Saturday, September 06, 2008

Let's Talk About Sex

In Let’s Talk About Sex, an opinion piece in the New York Times, writer Charles Blow points out that “the U.S. teen birthrate is higher than any other member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development”. Blow suggests, among other things, following the lead of Britain where a bipartisan group from the British Parliament wants to mandate sex education for "children as young as four years old".

Blow writes this may seem extreme but necessary.

Sexuality education for young children is not an extreme idea. It protects the health and well being of kids. I learned this from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through their involvement in producing our film, Raising Healthy Kids: Families Talk About Sexual Health. The program urges parents to help their young children develop healthy sexuality. They can do so by being deliberate about what is often taken for granted as part of parenting—teaching children how to love and be loved and how to trust and be trusted. In other words, teaching them how to develop healthy relationships.

Yes, many parents struggle to talk with their children about sexual health. Children pick up on our discomfort and get the message that sexuality is shameful, rather than a natural and beautiful part of everyone. But when we begin those conversations early, the lines of communication are open at the age when the consequences of kids’ choices are greater.

The federal government’s research shows that when young people and their parents can talk openly and honestly, these kids are more likely to delay sexual intercourse and use protection if they do have sex.

I commend Charles Blow for encouraging these conversations. It’s easier for parents to work through their discomfort and start talking about sex than to have their teen come home with the news that he or she is about to become a parent.

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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