planned parenthood

Actress Alfre Woodard on Talking to Her Kids About Sex

Written on October 26, 2012 at 4:08 pm , by

In honor of Planned Parenthood‘s Let’s Talk Month, award-winning actress Alfre Woodad shares her experience about talking to her kids about sex.

When it comes to talking with my kids about sex, I’ve always thought that not talking about it would be like not talking about your hand: it’s a part of your body, so you need to know how to take care of it.

It’s why I started talking with my kids about sex and sexuality when they were young—putting it into context and letting them know how it relates to real life. In fact, my kids didn’t think it was weird to hear their parents talk about sex until they learned that their friends thought it was weird that our family talked about it.

We know our kids are going to hear about sex—it’s impossible for them not to since it’s in nearly every song they hear, TV show they watch, book they read, or website they surf—and I was determined that I was going to be their main source of information, particularly when they became teenagers. As a mother, part of my job is to make sure my kids have the guidance they need to decide when they’re ready for a sexual relationship and the information they need to prevent STDs and to prevent pregnancy until they are ready to become parents. We can’t leave our kids unprepared.

But if I’m truthful, every conversation with my teens hasn’t flowed like honey. Some of them have been challenging ones to have. I realized a long time ago, however, that parenting is an art of practice: you get better at it and more comfortable with it the more you do it. That’s definitely been true for me when it comes to talking with my kids about sex. Teens, especially, aren’t always brave enough to ask questions even when they want and need answers. That’s why as parents it’s important that we don’t wait for them to start asking questions, but that we take opportunities to start and continue talking with them about sex and relationships even if it seems like they’re uncomfortable or hesitant.

A few months ago, I was taking my son off for his first year of college, and I realized that talking about sex really has become a natural part of the conversations we have as family. We were driving and listening to pounding rap music that was full of sex. I used it as an opportunity to remind him of all of the conversations we’ve had over the past few years. I gave him the same information I always do—think of women as equals. They are just as strong and smart. They have their responsibilities, but so do you when it comes to sex. I told him to always have his own condoms so that he knows that they’re safe to use. I brought this up as a reminder along with other reminders that I’ve given him over the years: remember to stay hydrated because it’s hot in the desert, eat something green every day, and use your own condoms!

As parents, we have to be willing to be bold and to remember that our kids’ abilities to be healthy and make good decisions about relationships outweigh any discomfort we may feel when talking with them about sex. As moms, it might help to remember that we’re the ones who taught them how to wipe their bottoms and brush their teeth, and we’ve picked stuff out their noses. These frank chats about sex are just an extension of that commitment.

Note: Check out Planned Parenthood’s Let’s Talk Month flipbook to see what actors Alfre Woodard, Cynthia Nixon and Elizabeth Banks, as well as non-celebrity moms and teens, have to say about talking about sex.

Read more about having “the sex talk” with your teen here.

Alfre Woodard’s work as an actor has earned her an Oscar nomination, four Emmy Awards with 17 Emmy nominations, three SAG Awards and a Golden Globe.  Woodard’s illustrious body of work includes Cross Creek, HBO’s Mandela, Grand Canyon, Passion Fish and more.

5 Common Parental Concerns About Talking To Your Kids About Sex

Written on October 15, 2012 at 1:05 pm , by

Amy Cody is the Parent Education Manager at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, which offers Let’s Be Honest workshops to help prepare parents to talk about sex with their kids.

Planned Parenthood and Family Circle magazine recently conducted a survey to see how parents and teens are doing when it comes to talking about sex. As it turns out, parents are a lot more comfortable having these conversations than their teens. However, parents aren’t always tackling the tougher topics. I get it, some questions about sex may seem harder to tackle than others. Kids are notorious for asking questions that make parents squirm.

As a parent educator for Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts and a parent myself, I’ve heard just about every question you could think of. And in every Let’s Be Honest parent education workshop I host, after beginning to share possible answers and strategies, shoulders relax and parents feel more empowered to give it a try.

I want to share five questions that parents from my workshops have asked again and again, and tips for how you can address them with your own kids. You may not be able to anticipate every question your child will have, but there are four themes you can keep in mind during these ongoing conversations:

  • Fulfill your right and responsibility as a parent to be your child’s primary sexuality educator.
  • Share your attitudes, beliefs, and values around sex and sexuality.
  • Respect your child’s feelings and promote positive self-esteem in your child.
  • Provide accurate facts and knowledge.

Check out this website for more information about the four themes and try to keep them in mind as you answer questions that come up with your child.

Viewing questions about sex and sexuality as a natural and normal situation can help us keep our sense of perspective. Answering questions matter-of-factly, calmly, and honestly is the best policy.

Try some of these answers on for size and see if they make sense for you and your family.

My four-year-old is asking “Where do babies come from?” What should I do?

A question like this calls for active listening and asking gentle questions to find out why your child is curious about the topic and what she or he really wants to know. Answering “babies come from their moms” might be all they need to know. Let your child’s questions be your guide.

Try this: “That’s a great question! A tiny seed from a man called a sperm and a tiny egg from a woman join together inside the uterus, a special place inside the woman. When the baby is ready to be born, it comes out through the opening between the woman’s legs called the vagina.”

What should I do if my child goes to school and shares information from our family discussions about sexuality with other kids who have not yet had this conversation?

Kids frequently compare information with each other about sex, whether parents want them to or not. When you start having these discussions with your child, tell her/him that you are sharing this information because this is something that families talk about with each other. Remind your child that friends will talk about it with their own families.

Try this: “I think it’s great that you are interested in learning more about bodies and how they work. You can always ask me any questions. And, each family has their own idea of when to talk about these things, so let your friends talk to their parents.”

What do I say if my middle school child asks me, “Why do people enjoy sex?”

Kids of all ages are curious about the world around them, their bodies and how they work, and how they relate to others. This is a great opportunity to talk with them about relationships and healthy decision-making.

Try this: “Just like there are many different ways to define sex, there are many different reasons why people enjoy sex. People usually enjoy sex when  both people have agreed to it, and when both people are emotionally and physically ready to be intimate (close and loving) with one another. It’s not like on TV. In real life, the emotional part is just as, if not more, important than the physical part. And, just like with other mammals, the human body is designed to enjoy sexual behaviors.”

How do I handle personal questions such as, “Mom, when did you start having sex?”

Our kids are often interested in this information to serve as a barometer of their own readiness. However, everyone has to make their own decision about when the time is right. Rather than concentrating on any specific timeline in conversations, instead discuss the importance of emotional, physical, and spiritual readiness, including respect, comfort, vulnerability, intimacy, and trust.

Try this: “I understand that you’re curious about my life experience. The age of when I had sex for the first time isn’t as important as what I was feeling or thinking about it. Although you will decide for you when the best time is, I want you to know that I hope you wait until you are older and in a mature, responsible relationship. When do you think someone knows if they are ready to have sex?”

My child is very shy when sex comes up. How should I approach this or initiate a conversation?

Many kids are shy or embarrassed about this topic and many parents are as well! I recommend that parents be proactive. Don’t wait for questions that may not come up. Parents can use television shows, music lyrics, movies, news stories, or magazine ads as ways of opening the door to ongoing conversations. Sometimes texting, e-mailing, or writing a note might be the best way to start.

Try this: “I know it’s hard to talk about this, but I love you and feel that it’s important that we can have these conversations. I am always here for you if you want to talk.”

As parents, we want to help our kids navigate the mixed messages and contradictions they encounter in our sex-saturated culture. Recent studies show that young people who have frequent and open conversations with their parents about sex and sexuality are more likely to make healthier, safer, and better-informed decisions related to sex.

It’s time to start talking! Let’s make sure that when kids have questions, they can turn to us for our values and age-appropriate, honest, and factual information.

Read more about having the sex talk with your teen here.

Amy Cody is the Parent Education Manager at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, which offers Let’s Be Honest and Seamos Honestos workshops in the community to help prepare parents and other trusted caregivers create an environment of trust and comfort in talking with their children about sex and sexuality. Learn more about Let’s Be Honest: Communication in families that keeps kids healthy.

How One Mom Talks to her Teen Daughter About Sex

Written on October 9, 2012 at 8:00 am , by

In honor of Let’s Talk Month, an annual effort to get parents and teens talking about sexuality, Mom Judy Forbin-Morain shares how she talks about sex with her daughter, Jada Kearse. Blog by Judy Forbin-Morain and Jada Kearse.

As mother and daughter, we don’t always agree, but we know we can always talk with one another.  Like most families with teenagers, conversations about sex and relationships can be pretty tricky in our home.  Like a couple days ago, when Grandma said, “I hope you never have a boyfriend until you’re, like, way older.”

Afterwards, we talked a little about that comment, and we both agreed that it was a pretty old-fashioned to think that way.  It was a little awkward though, because, even while we could agree that Grandma’s way of thinking isn’t how we both feel, we still have different expectations when it comes to boys and dating. So, we talked about establishing some ground rules, like no one-on-one dates with boys before 16.

We didn’t always agree with what the other was saying, but we talked it out.  In the end, we both agreed that it was important to set boundaries when it comes to dating, and that you shouldn’t do anything you’re uncomfortable with when it comes to relationships.

Our best conversations usually happen when one of us sees or hears something—like a song or something on TV—that  gets us talking.  There is a commercial, for example, where a mom invites her daughter’s friends over, and then she orders pizza for them so that they will all see that she’s the “cool mom.”  Then one of them says, “Maybe we can just toke up in here.”  The mom just leaves and lets them do it.  So we talked about that, and how that’s not going to happen in our house.

When it comes to sex, relationships, and really serious topics, we’re both grateful that we talk with one another about these issues.   And it isn’t just about serious things — we talk about having crushes, cute boys, and other topics.  We also try to find ways to make conversations funny so it isn’t scary or awkward.

We try to keep an open and honest dialogue with each other, which is why Let’s Talk Month in October is so important to both of us.  It’s a reminder that we need to continue talking about these issues.  It’s also a chance to let our friends know they should be doing the same with their parents or teens.  Don’t be afraid; just be honest and keep the lines of communication open.

Judy Forbin-Morain is a former volunteer for Planned Parenthood New York City Adult Role Model program. She and her daugther, Jada, 14, live in Brooklyn, NY.

Talking About Sex With Your Teen

Written on October 2, 2012 at 8:30 am , by

By Leslie Kantor, Vice President of Education, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Vincent Guilamos-Ramos, Co-director of the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at NYU

When Planned Parenthood and the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at NYU (CLAFH) began thinking about our second annual survey looking at how parents and teens talk about sex and sexuality, we couldn’t think of a better partner than Family Circle. We all share a common goal of wanting to help parents and teens become comfortable talking about sex and sexuality so that young people can make good decisions. And there is no better time than October for parents to be reminded of this since it’s Let’s Talk Month—an annual effort to get parents and teens talking about sexuality.

Our national survey polled more than 2,000 parents and teens living in the same households, and the results quickly made one thing clear:  what parents intend to say is different than what teens are hearing.

We asked parents to tell us what messages about sex they most wanted to send to their teens, and we asked teens to tell us the main message they had received about sex from their parents.  Here’s what one parent told us, and what her teenager heard:

To make a healthy choice about who she wishes to date and have a physical relationship for the right reasons.”
— 50-year-old mother

 

Not to do it.”
— her 16-year-old daughter

Time and time again we saw similar communication breakdowns between parents and teens. The good news is most families are talking about sex and sexuality. Still, these talks aren’t as productive as they could be. Parents, for example, think they are having these conversations more often than their teens think they are, and surprisingly, teens are actually much more uncomfortable talking about sex than their parents. Half of all parents and just 18 percent of teens said they feel very comfortable having these talks.

Our survey also found that 80 percent of parents of sexually active teens knew their teens were having sex. That fact alone highlights the importance of parents talking with their teens and continuing to engage them even after they become sexually active so that they know how to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and to make sure their teens’ relationships are healthy. So this month Planned Parenthood, CLAFH, and Family Circle are providing tips and a story packed full of information that can help parents start the conversation with their teens.

We know that parents make a difference when they talk with their kids about sex, so let’s teach them how to say no if they’re not ready to have sex, and if they are, let’s continue having these conversations and encourage them to make good decisions about relationships and their sexual health. Bottom line:  keeping our teens healthy and safe means talking with them about sex.

So let’s talk.

Leslie Kantor is Vice President of Education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Vincent Guilamos-Ramos is Co-director of the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at NYU. Read more about having the sex talk with your teen, all month, here.