Equal Time: Parents, talk to your kids about sex

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11/10/2010 5:05 AM |

By Amanda Koch

To the parent who stated that local schools are “forcing a lot of parents to have a conversation with their children they’re not ready to have:” When do you propose is a good time for parents to be ready to have this discussion?
By the time a child is in seventh grade, she is around 12 or 13 years old. This may be difficult to accept, but children need to have this conversation well before the seventh grade.
As a 25-year-old, I’m no longer a child and not yet a parent, but I am still in contact with enough teens to know what goes on today. The truth is, some kids are having casual sex at young — sometimes very young — ages.
Teen sex and pregnancy, even locally, are not new phenomena. When I was a seventh-grader, a girl who was a junior or senior attended school throughout her pregnancy. When I was a junior, another girl finished her senior year while pregnant.
Whether the pregnant student is in the seventh grade or her senior year, your seventh-grader is going to have questions about the situation. If you don’t talk to your child, she’ll seek information elsewhere, and you have no way of knowing how reliable that information might be.
It’s a parent’s choice whether to be proactive or reactive, but social influences will ultimately force a reactive parent to have this conversation with his child.
For some parents, sex is a difficult topic to broach, and schools’ hands are tied by state mandates. For parents who believe in abstinence-only sex education, what is taught in local schools may be sufficient.
Parents who believe sex education should be more comprehensive to deal with the realities of teen sex, whether they condone it or not, should consider requesting the school’s and community’s support in forming a group to address the concerns of both parents and teens.
This group could consist of parents sharing their fears about talking with their children, or of children being taught comprehensive sex education by a health professional, who would then lead a discussion.
Regardless of its form, the function of such an association would be to open up a dialogue between two groups who often find it difficult to communicate with each other.
Ultimately, alienating a pregnant teen and barring her from attending public school is not only illegal, but the message it sends to your children can also harm them greatly. This approach teaches silence; it teaches them they cannot talk to you when they’re confused or curious or scared.
It may even tell them you’d rather they actively hide from you something that makes you uncomfortable. But we’re adults and we know that hiding a problem is not the same as solving it. Your child needs and wants your guidance.
Just because you’re not ready to give your child “the talk” doesn’t mean he or she is not ready to hear it.
Ms. Koch is a resident of Mattituck.