Few topics make parents more squeamish than talking to their children about one little three-letterword: sex. A group of parents from the Kyrene Parent Network in the Kyrene Elementary and Tempe Union High school districts recently met to tackle the daunting subject.
They spent more than an hour listening to strategies offered by Catholic Services parent educator Ray Miranda.
Miranda encouraged the group to talk to students about the body, risky behaviors and sex at an early age.
“That’s (the parent’s) window of opportunity,” Miranda said, pointing to a graph showing ages 1 through 12. “If we haven’t reached them by this age, it’s not that we can’t, but it’s going to be a lot more difficult.”
Miranda said after age 12 peers become the main influence in a child’s life.
In addition, Miranda offered tips to parents for addressing the topic at any age.
• Determine your family’s values. Discuss what you believe about sex, drugs and alcohol so that your view is consistent and unified when discussing the topic.
• Be informed. Read books on how to talk about the body, conception and birth so you will be ready to answer questions appropriately. When you are informed, your child will see that you are the authority on the issue, Miranda said.
• Explain the risks. Sit down with your child and talk about the negative consequences of sexually risky behavior such as sexually transmitted diseases and emotional and physical ramifications.
• Boost their self-esteem. “Parents often spend a lot of time talking about the negative rather than emphasizing the positive,” Miranda said. Children who have high self-esteem and goals are less apt to engage in risky behavior, he said.
• Establish rules and boundaries. By giving children an “out,” they will learn refusal skills for future situations they want to avoid, Miranda said.
• Talk about relationships. Help children distinguish between “a crush, infatuation or real love,” Miranda said. By understanding the differences, they can make better choices.
• “The Big Talk Book” by Bruce Cook
• “Questions Kids Ask About Sex: Honest Answers for Every Age” by Melissa R. Cox
• “A Chicken’s Guide to Talking Turkey with Your Kids About Sex” by Kathy Flores Bell
Educational Web sites:
• U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: www.4parents.gov
• The Medical Institute: www.medinstitute.org
• Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program: www.tapp-pregnancyprevention.org