The moment was upon us. Every parent dreads this moment; every child squirms upon hearing the topic of the imminent conversation. That’s right; it’s the birds and the bees talk, and it’s one that is happening less and less.
Before Jayna started 6th grade this year and arrived at the “big” school in New Richland, Michelle and I decided we’d better start down that path and have a straight talk with her about sex. As the old Schoolhouse Rock cartoons used to tell us, “Knowledge is power!” If kids know the facts about sex, they are less likely to make decisions that can be costly.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they surveyed high school students across the nation in 2011 and found that 47% of those surveyed had engaged in sexual intercourse, including 33% in the previous three months, of which 40% did not use birth control.
Stop and think about those numbers for a minute. Then think about this: 2009 saw 400,000 girls ages 15-19 who gave birth. I’m sure many of them have become fabulous parents, but it’s a tough road to start down at that young age.
In addition to that, every year in the United States, there are 19 million new STDs, half of which occur in 15-24 year olds. That’s another difficult situation for too many people.
Other studies, however, show that when parents become involved at a young age and open the door to conversations about sexual behavior, the numbers go down tremendously. In an article in Reader’s Digest a number of years back, one teenager said that she was not as curious and eager to experiment when it came to sex after her mom sat down and talked to her about it. There is something about hearing about these things from your parents (who we always TRY to think of as non-sexual beings) that makes the prospect much less attractive!
I’ve taught the novel Tex, by S.E. Hinton, for many years in my 8th grade class. In the book, the title character tries to make a move on his girlfriend, but she firmly puts him in his place and says she’s not ready for that. It often leads to a class discussion that frequently shocks me at the lack of knowledge students have. When I ask how many have had a talk about sex with their parents, the number is always between 10-15%.
There are students that young who are testing the waters. There are students younger than that who are trying things out! It’s something most people don’t want to think about or talk about, but if kids don’t know the basics and the risks involved, they are much more likely to find things out their own way.
Did we talk about everything with our daughter? Of course not, but we opened that door. It was a difficult door to crack open, both for her and for us, but it’s not a door we mean to shut any time soon. Our hope is that now that she understands the basics, she will feel comfortable asking us as new situations arise and that she will think before she acts. There will surely be more uncomfortable conversations as she gets older, starts dating, leaves home, and other perilous status updates.
That’s the best we can hope for in today’s sex-saturated society. Life is all about choices. We want our kids to make the best choices all the time, but that’s not always realistic. Everyone does things they will regret, but I always tell my students when it comes to sex, alcohol, etc. that if you decide to make that choice, at least be as safe as possible. Use protection, get a designated driver, talk about the potential repercussions. Know what might happen before you do something.
I’m not eager to be a grandparent until I’m in my 50s. If it happens, I will help make the best of the situation, but I truly believe that kids want to know about these strange and mysterious subjects. We don’t help matters by not talking or by simply saying, “Don’t do that.” Discussion is the key.
At least we have a few years before we get to sit down with Anton for this same talk…
Word of the Week: This week’s word is quondam, which means former, as in, “The child didn’t think of his parents as being quondam teenagers, having gone through all the same struggles as he currently was.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!