I talk to my teens about STI testing. Seriously.
STI Testing is a real aspect of life as a person who dates. It is an essential part of anyone’s health practices to be able to go and get tested and know their status. I told my teens that I think it is irresponsible to be out there doing sexual things with people and not know each other’s STI status. I want them to establish the practice as something useful for their sexual health. Because it is.
Similarly, I talk to my teens about doing genital self-exams (It’s something I think is so important that I created a PDF for adults about it as well). Think about it this way; you go maybe once per year to see your doctor, right? Are you expecting your doctor – who sees hundreds if not thousands of vaginas/vulvas between your visits – to remember what yours looks like? Empower yourself to take charge of your health. Doing your own genital self-exam and getting an STI test is not a sexual thing. It is a health thing.
It is vital to make sure we know how our parts feel and how they look. Breasts, vulva, labia, scrotum, testicles – all of the parts will have a unique look and feel. It is crucial information for each of us to have so we can track in case there are changes or irregularities. If you’ve never looked, how would you know if there was a problem? Getting over any anxiety or embarrassment about it can make a difference.
By doing a Genital Self-Exam, you become equipped with the knowledge and the correct words to be able to go to your doctor and say what you notice. If you do feel something, go to your doctor and say, “I noticed this here …” and they can tell you if it’s something to be concerned about or not. If there is a problem, then you can get the help you need and get it taken care of ASAP. Do not wait for anything to grow or metastasize; time is not a friend to these situations.
There’s no shame in knowing what your parts feel like, nor is knowing what your STI status is. All those things are just health things. And there is no shame to teach your kids that.
p.s., I wrote about this in my book on page 62, when I took my oldest daughter with me when I got tested. It might seem edgy, but if she’s going to date, I want her to be safe. And this is part of being a healthy adult. You can buy my book here and learn more about bringing these conversations easily into everyday life.