Protecting All Teenagers

I had pondered whether to blog about the news that 1 in 4 teenaged girls between 14-19 has a sexually transmitted disease. It should take everyone's breath away and cause sorrow to us all.

To wit:

"In the first study of its kind, researchers at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found at least one in 4 teenage American girls has a sexually transmitted disease.

The most common one is a virus that can cause cervical cancer, and the second most common can cause infertility. Nearly half the black teens in the study had at least one sexually transmitted infection, versus 20 percent among both whites and Mexican-American teens."

"Blame is most often placed on inadequate sex education, from parents and from schools focusing too much on abstinence-only programs. Add to that a young person’s sense of being invulnerable."

That last should also say "parents believing it is someone else's child". I say that because in working with the NE coalition working on preventing teenage drinking, I learned that parents are a big part of the drinking problem. It's always someone else's kid or they believe that it's the first time their child has had a drink or they don't want their child to face consequences either from school or police.

Is that where we are with our children and sex? And hey, let's get those boys in here because these girls didn't get infected all by themselves.

And what else?

“Sexuality is still a very taboo subject in our society,” she said. “Teens tell us that they can’t make decisions in the dark and that adults aren’t properly preparing them to make responsible decisions.”

Sure, we can tell them that abstinence is the best thing both physically and mentally. But is that it? I think many kids just don't understand how much they can be hurt by being sexually active early. I'm thinking of an article I read, written by a teenager, about how nice it is to wear low-cut tank tops and show off her "boobies" but hard to have boys staring. (Really, you think?) But voila! MySpace to the rescue because she posts a picture of herself (hopefully mostly covered) and waited for the "great comments on my rack". This is so sad and pathetic it's not even funny.

Aren't we a more open generation of parents? There's certainly a lot of talk about sex on tv and in the movies. But is that information? What I found out raising my sons, and was grateful for, is that there are a lot of books written for kids about puberty and body changes and sex that make it a lot easier to have these discussions. Don't believe it isn't your child because clearly, even if these numbers are only slightly off, there are legions of girls who are infected.

Anybody out there still believe that preaching abstinence is going to do the job? How can generations of parents keep duping themselves that this is the way to go without mentioning STDs, condoms, how to protect yourself and how to say no?

I'm not religious but God help us all if this doesn't change.


Anonymous said…
You mentioned some good books for opening discussions about these topics, or at least introducing them to teens. Any recommendations?
Anonymous said…
I recently blogged about talking to my 10 year-old about HIV/AIDS--I was really taken aback by how little he knew. From that discussion, I realized that I needed to start talking to him now, and not wait for SPS's FLASH curriculum in 5th grade (do all schools use this?) or the "teenage" years.

Several responses mentioned books (though unfortunately not any specific titles), and a class at Children's.

I agree, too, that it shouldn't be limited to abstinence. That one didn't work for me as a teen, and I seriously doubt it would work for either of my kids.
Jet City mom said…
This is book that has been around a while for teens- updated often though
By the publishers of Our Bodies Ourselves

Changing Bodies, Changing lives- sorry I couldn't link.

I would also suggest watching movies together, it can be helpful to discuss how a character is making choices- less threatening than using your child as an example.

Like Juno- or I always liked Some Kind of Wonderful.
Anonymous said…
Too Old for This, Too Young for That!: Your Survival Guide for the Middle-School Years by Mosatche and Unger is a book used at Lowell for grade 5 students.

Seattle Public Schools need to take these data very seriously, as should every school. Remarkably, the fact that girls are the ones suffering seems to have made this less newsworthy.
Anonymous said…
I was one of those who responded to you, Denise. The book I used to start things off with my daughters was "The Care and Keeping of You" by the American Girl publishers. It's very down to earth and sensible, with cute illustrations.

But in truth, giving them that book didn't "start" anything-we'd had an on-=going conversation about sex and body development from the time they were young-and with my son too.

If the topic isn't taboo or ignored in the hopes the kids will eventually bring it up, kids do ask questions and get your message.

Since I'm not privey to every piece of their lives, I can't be 1005 certain, but both of my oldest have reached adultdood without an STD or pregnancy. In fact, my 18 year old came to me and asked about the Gardasil (sp?) vaccine. So I think I did right as far as sex education went.

I have some friends on an online group for elementary kids (I still have one more kid to go), and so many of them haven't told their 8-10 year olds a thing. Some have said, "Well, we don't believe in pre-marital sex, so they don't need to know." If only that were true.


What's Going On Down There:Answers to Questions Boys Find Hard to Ask - Karen Gravelle, et al.

The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Girls (American Girl)

Deal With It! A Whole New Approach to your Body, Brain and Life as a gURL, Esther Drill

Do NOT buy these books until you personally have looked at them. Some are pretty frank and even have graphics. It may depend on your child's age whether or not you feel a book is appropriate. I would also suggest going to an independent bookstore (Like All For Kids Books and Music behind U Village or University Bookstore where they are more likely to know the books well). Also, if your child is in middle school, call and ask to speak to the nurse and ask their recommendations (as there are new books coming out all the time).

I see from looking at Amazon that there are newer books geared for younger kids (5-8); I haven't seen these yet.
old salt said…
Children's hospital class (For boys only/for girls only)is very good for intro to puberty for 4th/5th graders. On their website is a good book list.

Our elementary PTSA had Amy Lang from Birds+Bees+Kids, a Seattle organization, come talk to parents. It was very informative & she is a really fun speaker. The website has lots of info on it, including a book list by recommended age.

My daughter started coming home with misinformation from friends in 4th grade. That scared me into working harder at educating my kids about sex.
Anonymous said…
Our 5th grade teacher at (AEII) decided to completely skipp flash in the 5th grade in lieu of doing a play. A play!!!! They didn't have time for both.

I have boys. I talk to them about sex a lot. I talk about abstinence, AND I talk about what is involved in making a choice to have sex. I talk to them about sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and the emotions that come with a sexually active relationship. The hard part is that these conversations are always one sided. My son is mortified when I bring the subject up. He turns shades of red, purple and everything in between. But at least I know he is listening. I know he heard me. And I hope that he feels like he can talk to me if he needs to.
Anonymous said…
I really like the book "It's Perfectly Normal." And watching movies and TV together, discussing good and bad choices people make.

My son's fifth grade FLASH was pretty good. I did think it was odd that they discussed rape and assault without actually defining the words, since they hadn't covered intercourse yet. The teacher did cover that at the end though. (My son was home with a fever that day. The teacher contacted me to alert me that he was missing the Big Day. I assured her that my son already knew about it and we've had ongoing discussions on the topic. She replied that for some kids, her Big Day was the first time they were learning those details.)

Later I heard from a school nurse who teaches FLASH that actually, the fifth grade curriculum is NOT supposed to cover the "tab in slot" definition. No, although it is designed to open dialog, awareness and prevent rape, molestation and HIV, the kids are not exactly supposed to learn about the basic mechanics. She said that my son's teacher broke the rules if she did explain intercourse.

The 9th grade Health class at Roosevelt was awesome and comprehensive.
Anonymous said…
I used to teach the FLASH curriculum to high school students. It can be great if taught comprehensively. Seattle is lucky to have this curriculum.

One thing I worry about is the lingering attitude that it is up to girls to refuse sex. You know, "boys will be boys". That is quite a load for a young woman to carry, and where I was teaching, parenting a child was often a form of status for the young men.


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