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Your Teen

Parents Need to Have the “Sex Talk” With Their Kids

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Let’s face it, talking to your child about sex isn’t something a parent looks forward to, but a new study says teens who have had a serious conversation about sex with one or both parents are more likely to use condoms or birth control is they are or become sexually active.

“The take home message is that parents do matter, and these conversations do matter,” said Laura Widman, lead author of the new paper and an assistant professor of psychology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

While the more information you can present to your child in a way that addresses the health aspects of sexual activity is good, parents don’t have to be experts says Widman, “Just having the conversation is important,” she said. “That’s the good news.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of high school students have had sexual intercourse. Almost 60 percent of high school students surveyed who have had sex said they used a condom when they last had sex, but 14 percent of sexually active teens said they did not use any birth control the last time they had intercourse.

Young people, aged 15 to 24, make up only a fraction of the sexually active population, but they bear a disproportionate burden of sexually transmitted diseases. And while teen pregnancy rates have dropped significantly, there were still 625,000 teen pregnancies in 2010, and nearly half of them –273,000 — gave birth.

Widman noted that results from the study showed that teens who communicated with their parents about were more likely to communicate with their sexual partners and to use condoms.

“We know that being able to communicate with a partner about condom use is one of the best predictors of whether teens use condoms or not,” Dr. Widman said. “So providing kids with the language they need and getting the message across that the subject is not off-limits or taboo can make a difference in their behavior.”

Some parents worry that talking about sex with their child somehow sends a message that they are approving of that behavior. However, studies have found that children who are comfortable talking about sex are actually more likely to delay sexual activity and be older when they first have intercourse.

“Parents fear that if they bring these issues up, they’re signaling that it’s okay to have sex, but that’s completely untrue – we know that parents who bring it up, and bring it up regularly, their kids are least likely to have sex,” said Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, a professor of social work at the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at New York University’s Silver School of Social Work and author of an article about that topic that was published recently in JAMA Pediatrics.

Parents aren’t the only ones uncomfortable talking about sex, so are their kids.  In a 2012, half of the kids surveyed said they were uncomfortable talking to their parents about sex. Only 19 percent of the parents said they were uncomfortable having the “sex talk” with their child.

Children often think that if they ask questions, their parents “will overreact or assume they’re having sex,” said Dr. Guilamo-Ramos, who has developed some pointers on talking with your children.

If you’re wondering how to start that conversation with your child, the Office of Adolescent Health, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has these tips:

·      Use current events, pop culture or developments in your social circle to start conversations about sex, healthy relationships and contraception. It’s not a one-time chat, Dr. Guilamo-Ramos said. “Talk to your child on a regular basis.”

·      Take on the tough topics, like birth control and sexual orientation.

·      Pay attention to a teen’s romantic relationships. Teens in intense romantic relationships are more likely to have sex, especially if the partner is a couple of years older than your child.

·      Address your child’s concerns, not just your own. “They want help with the real life pressures they’re experiencing in social situations,” said Dr. Guilamo-Ramos. “Talk with them about what a healthy relationship looks like, and help them come up with strategies and short one-liners that will help them get out of tough situations.”

·      Make sure to talk to your sons, not just your daughters. “Parents’ messages are often more directed to girls than boys,” he said. “And boys aren’t getting the information they need.”

The findings from the North Carolina State University research stem from a large analysis of adolescent health data, based on more than 50 studies involving 25,314 teens over the course of 30 years. The link between parental communication and safer sex practices, while modest overall, is strongest for girls and for teens that talked with their mothers, according to the research, published online in JAMA Pediatrics

As with most studies, the results do not prove a conclusion, only an association. 

Source: Roni Caryn Rabin, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/11/04/why-parents-should-have-the-sex-talk-with-their-children/?_r=0

 

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