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Parents Grapple With How To Talk With Their Kids About Sex


There comes a time when most parents feel compelled to talk with their kids about sex. It's not an easy conversation to have. In fact, some parents feel ill-prepared and uncomfortable about it.

— There comes a time when most parents feel compelled to talk with their kids about sex. It's not an easy conversation to have. In fact, some parents feel ill-prepared and uncomfortable about it.

The local chapter of Planned Parenthood holds house parties, where educators give parents information and support to help them get ready for the "big talk".

At a Planned Parenthood house party in Del Cerro, parents share some of their fears about sex and their daughters.

"I don't have a problem talking with my kids about sex at all. But probably the thing that scares me the most, is instilling the emotional part that goes with it...I'm not particularly comfortable, actually. I want to be open and liberal, but at the same time, I have a really religious background, and I just don't know where to draw the line...I kind of remember what I was like when I was a 13-year-old boy, and the idea that she's going out with 13-year-old boys kind of scares me."

Suzanne Reno sits back and listens. Reno is Planned Parenthood's director of education and training, and she's spoken at a number of house parties. When the parents have finished, Reno chimes in.

"It's not necessarily easy, but I know each of you have had difficult conversations with your kids," says Reno. "I mean, I think you guys have to give yourselves a break. You do not have to be an expert, and you do not have to do everything right."

Reno goes on to dispel what she says is a commonly held belief: If you talk to your child about sex, they'll go out and experiment.

"If you have a solid relationship with your child, and you openly talk about sexuality, answer their questions, initiate conversation, they're actually less likely to engage in sexual behavior," Reno says. "They'll delay sexual behavior. And when they do choose to enter into a sexual relationship, they'll make wiser choices."

Reno says communicating with kids about sex is most effective when parents are clear about their own attitudes and values. So she asks parents to share what kinds of values they'd like their kids to have about sex.

One woman doesn't hesitate.

"To not have sex before they're married," says the woman. "That would be a goal that I would have for my child, and they would go about it happily."

None of the parents are comfortable with their daughters having sex right now. Reno points out parents also need to have a long-range view.

"All the messages we give them now, are going to be part of the process of how they view themselves as an adult," cautions Reno. "How do we want them to view men, as they move into the world and choose a partner? Do we want them to view them as kind of this adversarial, predatory, I don’t know, how do you feel about that?"

Barbara Brainerd has some strong feelings about it. She has two girls, ages 11 and 13. Brainerd has told them they should wait until they're out of high school to have sex.

But she concedes her influence may not be that strong.

"I used to think that, when they were younger, they would just buy what I'm sellin' 'em," Brainerd admits. "And I've learned that's not the case."

Michael Poltorak has three daughters. He believes young boys have only one thing in mind when it comes to girls. Poltorak says he's been trying to get that message across to his daughters.

"And I don't think I'm getting across in a way to say that, okay, you should, you know, be all hung up that boys are evil and bad," Poltorak says. "But, as far as it goes with progressing with sexual activity, they shouldn't be trusted."

There's some new information that provides food for thought. A report from the Guttmacher Institute says most kids have sexual intercourse for the first time at age 17.

A survey from San Diego City Schools reveals 39 percent of high school students have had sex. That's compared to 48 percent in 1991.

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