Britini de la Cretaz recently wrote an article for the Washington Post on what a parent should do if their teen reveals that they have a sexually transmitted infection (also called an STI).
Any parent, whether or not they have had conversations about sex with their child, may find themselves as a parent of a child who tells them they have or may have an STI. The way a parent responds to this news is incredibly important and can shape a child’s future relationships and thoughts about themselves. Giving a positive, supportive response is important, though it can be easier said than done.
In the article, Ms. de la Cretaz gives parents ideas for how to respond. She explains that it is important for parents to try and keep their emotional reaction to the news in check. This will go a long way towards both helping a young person in need and sending the message to your that you will be there for your youth without judgment when they need you.
A big part of being able to have a positive response is shaped by the conversations a parent and child have already had about sex and STDs. It is important to remember that no matter how many safe sex conversations a parent may have had with their tween or teen, even sexually active young people who take every step to protect themselves (get tested, put on a condom the correct way, talk to their partners about being tested) may still become infected with an STD.
Parents should choose their words carefully. They should avoid stigmatizing language that uses negative words to describe people with STIs. Nearly all sexually active people – regardless of age – will be exposed to at least one STI in their lifetime, and most will never know it because they never have any symptoms.
There are many types of STIs – some go away on their own, some requires medications, and some may remain with you for life. Because of these differences, young people who seek help from a parent about a possible STI will need access to medical care and support. Delays in care can cause health problems later with some infections. To make sure that your tween/teen comes to you sooner rather than later, they need know that an STI will not change how your see them or treat them. One of the best things you can do if you are in this situation is to thank your son or daughter for coming to you, tell them that you know sharing news like this can be hard, and that you appreciate having the opportunity to help them. Later on, parents should try and start new conversations about safer sex and access to methods that can help a child avoid future STDs, like correct condom use.
Read more in the full article here.