“The talk” can be one of the most dreaded conversations for both parents and children alike, but it is one of the most important lessons we can teach to our kids. Without guidance from their parents in this area, adolescents will learn from a less reliable source, generally their peers. Even though it may be scary to think about our own children, let alone their friends, engaging in intercourse, providing them with sex education is extremely important in their growth. Letting their friends answer their pressing questions can turn out to be harmful to their understanding of STDs and pregnancy, among other things.
A 2011 survey done by the CDC indicated more than 47% of all high school students have had sex and only 60% of said students used a condom. My parents gave me “the talk” before I was in high school and upon entering high school, I quickly learned most of my peers had not had the same conversation with their folks. Though it can feel embarrassing to discuss it, not discussing has more consequences. Teenagers, full of hormones, are also full of questions about their bodies. If these questions go unanswered instead of seeking an adult to talk about something embarrassing, they will seek a friend for the answers. More often than not these answers aren’t always factual. In high school my friends quickly started losing their virginity left and right. I held out for a few years but was always a bit curious. Luckily I had been told about sex so I didn’t take anyone’s advice that could have gotten me into trouble. Unfortunately, a few girls didn’t have the luxury of sex education and had to learn about consequences the hard way.
The advice that was floating around the schools on sex proved to be unreliable, but with no one to communicate with, what else were these girls going to do but trust a friend. I can’t count how many times I heard, “If a girl is on top, gravity will pull the sperm down so you can’t get pregnant.” This was a very common expression in my middle school and high school. I can only wonder if the many girls who showed up pregnant over the summer every year followed this rule of thumb or not. “You can get pregnant by swallowing semen,” is another one. Now, this might sound like it would deter girls from giving oral sex and being abstinent but if you can get pregnant by giving head but not by riding a boy, which is the better avenue? That one could backfire. “If you love me, you’ll have sex with me” is used way too often to pressure a girl into bed. I’ve never had a guy tell me this before but I knew girls whose guys used this line on them, and it worked. Soon after, the girls were single. We call them hit and runs. I would have decked a guy out; I knew better. Another dangerous one is, “You can’t get pregnant or an STD the first time.” These are just a few nasty myths that go around our schools and as you can see are pretty dangerous.
Not only did I know a girl who got pregnant her first time but I knew another girl who got gonorrhea the first time. Girls from ages 15-19 years old have the highest rates of gonorrhea than any age group, and the second highest rate of Chlamydia. Twenty percent of all new AIDS/HIV cases are within the 13-24 year old age group. Even with sex education classes available in most schools, personally speaking with your kids can clarify any misunderstandings that can result in scary consequences.
Though abstinence in general is a lovely idea and the only 100% effective way to prevent STDs and unwanted pregnancies, it is not entirely realistic. The most efficient preventative measure you can do as a parent is to educate your children on facts. Of course, the last thing parents want is for their teenagers to engage in sexual intercourse. But being able to calmly speak with your kids about sex without trying to browbeat them away from it makes them more comfortable to speak with you about important things like this. We were all teenagers ourselves, and we know teenagers are going to do what they want to do. We can hope they use good judgment and giving them information as important as sexual education is the biggest hope there is. Knowing the facts and consequences of their actions gives them the knowledge to make wiser choices. We know from our own experiences what peer pressure can do.