For some unlucky adolescents, their first sexual experience ends with a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or an unplanned pregnancy. Unfortunately, every parent's nightmare is becoming more prevalent, with rises in both STDs and teen pregnancies. This has led one Saint Louis University pediatrician to co-author a sex education book aimed at helping parents communicate about sex with their children.
Professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, Marilyn Maxwell, M.D., maintains that it's never too early to talk to your child about sex. "Parents should be the primary source of what parents want kids to know. It's not only talking about sex. It's being there and developing a relationship. As you go along, maybe you're watching a TV show or movie together and a sexual situation comes up, discuss that," she explained.
Maxwell is a member of a team of physicians who collaborated on the book Questions Kids Ask About Sex: Honest Answers for Every Age. She became involved when she noticed the increasing prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies in her practice. "Younger kids are sexually active. A 15-year old is more likely to get a sexually transmitted disease than a person who in his or her 20s," she said.
Talking to your child about sex can be uncomfortable, she acknowledges, but easier if you start when your child is young. "The talk comes all along at age appropriate stages. I liken it to the situation with adopted kids. There should never be a time when they don't remember they are chosen." She added that parents should begin by using correct language instead of nicknames to describe body parts and should listen carefully to what the child really is asking before giving an answer.
Maxwell says that questions should be answered in a concise and matter-of-fact way. And it should be left up to the child to ask follow-up questions to guide how much information he or she is ready to absorb.
She emphasized that parents shouldn't be afraid to share their values with their child. "Parents need to let the child know their values and what they expect from the child," she said. "You don't have to lower the bar. There's a gold standard. Let your child know what your standards are and they'll be more likely to attain them. Kids who feel connected to their families are less likely to engage in early sexual intercourse, which can have serious physical and psychological consequences."
Source: Saint Louis University Health Sciences Center