October marks “Let’s Talk Month,” aimed at getting families talking about sexual health and relationships. A survey this month, commissioned in part by Planned Parenthood, shows that while most parents are talking about sexual health and relationships with their children, too many aren’t talking often or clearly enough about critical topics to help young people make healthy decisions. For example, over 20 percent of parents have never talked with their 15- to 21-year-olds 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 15- to 21-year-olds about where to get reproductive health care services.
Parents have an opportunity to make a real difference in their teen’s sexual decision making by asking clear, direct questions so they know what’s going on in their child’s life instead of guessing.
The consequences of failing to talk to our kids are severe — Hawaii’s teens rank lowest in the nation for condom use and have high rates of sexually transmitted infections. Further, Hawaii’s teen pregnancy rate is tied with South Carolina’s as the 10th highest in the country and costs Hawaii taxpayers $32 million per year. Clearly, “the talk” is overdue.
Parents might consider utilizing pop culture that touches on sexuality, relationships and reproductive health to find ways to have honest conversations about these topics. Watching TV or listening to music together can provide natural moments to spark conversations.
Planned Parenthood of Hawaii is here to help parents and their children talk more often and more in-depth about the things that matter. We are committed to making sure that parents can address the important elements of decision making with their children, as well as their own beliefs and values about sexuality and relationships. PlannedParenthood.org has resources, guidance, videos and apps designed to make starting and continuing these conversations easier.
So this year, whether you attend a local Planned Parenthood education program, take an online quiz with your child at PlannedParenthood.org, or sit down to watch TV with your children, use it as an opportunity to go beyond “the talk” and find the teachable moments to ensure they make healthy decisions based on your family values.
Don’t hesitate – start the conversation and keep talking!
Cynthia Chiang, Kauai Health Educator, Planned Parenthood of Hawaii.