Teaching Parents About Sex

Imagine your teenage child came up to you and asked you about sex. Would you be embarrassed? Would you be angry? Would you assume your child was engaging in sex? How would you react?

Roots of Health is currently working on a new program aimed at providing reproductive health education and information to parents. We conducted interviews and focus group discussions with young people and with groups of parents to get a better idea of what everyone is thinking.

Here are some of our initial findings:

Young people don’t speak to their parents about sex because they are scared. They all said that parents are likely to become angry if young people ask about sex, and to assume that the children are engaging in it (even if they aren’t), and to punish them.

Young people also said they wanted their parents to learn how to talk to kids about pregnancy, how to discuss the possible consequences of sex, and how to not to be judgmental. One respondent said she wanted her parents to talk to her about relationships, not just sex. All respondents said they preferred more detailed information from teachers and peers, but that they wished to have the basics from their parents.

Parents were surprisingly open in admitting that teenage pregnancy is something that happens in their own families. There were some mixed views on why teen pregnancy is a problem, with some thinking its a result of teenagers’ poor decision-making, while others firmly felt it was caused by a lack of guidance from parents. Some participants believe media is the main factor affecting teen pregnancy.

Parents recognized that children should learn about sex from them, but admitted that they did n’t know how to start this communication and that they didn’t know enough about the topic. To prove the point, parents had low levels of knowledge regarding HIV. (One parent said she thought the V in HIV referred to vitamins!) Parents also assumed that their children’s schools were teaching them what they need to know about sex. Spoiler alert: they are not.

Positively, parents did agree that they should be involved in teaching their kids about sex. They expressed their willingness to learn and they suggested that the community should have a program that provides sex education to teens and their parents. They were excited at the idea of participating in such a program if we were to implement one.

How about you? What do you think? Do you have a good story about a time you talked to your child about sex? Let me know at ami@rootsofhealth.org

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