April is officially designated STD Education & Awareness Month. As we’ve shared before, to be effective, STD education shouldn’t just take place in sex ed class — STD education must also take place in the home early on.
Having the sex talk alone can seem daunting to parents, but discussing sex without discussing safe sex practices and STDs isn’t a good strategy. It’s important that your children understand the risks associated with STDs, as well as how STDs are spread.
Ready to tackle STD education with your kids? Here are our tips for promoting their STD awareness.
Approaching STD Education With Your Children
First, Educate Yourself
Before you can initiate your child’s STD education, you probably need to brush up on your STD knowledge. That way, you’ll be a little more prepared for any questions your child may have, plus have a good foundation on what to address in your discussion. It’s good to be aware of the common STDs and their risk factors, symptoms, treatments, and prevention methods. You can use this website as a resource and find more information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although most school-based STD education takes place in high school during kids’ teenage years, research has shown that STD education is most effective early on. Compared to adolescents, younger children are more likely to turn to their parents for advice; older kids ask their friends or research on the internet.
We suggest starting STD education when your kids are preteens (9 – 12 years old). You shouldn’t wait until your children ask you about STDs or sex — you never know if they are too embarrassed to approach you about these topics.
Create a Two-Way Conversation
Studies have shown that children who reported that their parents listened and spoke openly during sex talks were less likely to participate in high-risk sexual behaviors. During your child’s STD education, you want to create an open, trusting environment where they can bring up their thoughts, concerns and questions without fear of judgment.
To this end, you need to create space for a two-way conversation. You can’t be the only person talking. Be sure to ask questions that illicit deeper responses from your child, and leave room for them to ask questions. Be an open listener and show them that you value their contributions to they conversation, even if their opinions differ from yours.
Don’t Try to Cover Too Much
You may want to get STD education “over with” because you feel a little uncomfortable discussing the topic with your children. However, it’s key that you don’t attempt to cover too much ground in your conversations. You don’t want your child to feel rushed, because this might imply that STD education is not important or that you’re not open to their questions or concerns.
Rather than cramming too much into one STD education talk, plan to have multiple short, yet meaningful conversations with your kids about STDs over the course of many years. As your child learns more about sex and begins to develop romantic relationships with others, their knowledge, questions, and worries will shift — and you’ll need to re-engage in STD education.
If your child is sexually active, it’s also important to couple STD education with reliable STD testing. The walk-in ARCpoint Labs located nationwide offer accurate, confidential testing services for a variety of common STDs. To get started, locate your nearest ARCpoint Labs today.