390 Lincoln Road
Sudbury, MA 01776
Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017
Contact: John Guilfoil
Sudbury Lincoln CRANE Newsletter Feb. 15
FEATURED TOPIC: Positive Sexual Health
Talking to your children about sex can be one of the more difficult conversations between a parent and their child. However, parents and guardians play the most important role in sex education.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 41 percent of U.S. high school students surveyed in 2015 reported ever having sexual intercourse. Additionally, 30 percent reported having sexual intercourse during the previous three months, and, of these, 43 percent said they did not use a condom the last time they had sex and 14 percent did not use any method to prevent pregnancy.
According to the results of the 2014 MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey, 22 percent of students at Lincoln Sudbury (LS) High School reported having sexual intercourse in their lifetime. Additionally, LS teens reported that condom use decreased among students who reported having sex in the last six months from 73 percent in 2006 to 60 percent in 2014.
When deciding about the right time to talk to your children about sex, it is important to pay attention to your child’s cues and an open dialogue with your child is essential. Research has shown that communication between parents and children leads to adolescents delaying sexual activity, practicing safe sexual behaviors as well as more confidence when talking to partners about sexual history and sexually transmitted diseases.
The following tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics will help encourage conversation with your child and help them to develop healthy relationships:
- Don’t discredit love. Understand the importance of romantic attachments in a teenager’s life and the intensity of strong feelings that they generate, even if your definition and perspective of love differ from your child’s.
- Don’t abstain from educating your own children. If you don’t educate them, someone else will. They learn behaviors and attitudes modeled by other adults, from the media and popular culture, and certainly from peers. Let you own views be counted as part of their sex education.
- Talk about sex early and often. They don’t always hear you. They may not always believe you. They often don’t remember, especially if they weren’t ready to hear you. But, they are often listening when they are pretending not to be.
- Avoid sexuality conversations that are all “don’ts.” Parents often recount that they speak to their teens often about sex, yet generally those conversations are all about the “don’ts”: Don’t have sex, don’t get pregnant, don’t get a disease.
- It’s don’t, don’t, don’t. What gets left out are the “do’s.” What can they do to be sexually healthy with a partner they care about? How can they decide whether a partner is interested in them as a person or just as a potential sexual partner? What ways can they address peer or partner pressure to be sexual when they don’t feel they are ready? These topics need to be part and parcel of any discussion of healthy sexuality. Give them some things they can do!
- Be real. Dispel myths and rumors. Provide accurate information. Use simple language, but respect their intelligence and curiosity. Above all, avoid talking down to children and teens about sex.
- Empower your children. Let them know they deserve to feel honored in their relationships, to have their own space, to keep their friends, to include their family, and to feel good about who they are. Teach them to expect a give-and-take, but that, in the end, a good relationship helps you to be more of who you already are and feel even better about it.
- Ask, don’t tell. Find out what your child is thinking when talking about their relationships or sexual experiences. What does it mean to have a boyfriend or girlfriend at what age? Listen to what it means to the teen at that time. The teen’s level of understanding and participation may actually be appropriate for his or her developmental level. It is also helpful to talk about their friends and relationships. Teens can be more chatty about their friends than about themselves, but listening to what their friends are doing will offer insight into how your teen feels.
- Keep it generic. Being willing to speak in generalities allows conversations about difficult subjects like sex to move forward without getting anyone too uncomfortable. Let your children know that you know of people that had certain experiences when they were younger, that you have been in difficult situations or know others who have been, and that you’re not afraid to discuss those things on some level. Avoid interrogating your teen about what exactly they did or didn’t do sexually; you don’t want them to demand details about your love life, either. Keeping things on a surface level gives permission to continue the discussion over a greater breadth (and possibly depth) of topics and allow you to communicate more honestly about sex in ways that may very well be helpful one day.
- Beware of the “D” word. Children fear disappointing their parents more than just about anything else in the world. While you should let children know when their behavior is dangerous or wrong, be very clear that there is nothing they could ever do that would make you stop loving them. Reassure them that you still want what’s best for them and you will see they find help when they need it. Avoid getting into situations where their fear of your disappointment or anger keeps them from coming to you when they need you the most.
- Be clear that safety is nonnegotiable. Be very clear, and repeat often, that nothing matters more than knowing they are going to be okay. Set a standard for protecting themselves from disease and unwanted pregnancy regardless of whether you agree with their decision-making about sex. Make sure that they know they can come to you for help if something goes wrong.
- Find a surrogate. Talking about sex is difficult. When necessary, identify and encourage them to ask for help from other trusted adults; it doesn’t always have to be you.
Parent Training: Mental Health at the High School Age
Thursday, March 2 at 6 p.m. at Lincoln Sudbury Regional High School
Tuesday, March 14 at 7 p.m. at Congregation Beth Elohim Early Learning Center
William James College INTERFACE Referral Service is a mental health and wellness referral line available to families in the Sudbury and Lincoln Communities as well as Boston families with children in the Sudbury and Lincoln schools. This free and confidential service is available to residents of all ages in member towns.
Callers will be asked to describe their need and provide insurance, appointment time and location preferences. INTERFACE staff will then use their extensive database to find a licensed therapist or provider match with the appropriate specialization. They are able to make referrals in the Sudbury, Lincoln and Boston areas. INTERFACE is available Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 888-244-6843 (toll free).