In the African-American community, teen sex statistics are alarming: According to a 2006 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 68 percent of African-American high school students reported having sex; nearly 30 percent of African-American boys had sex before age 13; and a new study estimates that nearly half the population of African-American girls, age 14-19, have at least one sexually transmitted disease (STD).
Despite statistics, some parents still do not have frequent conversations with their children about sex. It is important to not only talk to your child about sex, but allow them to participate in the discussion. When kids feel comfortable talking to their parents about tough issues, they are less likely to seek advice from their misinformed friends. Use the tips below as general guidelines for having open, honest discussions about sex with your child.
The general rule is the earlier you talk to your child about sex, the better. Studies show the median age for a person’s first sexual encounter is 17, yet many of us have seen girls as young as 13 with swollen tummies. Even if your child isn’t having sex, he or she probably is curious, especially if they watch television or listen to the radio. Instead of letting the media teach your child about sex, provide them with information on how to protect themselves against STDs and unwanted pregnancy at an early age.
When you decide to talk with your children about sex, be honest. Tell them why you feel the need to talk with them. Inform them of your values regarding sex. If you think it’s best to abstain until marriage, let them know and explain why. Allow your child’s values regarding sex to be shaped by you, not by the surrounding culture.
However, don’t end the discussion with what you believe. Ask for their views on sex and intimate relationships. Don’t be afraid to ask them if they’re already having sex. Allow them to ask you questions and try your best to answer them. Hold back judgment. Scaring your child off will only prevent them from coming to you in the future, which negates the point of talking with your child about sex in the first place.
Before you sit down to talk, make sure you know what you’re talking about. Don’t rely on worn statements like, “No one is going to buy the cow when they can get the milk for free.” Cliches are usually ineffective. I saw many of my high school classmates involved in committed relationships despite “giving away free milk.” So instead of talking over the issue, try providing your child with the facts.
The National Center for Health Statistics, www.cdc.gov/nchs/, is a Center for Disease Control site that allows you to search for data on teenage sex behaviors. When you visit the site, type in “teenage sex” and peruse the interesting statistics. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/, offers statistics on teen sex as well and provides information to help teens have sexually responsible relationships.
Practice what you preach
Teachers often use role-playing as a teaching tool in the classroom-having kids act out situations they may confront in the future. You can do the same with your kids. Play the role of your son’s friend. Pretend you are one of his locker-room buddies, discussing who you had sex with the night before. Show your son how to respond to the situation without lying or patronizing. With your daughter, role-play a conversation she might have with a significant other regarding sex. Feed her lines someone might say in order to sleep with her. She may respond with laughter initially, but when she eventually hears those same lines years, months, maybe even days later, she will know better how to respond.
You may feel unsuccessful after the first conversation. Your child’s cold silence or apparent restlessness may indicate she doesn’t want to speak with you about sexual matters. But keep the conversations going. The more discussions you have with your child, the more comfortable he or she will become. If you find your child has nothing to share, have them use one of the sites above to find statistics on HIV and teen pregnancy.
Sending our kids out into this world unprepared for sexual relationships is now deadly. One of the most important lessons we can teach our children is to be healthy, responsible adults.