Let’s Talk: Tips to Help Parents Talk to Their Kids about Sex

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Knox County Health Department, KAPPI offer age-appropriate tips for parents to talk with kids, reduce local pregnancy and STD rate

The educational campaign is geared toward East Tennessee parents to help their teens reduce sexual risks.

These startling statistics could be dramatically reduced if parents started talking to their kids from an early age about sex and the risks involved.

Knox County Health Department and KAPPI, the Knox Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, recently launched a campaign aimed to reduce teenage pregnancy and STD rates in East Tennessee. With funding received in part from a federal grant, the educational campaign is geared toward parents to help their teens reduce sexual risks.

According to the 2011 Knox County Youth Risk Behavior Study conducted by Knox County Health Department, Knox County Schools and the Metropolitan Drug Commission, more than 43 percent of students in Knox County Schools have had sex, including 31 percent of ninth graders. Nearly half of these sexually-active teens did not use a condom the last time they had sex while one quarter of them did not use any form of contraceptive.

“These startling statistics could be dramatically reduced if parents started talking to their kids from an early age about sex and the risks involved,” said Kathy Brown, Knox County Health Department director of community assessment and health promotion.

Here are some age-appropriate tips to start the conversation in your family:

  •      Children under the age of 10 are curious but don’t know much about sex or even gender differences yet. This is the most important time to teach them boundaries and discuss anatomy.
  •      Pre-teens start experiencing physical and emotional changes related to puberty. This is the time they will start having many questions about their bodily changes and about sex. Be truthful and open, keeping the communication a two-way conversation and not a lecture.
  •      Teens want to be experimental, so teach them about the risks of sex as well as having smart sex. Parent needs to prepare them for the temptation that can come from relationships. Find out who they are hanging out with and set rules because teens need structure.

According to the CDC, nearly half of new sexually transmitted infections cases each year in the United States are found in people between the ages of 15 and 24, including chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, and 70 percent of 19-year-olds have had sex. The teen years are a crucial time for parents to educate their kids and help prevent an increasing number of teen pregnancies and STIs.

“This is alarming. We want to encourage parents to talk to their kids early and often about sex,” Brown said. “It might be uncomfortable at first, but teaching them about sex from an early age, and possibly preventing a teenage pregnancy, far outweighs the discomfort when it comes to our children.”

Visit http://www.mybodymyfuture.com for more tips and facts about sex, pregnancy, STIs and STDs.

The Knox Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Initiative began in 1991 as a community coalition to address the issues surrounding teen pregnancy and parenting. It is part of a state-wide effort of the Tennessee Department of Health and is housed at the Knox County Health Department. In 2008, KAPPI became exempt from Federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, incorporating KAPPI as a non-profit corporation in Tennessee. As such, contributions to KAPPI are deductible under section 170 of the Code. For more information, visit http://www.mybodymyfuture.com.

About Knox County Health Department
With an organizational vision of “Every Person a Healthy Person,” Knox County Health Department is committed to promoting public health policies and practices to safeguard and improve quality of life for all residents. KCHD is responsible for disease surveillance, prevention and control, emergency preparedness, air quality management, ensuring food safety in public places, providing nutritional programs, family planning, immunizations and much more. For more information, visit http://www.mybodymyfuture.com or http://www.knoxcounty.org/health.


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Heather Ripley
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