GRAND ISLAND, NEB. — Ten Walnut Middle School parents may now be better equipped to talk to their children about the full range of issues concerning human sexuality.
Susan Goodman of Central Health Center talked with the parents — nine of them during an hour-long morning session and one on Monday evening — about ways to talk with their kids about sexuality.
Goodman repeatedly stressed that parents should be their children's primary educators when it comes to sexuality. Sex education should never be limited to talking only about the physical act of sexual intercourse, she said, but should include facts, attitudes, feelings, behavior and values. Parents should never be afraid to tell their children what their values are when it comes to human sexuality, she said.
Some adults may feel that this generation of teens have "been there" and "done that" when it comes to sex, Goodman said. She acknowledged that today's tech-savvy teens and preteens can use the Internet to find out about sex. But they can also be woefully misinformed.
FACTS & FICTIONS
Goodman recalled one time when a couple of young teens came to her, wanting to know about the rhythm method of preventing pregnancy. She said the teens acted as though they knew exactly what they were talking about, though they seemed to think the rhythm method meant having sex at a certain rhythm would prevent pregnancy, Goodman said. She said the teens had apparently learned the erroneous information from peers. Goodman said she had a frank talk with them about what the true definition of the term, as well as other aspects of human sexuality.
Goodman said some teens mistakenly believe they cannot contract sexually transmitted infections (STIs) if they do not have intercourse. Again, that is not true.
Erroneous information about human sexuality can have serious consequences. That seems to be especially true for Hall County. Parents were given written information during the presentations regarding pregnancy and STIs.
The Central Health District statistics showed that Hall County has a teen birth rate of 67 births for every 1,000 female teenagers. That compares to a rate of just 31.1 births for every 1,000 female teens in Nebraska. The rate for the United States as a whole is 31.3 births for every 1,000 female teenagers.
Hall County saw 827 teen births in 2011, which was the third highest in Nebraska.
An article in Sunday's Independent noted there were 122 cases of chlamydia in Hall County during 2010. However, Goodman's talk indicated that figure could be an underestimate because 60 to 80 percent of females may have no symptoms, which means they are not even aware that they have contracted chlamydia. When it comes to males, 50 percent may have no symptoms to show that they have contracted the disease.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
During her talk, Goodman said parents should try to be "askable parents." She emphasized that should not mean that parents should wait for their children to ask them questions about sex. She said kids can sometimes embarrassed by the subject, which means they never ask.
Parents should look for "teachable moments," she said. Those moments may occur as a result of the content in a television show or because of the content in a TV commercial. She pointed out that some teen magazines use sexually provocative photos and copy to try to sell a wide array of merchandise.
Goodman said that can provide parents with an opening to ask their child, "What do you think about what you just saw?" She said parents can listen, discuss the situation and also tell their child what their own values are when it comes to such material.
Even though some parents may very much want to impart their own values on sexuality to their children, they may still feel incapable of having that conversation on their own, Goodman said. She said such as situation might occur with a single father raising a preteen or teen daughter or a single mother with a preteen or teenage son.
Goodman said such single parents have sometimes have come to the Central Health Clinic so they can sit down with her and have discussions about issues such as puberty and sexuality. She noted that for a single father, it can be helpful to have an adult woman talk to his daughter about issues such as puberty.
But Goodman noted that she has even worked with married couples who want her to be part of a family conversation with their children about puberty, sexuality and all the attendant issues that go along with those subjects.
RISKS AND DECISIONS
She said parents should also be aware of the need to talk to their children about what they should do if they ever get into a situation where somebody is trying to touch them on parts of their bodies that they don't want to be touched. Their children should know who they should talk to if they ever encounter such a situation.
Goodman said parents should also talk to their children about subjects such as dating violence. She noted that before physical violence actually occurs, there often are warning signs, such as controlling behavior, by one person in the relationship.
Some parents are afraid that if they talk honestly about human sexuality, it will make their children "want to do it," Goodman said. However, she said research shows that talking about human sexuality will often make teens delay the decision to have sex because they realize what a big decision that really is.
Goodman noted that for many adults, love and sex should go together. However, she also said that a teen may feel very much "in love" with another teen for an entire month and then be in love with another person three months later. She suggested that parents need to get their children to think in longer timeframes.
Goodman said parents should suggest that their children should be asking themselves: "Where do I want to be one year from now? Five years from now?" She said if their children's plans include college, then their children should be asking themselves how a pregnancy might affect those plans.