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The Parent Buzz
A Newsletter for Parents from Let's Be Honest!
July 2007 - Vol 1, Issue 6
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Welcome to The Parent Buzz, an e-newsletter designed especially for parents and caregivers of middle school-aged children by Let's Be Honest! , the Parent Education program of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.

"When will I be old enough to have sex?" is not an uncommon question for children and adolescents to wonder about. While it may be a challenging one for many parents, having the question raised can be a "door opener" for continued conversations about sex and sexuality. There is no correct or incorrect answer, but it may help to revisit the "Let's be Honest!" four themes as you think about what is best for your child. Take a deep breath, stay calm and keep in mind that you are talking to your children because you care about their happiness and well-being.

Parents and guardians, as primary sexuality educators of their children, have the right and responsibility to answer questions their children have. If a child asks for a parent's opinion, they are interested in knowing what that adult thinks. Of course it is helpful to determine where the question is coming from. Is it possible that the adolescent has been thinking about becoming sexually active? Knows someone who is? Saw something on TV or other media which sparked the question? It can be helpful to determine where the question came from without jumping to conclusions.

A great way to start a response is "Wow! That is a big/tough/challenging/awesome question. I am really glad you asked me. I would love to talk to you and share my thoughts. I'm curious to know what brought it up in your mind?" Something along these lines as a starter can set a good beginning tone. It affirms the child for coming to you and can help them feel good about her/himself to hear you begin your response this way. Remember, they may be very nervous or embarrassed to have asked the question. Adults will want to keep in mind that paying attention to feelings and self-esteem are important in helping them to make good decisions, and encouraging them to continue to come to you for conversations like this.

Parents need to communicate in ways that share their own values. One family may believe that pre-marital sex is not the best choice. Another family may feel that sexual expression among young adults in caring and committed relationships is acceptable. Whatever a parent's thoughts and views, it is up to them to clearly communicate this to their child. In his/her response, a parent or guardian might bring up issues of faith, respect for self and others, love, commitment, self control, maturity, safety, and postponement as they share their values.

While values may be individual, accurate information is universal. Parents should give their children the facts and knowledge they need in order to help them make healthy decisions. Facts and knowledge may include information about reproduction and pregnancy prevention for heterosexual couples, information about sexually transmitted infections, state laws about sexual activity and ages of consent as well as resources.

Parents and guardians may not feel they have all the answers. It is perfectly okay to take some time to respond, gather more information and revisit those challenging questions. Kids need and want to hear what parents have to say. Keep those conversations going and don't forget that effective communication involves good listening as well as sharing! Have fun!
No matter how open you are with your children about sexuality, you may not be prepared to discover that your pre-teen or teenager masturbates. Masturbation is touching or rubbing the genitals to receive pleasure. Research shows that most teenagers masturbate. But some teens never do. (The same applies to adults!) Both are quite normal. Masturbation cannot hurt someone and it does not result in pregnancy or in getting or passing infections that are spread by sexual contact. Many parents worry about how often their children masturbate. As long as it doesn't interfere with your child's schoolwork, friends, or family life, don't be concerned. Be sure to let your child know your family values about masturbation. Every adolescent deserves to know that it doesn't cause physical or mental harm.
1. At what age do most teens become sexually active?
a. 12 - 14 years of age
b. 13 - 16 years of age
c. 16 - 18 years of age

2. At what time of day are teens most likely to have sex?
a. 7 am - 12 pm
b. 2 pm - 6 pm
c. 5 pm - 9 pm

3. On what day of the week are teens most likely to have sex?
a. Weekdays
b. Weekends
c. Holidays

4. What is the main reason teens give for having babies?
a. Low self-esteem
b. To keep their partner
c. Someone to love and to love them

5. Why do teens have sex even if they know they are not ready?
a. Peer pressure
b. Under influence of drugs and/or alcohol
c. Looking for love

6. When are teens most likely to get physically or mentally abused?
a. When a pregnancy occurs
b. While high on drugs and/or alcohol
c. When leaving a relationship

7. Most Americans who are HIV positive were infected as teens.
a. True
b. False

Answers 1. b, 2. b, 3. a, 4. c, 5. c, 6. a and c, 7. True

Adapted with permission from Action for Boston Community Development, Inc.
The Gardasil vaccine is now available at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts and through pediatricians and other primary care physicians. The vaccine protects against four strains of Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection that can be acquired through genital contact with or without sexual intercourse. Two of the strains of HPV can progress to cervical cancer and two of the strains can cause genital warts. Visit www.pplm.org, click on Local Training and Education, click on Interactive Webcast: HPV vaccine to view a webcast featuring PPLM's Medical Director and Manager of Parent Education presenting information about HPV, the Gardasil vaccine and how to talk with your daughter about the importance of receiving the vaccine.

Don't forget to visit our website at http://www.plannedparenthood.org/ma/fo r-parents.htm! Our website is updated regularly with helpful tips for talking, information about workshops, and much more. Don't miss an opportunity to be the primary sexuality educator for your children. Need help? Call our Parent Education Team at (617) 616-1658.


Parent Education
Planned Parenthood League of MA

phone: (617) 616-1658
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