Kids who talk with parents about sex and relationships are less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior
From “Where do babies come from?” to discussing teenage relationships, talking about sex is an important part of parenting that can make for some pretty interesting stories.
The Minnesota Department of Health wants to turn some of those tales into helpful advice for other parents. The department is asking parents to share their tips and stories. The effort is part of Let’s Talk Month, a chance to “Make a Date” to have open, honest conversation with young people to foster responsible and positive attitudes toward sexuality and healthy relationships.
“Parents might not believe it, but research shows kids do listen to them,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger. “These talks throughout a child’s life play a powerful role in helping young people make healthy decisions about sex, avoid disease, prevent pregnancy, and successfully transition into adulthood. This is one thing all parents can do to help support our kids in making healthy choices that lead to promising futures.”
Parents, guardians and caring adults can go to MDH’s Facebook page or “Make a Date” campaign survey page to share their stories about a time when their children asked about the birds and the bees, or when they had a conversation about relationships and sexuality. Parents who share a story will have a chance to receive a free age-appropriate advice book that will help guide conversations with their children.
Studies show that youth whose parents have open conversations about healthy relationships start having sex later and engage in sexually risky behavior less often than their peers. Young people also consistently say their parents influence their decisions about relationships more than their friends, media, siblings or their boyfriend or girlfriend. Also, Minnesota teens who say they have an adult they can talk to and who cares about them are less likely to have sex during high school.
The health department recommends that parents start having age-appropriate conversations about relationships and sex early in a child’s life. Though better late than never, parents may miss an important window for preventing sexually transmitted diseases by waiting for the teen years.
In the U.S., one in four teens contracts a sexually transmitted disease or infection each year. The most common one, the human papillomavirus (HPV) or genital warts, can be prevented through a vaccine for all adolescents ages 11 to 12 years. This safe and effective vaccine can prevent adolescents from infection with HPV types that are responsible for numerous cancers.
In Minnesota, 11 percent of ninth graders and 35 percent of 11th graders report having sex, according to the 2016 Minnesota Student Survey. Of those who reported having sex, only about two-thirds used a reliable form of birth control in ninth grade, and only about three-fourths used a reliable form of birth control in 11th grade, according to the 2016 survey.
Minnesota has a variety of teen pregnancy prevention programs involving evidence-based and informed sex education, abstinence, birth control, parent education, and family planning. Minnesota has one of the lowest teen pregnancy rates in the country after years of fewer teen pregnancies. There has been a 71 percent decrease in teen pregnancies since 1990, from 59 pregnancies per 1,000 teen females to 17 pregnancies per 1,000 teen females in 2016.
Information and graphic provided by the Minnesota Department of Health. For more information about Let’s Talk Month, visit www.health.state.mn.us/divs/cfh/program/mhti/letstalk.cfm.