Parents can help keep kids safe from Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Kim Allen, M.A., M.F.T., Associate State Specialist, Director, Center on Adolescent Sexuality, Pregnancy and Parenting (CASPP), Human Development & Family Studies, University of Missouri Extension
Parents want their children to be safe and disease free, and they do many things to make sure their children stay healthy. Most parents take their children to get their immunizations, they encourage them to wash their hands and they take children to the doctor and get medication when they are sick. However, when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), many parents are not doing enough to make sure their children are safe and healthy.
The good news is that most parents do have discussions with their children about sexual decision making. Child trends data show that 74% of parents have a discussion about sexual decision making at least once during adolescence. However, there is much room for improvement. Less than half of parents discuss birth control, condoms, STDs or saying no to sex. Research shows kids truly want to have conversations with their parents, and kids whose parents talk to them about their values surrounding sexual decisions and plans for safer sex make safer, better choices. In order to promote sexual health, parents can do many things including:
- Talk early and talk often. Research shows that adolescents whose parents have open and frequent talks with their children about sex make safer choices.
- Educate yourself about STDs. Common STDs include the human papilomavirus (HPV), trichomaniasis, chlamydia, genital herpes, gonorrhea and HIV, and these STDs have a variety of symptoms and consequences. More information about specific STDs can be found through local health departments, family doctors or the internet (http://www.ashastd.org/).
- Educate yourself about contraception. Abstinence is the only 100% effective protection from STDs, but latex condoms with spermicide are recommended for anyone that is sexually active.
- Promote healthy relationships and good decision making. Teens want information from their parents, and research shows parents are still the most influential person in sexual decision making. Talk with kids about how to make good decisions regarding this very important issue.
- Explain the consequences of sex. It is important for kids to know that sex can result in teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. STDs can have uncomfortable symptoms or can be symptom free, but STDs always need to be treated.
- Get your child screened regularly if he/she is sexually active. Annual screenings can detect STDs even when there are no signs or symptoms. Medication exists for most STDs, but without proper medical attention, the diseases can spread and create additional problems or even death.
There is a good reason for parents to pay attention to their children’s sexual health. The Center for Disease Control states half of all new cases of STDs are to people ages 15-24. Teens do not appear to understand or believe that STDs can happen to them, so the more a parent can do to protect their kids from these diseases, the better. For more information about sexually transmitted diseases and teen sexual health, check out these sources:
Last Updated 05/05/2009