Dr. Ryan Pasternak, a pediatrician and adolescent doctor talked with reporters from the Time to Talk program at KEDM Public Radio in Louisiana about the importance of talking with adolescents about sex. He pointed out that many parents hope to one day be a grandparent (though not right now!), but find it difficult to bring up the topic of romantic relationships, sex, and birth control with their tweens or teens. Dr. Pasternak highlighted that these conversations are important for preparing youth to make decisions about when and with whom they have children.
As Dr. Pasternak points out, it is important to start talking early, with children as young as 7-years old. Parent should have age-appropriate conversations. For example, a parent can talk with their children about healthy relationships with family members and friends. The lessons children learn about what makes these relationships good will help them to know when they are in a healthy romantic relationship as teens and young adults.
Often parents think teaching children about sexuality and reproduction means talking about S-E-X. That is not true. Young children do not yet have enough life experience to understand the more complex ideas about sex, romance and reproduction that adults do. So, parents should provide information that matches children’s needs. The best place to start is to just answer children’s questions with simple, straightforward answers. That will lay the foundation for a lifetime of learning.
Dr. Pasternak encourages parents to feel comfortable and confident about identifying teachable moments set aside time to talk, to make it a priority. He reminds parents that these should be ongoing conversations to help young people to layer on new knowledge, as they need it. What young people need is a trusted resource to serve as a guide – someone who will be open and honest and share what they know, or be willing to help a young person figure out where to get answers.
Finally, Dr. Pasternak emphasized that parents are a strong, positive influence on their children’s lives and decisions. This, he says, is the most important reason to talk early and often.
Check out Dr. Pasternak’s interview here: http://kedm.org/post/how-parents-can-talk-teens-about-reproductive-health