Friday, October 10, 2008

Baby Steps in Gloucester

The school board in Gloucester, Massachusetts, home of the rumored “pact” among seventeen pregnant teens, has approved contraceptive distribution at the high school. Parents can opt out, meaning their kids won’t be able to get birth control in the school clinic.

One school board member, Melissa Teixeira, who voted for the measure, urges parents to think before opting out. “Ask yourself, are you approachable?”

A survey conducted by Gloucester High School students suggests many parents may not be. Of those students surveyed, forty-nine percent said they were uncomfortable talking with their parents about sex.

What does it mean to be an “approachable” parent? It means listening more than you talk; sharing your values without preaching; and asking open-ended questions. A simple, “What do you think about that?” can go a long way toward keeping a conversation going.

Surveys by the Kaiser Family Foundation reveal that most kids want to be able to talk with their parents about sex. Most parents want to have these conversations, too. The difficulty often arises from discomfort, as the Gloucester students referenced in their survey.

In the coming months, I urge the Gloucester School Committee and the city’s Department of Public Health to offer workshops that teach parents the skills, strategies, and the words they need to feel more comfortable talking with their kids about sexual health. It’s the next step in the right direction.

Resources
Raising Healthy Kids: Families Talk About Sexual Health
Words Can Work: When Talking With Kids About Sexual Health
What Works: Sexuality Education

Related Issues and Answers columns
Parents as educators
Postponing sex
Self-respect
Talking with kids

Related columns for young people

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