April is STD Awareness Month, and Nurse Leslie wants parents to think about the connection between education and safety when it comes to this uncomfortable topic.
FACT: The current STD rate for teens is 10 million cases each year. To lower the numbers will take education, fearlessness and the willingness for everyone to agree to open conversations around the topic.
What is an STD? They are diseases that are passed from one person to another through sexual contact and skin to skin contact. These include chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), syphilis and HIV. The biggest problem with many of these diseases is that they can be asymptomatic, and by the time a person gets treated, physical damage has occurred.
How Common are STDs?
- STDs are especially common in young people because their bodies are biologically more prone.
- Young people’s brains aren’t mature enough to understand the risks
- Young people usually don’t have honest conversations with their partners about sexual history
- Young people don’t usually get checked out when they become sexually active
- Young people usually don’t have open honest conversations with their doctors
- Young people aren’t’ getting the comprehensive sex education they need
Step I: Sex education starts at home and it starts early. That doesn’t mean a five-year-old needs to know about STDs, but they do need to know about proper body parts, comfort in their bodies, boundaries and the security and trust that they can always go to their parents with questions and concerns.
Step II: By the time your child is between 9-11 years of age, they need to know about puberty, periods and reproductive anatomy. They need an open, honest, non-judgmental dialogue with their parents around these topics. If you’re not aware of what they are learning through their peers and the internet, get informed. This is the stage and age you become very well educated about sex, STDs and birth control. Take our Puber-Tea, Guy Talk or Rites of Passage classes.
Step III: A middle schooler needs it all. If you think your seventh grader is naïve and isn’t ready for the full sex talk, you are wrong. They need to know about male and female reproduction, boundaries, how to establish healthy relationships, STDs and consequences. If you’re lucky, your school might be teaching these topics, but don’t bet on it. You need to be the primary educator, because they need to know they can go to a parent with any question or concerns. If you haven’t educated yourself about these topics yet, start now!
Step IV: You first need to find out what your teenager knows. You must be very well versed in reproduction, STDs, birth control, boundaries and relationships. Take as much time as you put towards academics and talk with your teen.