sexual learning are body image, gender identity, gender role, family and social role, affection, love, intimacy, relationships, sensuousness and eroticism. All these elements together form the total fabric, the full cloth of sexuality. Accordingly, parents have a wide array of themes and opportunities to discuss sexuality within this context through their daily living with their children.” — http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/parents/165?task=view

Parents, guardians, or trusted caregivers, children know that you will do your best to be truthful with them, and give them much of the knowledge that they seek. Hopefully it will be a two-way conversation. A question arises … information unfolds respectfully, truthfully and wisely … a new question may unfold … and more wisdom is directed specifically to the need of your child.

There’s a very good chance that even your pre-teen has been exposed to info about the “genital acts” of sex. So talk to your children about affection. Or ask them what they think the word “love” means. That’s a huge conversation. Many people have it twisted up with sexual expression. You can help them understand the difference.

You can talk about relationships, and their multi-dimensionality including the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects. They would probably love to hear how you knew you were in love for the first time, or how you knew you were ready for sex with another person for the first time.

In Holland, France, and Germany, parents spend less time talking about not having sex and more time talking about how you know when you’re ready to have sex, and what to do to prepare for it. It’s on the AFY website. In fact, AFY has information about many different topics, including:

• Parent-child communication programs

• Can we talk about abstinence and contraception or is it a mixed message?

• Characteristics of parents of sexually healthy Children

• Parents and teens talking together about contraception

• Parents and their children learning about sexuality

• Talking with kids openly and honestly about sexuality

• Viewing sexuality as normal and healthy and treating young people as a valuable resource

• Teaching sexuality to youth with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Teens: If your parents are shy, you begin the conversation. Maybe you could say, “Mom, Dad, I have some questions about intimacy in relationships, and I’d like to talk with you about it at a good time for you.” That ought to get their attention, and will give your parents time to research it.

Read the websites together. Google together, and share your ideas. Let it be a beautiful connection with each other that you form. I’m reading a book sent in. Try it. It’s “Let’s Talk Month.”


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