Encouraging teens and parents to engage in dialogue about sexual health

2013-11-08T00:00:00Z Encouraging teens and parents to engage in dialogue about sexual healthBy Rebecca Brukman Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Teens and young adults: It’s time to be bold.

Each year in the United States, nearly 750,000 teens ages 15 to 19 become pregnant. The fact of the matter is, by age 19 seven in 10 teens have engaged in sexual intercourse, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Teens across the nation must make a commitment to talk openly with their parents and other trusted adults regarding sexual health.

Even as a senior in college, I, too, experience the same stresses and anxieties that come with talking to adults on topics pertaining to sexuality. At the same time, I recognize that many of our older role models are more than willing to create a safe space for personal discussions.

What should you do? Start the conversation.

The first step is to acknowledge your discomfort and reservations surrounding this topic. Ask them not to judge you while letting them know you have questions about sex but you’re too scared to ask. Was that bad? Should I not have done that? As young adults, we are faced with this internal dilemma constantly as we contemplate our place in the big bad world of sex, relationships and love.

I know starting the conversation is hard. If eye contact makes you uncomfortable, start the discussion in the car or while you’re outside doing yardwork. Whatever works for you will work for them.

Also it’s helpful to frame your questions through the lens of a friend or classmates. Try this example. “Hey mom, Suzy from English said sex is more pleasurable if your boyfriend isn’t wearing a condom; is that true?” This question may be about you or it may really be about your friend Suzy. Regardless, it takes the pressure off your parents and you if you keep the dialogue in hypotheticals.

Another suggestion is to talk about sexuality and sexual health portrayed in a popular movie or television show.

The majority of our values are shaped by the beliefs and attitudes of others around us — primarily the perspectives of our parents and other trusted adults. Establishing an open, honest relationship early on is essential.

Keep in mind that teachers, coaches and religious instructors are among the people in your life who are truly a wealth of knowledge. Ask them about their past relationships, even similar sexual experiences they may have encountered that were equally uncomfortable for them when they were your age.

On some level we all want our parents and other elder role models to be proud of us. Even if your experiences are outside of their morals or what you anticipate their expectations to be, teens and the adults in their lives have an obligation to meet each other halfway on issues related to understanding sexuality.

Now is the time to take ownership of your personal sexual health success by engaging in meaningful conversations that can shift the current obstacles facing our age demographic.

Rebecca Brukman is a senior at the University of Arizona studying political science. This semester she is a communications and marketing intern at Planned Parenthood Arizona, where she is working on education policy and public relations relating to sexual health.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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