Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Sex Talk

Being one of the older cousins in the family, I have teen cousins confiding in me about many high school "dilemmas". One thing that seems to be a common topic is sex. I've always told my little cousins that they can always come to me for anything, especially if they can't talk to their parents about it, BUT this was definitely one topic that caught me off guard. It also got me thinking about my little one. So my question to parents out there, when is a good age to talk to kids about sex? How much do you tell them? Do you use scare tactics or do you just try to talk about it in general (no specifics)?
My parents never physically sat me down and had "the sex talk" with me, but I kind of always knew about it simply because it's in the high school air. I had friends that were sexually active already freshman year of high school or sometimes even sooner. I noticed that nowadays kids are becoming sexually active earlier in life, not only because of peer pressure, but because they think it's cool to lose the "V card" as soon as possible. THIS worries me. Just walking around JAM's elementary school (which only goes up to 5th grade) I hear kids talking about boyfriends and giving hickies. I know every generation is different, but I swear in 4th-5th grade I was only worried about recess and cootie shots NOT getting a hickey. Yeah, I probably had a couple crushes here and there but the thoughts about boys never went anywhere past that.
Talking to some of my cousins, I realized that their knowledge about the subject of sex was about the same. They know OF the topic of sex and the general idea about it, but they didn't comprehend the extent of possible consequences or how to protect themselves properly. THAT was scary to me and after that, I was kind of happy they came to talk to me so I can talk to them about it and answer any questions they had openly. I want to say that I'll be just as open when JAM (hopefully) approaches me or Mahal about the topic, but let's just take it day by day.

I think the biggest concern about teens being sexually active is the possibility of teen pregnancy as an outcome. However, I don't think parents focus enough on other aspects such as STDs and protection as well. When I was talking to my cousins, the things they were saying were similar to my thoughts about sex at that age. Most of the knowledge came from movies and friends, with the random scare tactics of health class and push for abstinence. I wasn't very sexually active in high school, but I don't think abstinence is realistic. It's ideal, but not realistic. See the difference?
 All of this is all personal opinion of course. To each is own and that's exactly why I asked all those questions to intro this blog post because I'm very open to everyone's opinion and arguments about the topic. I personally think knowledge is power though. I wouldn't approve of my little cousins having sex in high school, but at the same time I want them to be knowledgeable about it all just in case. Better safe than sorry right? Being from the perspective of a teen mom, I don't think there's a right way per say on how to address the topic. I remember in health class we'd walk into class every day with a disgusting photo of someone's STD on the projection screen and our health teacher basically telling us "DON'T HAVE SEX!" They also had teen moms come in to speak to us about teen pregnancy, but every year I felt that they always chose worst case scenarios such as moms with children who have disabilities or who are homeless. Yes, those scenarios are completely possible, but it was just hard for me to take them seriously as a teen since they didn't feel so relatable to me.
In health class they also told us about the forms of contraception available for both boys and girls, but they never explained how to actually use it properly for the fear that parents may think the school is condoning teenage sex. I feel that this is where high schools make a mistake by not thoroughly teaching the subject of sex. My boy cousin assumed it was ok to keep a condom in his wallet because he always saw it in the movies and on TV and his friends were doing it. In reality, that's not a great way to store protection. As Mahal puts it, it's like trying to store a big bag of potato chips in your clutch purse. You're squeezing all the air out of the packaing and damaging the condom. My cousin had no idea. He didn't even know that there were different sizes and types and that it's necessary to choose the right one to make it effective. Yes, he knew that magnums were for the well endowed but that's as far as his knowledge went!

Both my boy and girl cousins surprisingly knew about the Plan B pill, but didn't realize that there were risks to taking this pill consistently. I have a few 20+ year old friends that use this pill as a form of contraception, but it's called an EMERGENCY pill for a reason. Both of my cousins were still questioning the pull out method. FYI, it doesn't work! I still have friends that still swear by this but IT DOESN'T WORK! Plus, that doesn't protect you from STDs, which by the way, they didn't know that some of those diseases were for life. I guess that was kind of understandable. I remember going into health class and the teacher would show you a picture of the nastiest form of that specific STD and tell you how it burns and oozes and wear a condom, don't have sex, blah blah blah. They didn't know you can take your partner to get tested with them and how important the testing is especially if you know your partner was very sexually active previous to being with you. They didn't know that you're required to tell people you have a certain STD before having intercourse or you can get in a lot of trouble. The list went on and on.

I felt good having an open and honest conversation with them about it all. They naturally see my day to day life since I've given birth to JAM so they know how hard it was for me to raise him at 18 years old: the sleepless nights, the fighting because the stress level was to the max, the financial hardships, etc. I was fortunate enough that Mahal stood by my side, but many teen parents aren't so lucky to have the support I did. Regardless, with two parents or not, being a parent in general is hard so you can imagine trying to be a kid yourself AND a parent. I think after talking to them I feel more comfortable introducing this info to JAM little by little as he matures. I feel comfortable explaining all the risks and consequences and most of all, prevention. Here's a STD reference that I used to speak with my cousins. In addition, there's so many references that you can use to find out about different forms of contraception. Some adults don't even know all the possible forms of contraception out there. It does branch out farther than just condoms for men and birth control pills for women. Here's a few references to help out with that:

*Birth control for women

*Birth control for men & women

So, how do you plan handle the topic of "the birds and the bees" with your child?