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In October, 'Let's Talk' About Sex

Oct. 17, 2012 | Harry Kimball

We like to say that talking to your kids about sex should be a "continuing conversation" between parents and children that starts young and evolves along with development. But not all parents can make that happen—which is why we are happy that Planned Parenthood has launched "Let's Talk Month" to encourage all parents to open a dialogue with their kids, no matter how long they've waited. It's never too late to start instilling good values concerning sex.

Planned Parenthood has a bunch of informative articles and videos with practical advice on how to talk to teens about sex, and in particular on how to get them to respond and to keep the level of discomfort as low as possible.

But I think the most interesting and important thing for parents that Planned Parenthood is providing is a statistic from a poll the organization conducted of about 1,000 teens and one of their parents. In general, almost all parents and kids said that they had spoken to each other about sex. But when you break it down, a disconnect emerges between what parents think they've talked about and what kids think. For instance, "49.9 percent of parents said they've discussed healthy and unhealthy relationships many times with their teens." That number for teenswho are the exact same children those parents were talking aboutis just 31.5 percent.

Clearly, there is a lot of talking but not as much communication. So, even though it can be a little uncomfortable, it's very important that conversations about sex are clear, and that parents are forthright with their values and expectations. One way to achieve this is for parents to remember they are parents, not friends. A panel from the Freedom Institute explained this very nicely to our own Caroline Miller, and you can read about it here in a childmind.org piece on why frank sex talks are the most effective.

As Planned Parenthood New York president Joan Malin puts it in a piece on the Huffington Post, "Let's Talk Month is a great time to begin, or continue, the conversation." The poll shows that parents and teens are doing a pretty good job, but we can do better. Rememberthough it might not seem like it, there is no one that influences a teen's attitudes about sex more than parents.

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