“Wow! He’s taller than you!” Recently, I have heard this so often about my 12 year-old son. Yes, he is shooting past me in height. My little baby is now a pre-teen! I feel the same as any parent: he has grown up so fast and is learning about everything – including sex.
I agree, it is difficult talking to growing teens about sex. They will learn about it from the media, their friends, books, music, yet they rarely have all the facts. While the talk about sex is important, so too–and maybe even more important–is the talk about sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Teens are one of the most at-risk groups for contracting STIs. For example, let’s take a look at Chlamydia. Chlamydia is known as a “silent infection” as it often has no symptoms, so someone can be infected without even knowing it. In Halton, Chlamydia rates increased 173% between 2001 and 2010. Statistics show that youth and young adults aged 15-24 have the highest rates of Chlamydia. A simple urine test can tell if you have it. It is cured with antibiotics, but if left untreated it can infect the urinary and reproductive organs, leading to future reproductive problems. Also, just because you’ve had Chlamydia in the past doesn’t mean you can’t get it again.
Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to STIs and sex. Here are some tips on how to talk to your teens about STIs:
- Be prepared to talk about individual STIs and HIV/AIDS (P.S. you’ll notice it’s no longer vogue to call them “STDs” or “venereal disease”)
- Speak openly and don’t make assumptions about what your teen knows or has done
- Discuss what “counts” as sexual activity
- Dispel the myth: condoms and birth control are not 100% protection against STIs and pregnancy
- Keep the lines of communication open and let them know who they can trust for help and accurate information:
- Their health care provider, school nurse, teachers, guidance counselors
- Halton Region’s sexual health clinics provides free and confidential services, and as of recently the HPV vaccine is available by appointment
- Our Facebook page Sex Healthy Halton has reliable, accessible information related to youth sexual health and STIs
So after all this, as a parent, are you feeling overwhelmed? I bet. I know I certainly am!
So the next time the opportunity arises, open up the lines of communication. Maybe it’s while watching a TV show, or you see an article in the paper or online (this is a good one if I may say so myself) or if one of you brings up the HPV vaccine. You are not going to be able to protect your teens from everything, but talking to them about this topic is the first step to helping them make informed decisions about sex and working towards keeping them safe.
For more tips and hints about talking to teens about STIs, or to share your experience, there are many ways you can talk to one of us directly:
- Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
- Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call the HaltonParents line for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) Simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.
About this guest blogger:
Shaeena Noormohamed RN has been working as a Public Health Nurse for the past 17 years and is passionate about sharing health promotion strategies with parents, children and youth. She lives in Halton with her husband and 3 children.