As most parents know, it can be difficult to discuss sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) with children. There are many reasons for this, including the risk of the children asking embarrassing questions that the parent may not have answers for.
Despite the difficulty associated with discussing this subject, most parents of preteens and teens know the importance of arming their kids with the right STD knowledge. Matter-of-fact conversations between parents and children may help the kids not only understand STDs, but also avoid them.
This is a lot of stigma attached to STDs, and your children may have preconceived notions about them. Kids may also have received quite a bit of conflicting information from the media, their peers, and even the public school system.
Best Time to Discuss STDs With Children
There is no “best” time to discuss STDs with your children; the timing of this discussion is up to you. Your children may also preempt the discussion by asking questions about STDs.
Look for signs that your children may be coming into sexual awareness and raising more questions about the subject of sexual health and sex in general. Most parenting experts recommend that you begin discussing sex and safe sex practices with your children in their early preteen years, but also mention that you can have a talk with them as late as 18 or 19.
A late talk about sex, sexuality and sexual health including STDs is better than no talk at all.
How to Initiate Conversation About STDs With Children
Though your children may come to you and initiate the conversation, you may find it easier to use the media—like movies, television, and music—to help aide you in bringing up the topic of sexually transmitted diseases.
Ask them how they feel about a certain portrayal of sex that they may have witnessed in a show or movie, or what they think a certain song lyric may mean to them. You can use the Internet to your advantage. Find a good website dedicated to STDs and sexual health like STDcheck.com, go over the content together, ask questions and answer any questions the children may have.
Your children trust you and consider you a reliable source of information. It is your job, as a parent or guardian, to provide a safe and open environment for your children to ask questions about STDs and sexual health.
Educate Yourself About STDs
As a trusted source of information, educate yourself about STDs. There is a lot of misinformation about STDs and the transmission of STDs that may confuse even you. Get comfortable with the subject and with saying things like ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’ and ‘gonorrhea’ to your children. Being informed and comfortable is the most important step in discussing this sensitive topic with your children.
Find Out What Your Children Know About STDs
Next, ask your children what they know about STDs, safe sex, and sexual health. With the increased showing of sexual activity in the media, kids are more aware now than ever of sexual practices—safe, promiscuous, or otherwise. Gauging their knowledge may be as simple as asking questions like “Do you know what a condom is?” “Do you know how to use a condom?” or “Do you know how and where to get tested for STDs?” Being blunt often helps because your children will pick up on your honesty and the frankness of the conversation.
Remember, your children are already talking about STDs and sex with their friends, classmates and others in school.
Let your children have some control over the conversation. Let them ask questions, express their own opinions, voice fears and worries. If you let them have some say over what direction the conversation takes, you may be able to have a more successful and meaningful discussion.
Explain that the only sure way to remain STD-free is through abstinence. However, also give your children the tools they may need if they ever find themselves in situations involving sexual activities.
Talk About Condoms and Safer Sex
Talk about condoms, dental dams, and birth control and how to use them. Do not scold them for any questions they may have or if they admit they have already participated in sexual activity, either with or without prevention. Keep an open and honest line of communication between you and the children.
The only way to have a good conversation between children and parents about sexual health and STD prevention is to be completely honest when discussing the subject and getting std testing when necessary.