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More Parents Than Ever Having “The Talk” With Their Kids

October 13, 2011

PHOENIX, Ariz. - More parents than ever - 82 percent - are sitting down with their kids to discuss sex and sexuality, but four in 10 still are not comfortable talking about birth control. That's one finding of a new poll released in conjunction with "Let's Talk Month," a national effort to encourage parents to discuss sex and sexual health issues with their children.

Vicki Hadd-Wissler, director of education with Planned Parenthood Arizona, says parents should treat discussions about sex in the same manner as topics like drugs and alcohol.

"Parents may have some hesitation around talking about birth control, because they may see that as 'if I'm talking about it, that is somehow giving them permission to be sexually active.' That's actually not the case. We talk about those things as a matter of prevention."

Hadd-Wissler says studies have shown that when parents effectively communicate with their children about sex, their kids are more likely to delay having sex, have fewer partners and use contraception if they do have sex.

For parents who are uncomfortable talking about sexual topics with their kids, Hadd-Wissler suggests starting discussions when sexual situations come up in TV shows and movies.

"Two people, they may meet and in what appears to be a very short period of time they're having intimate relations and there's never any conversation about birth control. Sometimes there's certainly consequences, but frequently there's not."

She says such "teachable moments" can be used to bring up issues like delaying sex and preventing pregnancy.

The Internet gives parents today a huge advantage over their own parents, Hadd-Wissler says, in terms of having more information and resources about kids and sexuality available. However, all that information also presents a challenge, she adds.

"Parents recognize what their kids are exposed to because of the Internet. That raises the bar for them in terms of 'I need to be having these conversations with them.'"

As part of "Let's Talk Month," Planned Parenthood is hosting a series of parent workshops in Prescott Valley Oct. 19 and in Phoenix Oct. 20 and 26.

More information on the poll, "Let's Talk: Are Parents Tackling Crucial Conversations about Sex?", is available at http://bit.ly/r4yJ5R.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ