Discussing STIs with your kids. Yes, we’re going there. But before you bust out the pitchforks and stones… Let’s talk.
Whether you’re willing to accept it or not, kids are having sex. Silence or apprehension surrounding this topic won’t change that fact. That’s why it’s important to have open and honest conversations with your child regarding sex and sexuality. This provides a safe environment for you to discuss sensitive topics and exchange crucial information. Discussing STIs with your kids
I know it may be tough to acknowledge that your child will grow up to be a sexual being one day.
But think about it this way.
Whether your child is currently sexually active or will be in the future… I imagine you want them to be safe and informed.
That’s what this post will help you accomplish.
My Top 5 Tips for Discussing STIs with Your Kids will help you navigate this topic with love, support, and compassion. Please understand. This isn’t about encouraging kids to have sex, nor encouraging adults to sexually engage with children. These are conversations that are designed to help keep your child safe and informed if or when they decide to engage in sexual activity.
The ideal age for these discussions varies. Much of it depends on your child’s physical and emotional maturity. Either way… It’s a good idea to approach the topic with tweens and teens.
Tip #1 Get Your Head Out of the Sand
I have to start here. The taboos surrounding kids’ sexuality is a huge part of the problem. Many parents believe refusing to address the topic will magically cause it to disappear.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Children are inquisitive. They’re also much smarter than we realize sometimes. It’s natural for them to have questions about sex.
But here’s the kicker.
Are you ready to teach the lesson?
If you can use a little help…
Having meaningful conversations about sex and sexuality includes discussing the sensitive stuff. Talking about sexually transmitted infections is at the top of that list.
If that makes you uncomfortable, I want you to consider the alternatives.
Your child could potentially:
- Turn to the internet for advice
- Follow their peers
- Have unprotected sex
- Contract an STI
None of which you want for your child. That’s why it’s imperative for you to put aside any shame, fears, or social stigmas you may have regarding this topic.
You may notice anxiety coming up for you in reading this. It’s okay to read this in little “sips”; pause, breathe and come back to reading it. Being a parent and being responsible for talking to your teen about this topic can be nerve-wracking. It’s okay. I got your back.
Tip #2 Don’t Fudge the Facts
Teens are one of the groups most at risk for contracting sexually transmitted infections.
Lack of preventative education bears most of the blame.
It’s natural to want to fudge the details here. STIs can be scary. And the last thing you want to do is frighten your child. But maintaining honesty is the only way to solidify their trust in you.
STI Fact Check
The following data comes from Dosomething.org
You can grab the entire list here.
- Young people between the ages of 15 to 24 account for 50% of all new STDs.
- 46% of high school students have had sexual intercourse and potentially are at risk for HIV and other STDs.
- 6 in 10 teens reported using condoms in their most recent sexual intercourse
As you can see, this is a serious issue. The real problem here is the lack of comprehensive sex education tweens and teens are receiving.
Quite often, parents’ discomfort surrounding the topic drives them to be radio silent. Then when we look at most school’s sex education programs, their primary focus is preventing unplanned pregnancies. This still leaves kids clueless when it comes to STIs.
Here’s the key takeaway. Most STIs are preventable. Even if they do become infected, all STI’s are treatable (the sooner, the better). Educating your child with the proper information can keep them safe and healthy.
Here’s How You Can Get Started
Use open dialogue to learn your child’s sex language. Take advantage of pop culture by asking relevant questions about movies or something in the media. See how much your child already knows before proceeding with the rest of the conversation.
Don’t frame this talk like it’s the end of the world.
The amount of detail you share will depend on the age and maturity of your child.
Here is a quick list of the main areas you want to hit.
- Ask your child what they know about sexually transmitted infections
- Clearly define what STI’s are
- Discuss the various ways they can be contracted – skin, body fluids, etc
- Include specific details such as vaginal, oral, and anal contact
- Make room for any questions or concerns they may have
- Assure them that having an STI doesn’t make someone “dirty” or a bad person
- Discuss prevention and treatments
Remember kids are very smart. They may be more aware of this topic than you think. The internet, media, and peers are strong influencers. Combat this by presenting factual information with sensitivity and understanding.
Always keep the dialogue judgment-free. You want your tween or teen to feel safe enough to keep coming back to discuss anything with you.
Tip #3 Promote Protection (Condoms Aren’t a Dirty Word)
Permission to enter, please…
I know many parents cringe when it comes to talking to kids about condoms. Hardly any talk about dental dams. If that’s you… Trust me. I understand. You don’t want to seem like you’re encouraging your child to have sex.
You don’t want the parent shaming club to think you’re encouraging children to have sex.
If that’s pretty accurate, I’d like to share a few truth bombs with you.
Truth Bomb # 1 Discussing STIs with your kids
Talking to your kids about condoms won’t make penises and vaginas connect.
Truth Bomb #2 Discussing STIs with your kids
Educating your tween or teen about safe sex practices will empower them to make smart choices when they do become sexually active.
Truth Bomb #3 Discussing STIs with your kids
Condoms and dental dams can prevent STIs
As a sex educator and mom of two teens, my daughters’ well-being remains at the forefront of my mind. Not only do I welcome their questions about sex- I want them to be informed so that they can make smart choices regarding their sexual health.
I’m sure your child’s safety is your number one priority too. Making your child aware of safe sex practices is a part of protecting their future.
Tip #4 Make Your Talk Relevant to Your Kid
Kids today are living in a different world than the one we experienced growing up. Many of them are unaware of STIs altogether. Others don’t fear them. It’s important to communicate the seriousness of the issue in terms they understand.
Many tweens and teens who aren’t engaging in sexual intercourse often explore other sexual behaviors. This includes oral and anal sexual activities.
It’s common for kids to assume STIs won’t touch them if they’re not engaging in sexual penis-in-vagina intercourse. Thats why it is important to share these facts:
Consider weighing in with some of these icebreakers:
- I always love hearing your thoughts. Tell me. How do you think STIs are contracted?
- Do you think someone needs to use protection when engaging in oral or anal sex?
- Do you think same-sex couples have to worry about using protection?
- Do you think STIs are something to be concerned about?
If you noticed, all the above questions are open-ended. It’s important to give your child room to freely express themselves.
Tip #5 Never Shame or Judge
Be prepared. The information your child shares may shock you during these talks. They may also ask something you didn’t expect. It’s vital to remain calm and collected in those moments.
Think back to your puberty years.
- Changes in body development
- Raging hormones
- Voice transitions
- Sexual thoughts and questions
Maybe you had someone to turn to and maybe you didn’t. I know those physical and mental changes were unnerving at times. Worrying about judgment… Peer pressure…
Your child is or may be encountering the same phase. The last thing he or she needs is judgment from their parent. Remember that when those uncomfortable questions or comments pop up.
Do This if Your Child is Sexually Active and Has Never Been Tested
The open dialogue might reveal that your child is already engaging in sexual activity. Make sure they are okay (Hopefully, it was their choice). Don’t make it about you – don’t go down the “I’m such a bad parent” rabbit hole. Don’t preach or shame your child in this scenario. Stay calm and sit with them. Did they use a form of protection? If they didn’t, you could use that as an opportunity to talk about establishing a baseline of sexual health to go in to get tested for STIs and learn about the steps to take to protect yourself in the future. Then arrange testing with your family physician or visit a local clinic. These sources can also help you learn more too.
Preventative measures and early detection can prevent issues in the future. Let your child know that you’re on their team. Make sure he/ she /they know they’re safe and loved.
Wrapping Things Up
Hopefully, you can see why discussing STIs with your child is essential. It doesn’t have to be doom and gloom. Try these five tips when talking to your kids about STIs, and drop me a line to let me know how it turns out.
Let Me Support You in Facilitating the Dialogue with Your Kids
If you are uncomfortable with navigating these talks with your kids, I want to hear from you. As a sex educator and mom of teens, I understand the language needed to reach adolescent children and teens.
Schedule a Discovery Call to get started.