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FOR RELEASE: October 24, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

There's No Place Like Home for Sex Education

Parents are the best sex educators for their children, but bringing up the topic can be uncomfortable for some parents. During October, Let's Talk Month, the Oklahoma State Department of Health is encouraging parents to start conversations about sexuality issues with their children. “

Some parents may feel embarrassed and are not confident with their ability to answer questions,” said Dr. Edd Rhoades, chief of the state health department's Maternal and Child Health Services. “They may not have talked openly about sex with their own parents or they may fear that talking about sex will encourage their children to engage in sexual activities. Yet, kids want to know what their parents believe.”

Rhoades pointed out that parents can help formulate clear values to help their children in making responsible decisions about sex. “Young people need this direction because they are bombarded daily with sexual messages from the media, music and advertising,” he said. “Having factual information from parents can help kids avoid sexual exploitation, manipulation and possible misinformation from the media or their peers.”

Rhoades said the goal of Let's Talk Month is to increase parent-child communication so young people will develop healthy relationships based on respect, caring and commitment. He suggested these guidelines in talking about sexuality with your children:

  • Be honest! Be honest about your feelings, values, knowledge and concerns. ·
  • Use teachable moments. There may be many opportunities for talking about sexuality with your children during the day's normal activities. This helps avoid the sometimes uncomfortable “big talk.” ·
  • Keep V.I.F. in mind. V.I.F. stands for values, information and feelings. Communication of information is important, but communication of values and feelings are equally important. ·
  • Children learn by observation. Even if you don't say a word about sexuality, your children learn about sexuality by observing family patterns concerning affection, sex roles, etc. ·
  • Be patient. Your children hear and learn about sexuality from lots of different sources. You will need to clarify, repeat and build on your child's knowledge as she or he grows and matures. · Language is important. Give your child the vocabulary the she or he needs to continue to ask for information. Use the proper terms for reproductive parts of the body.
  • Listen too! When talking with your child about sexuality, it is important to listen too. It helps you know what he or she is thinking and what additional information may need to be discussed.
  • Make a commitment. Make a commitment to see that sexuality education happens for your child. If you feel nervous or anxious, share that with your child, then explain why you feel it is important. If you simply cannot talk to your child about the subject, ask a trusted relative, doctor, or clergy to help.
  • Start now. It's never too early to begin communicating healthy messages to your child about sexuality. Developing good patterns of communication while your children are young will pay off in a big way during adolescence.

The Adolescent Health Program of the Oklahoma State Department of Health has developed a network that provides a variety of programs and workshops to meet both parents' and youths' needs. These program work well for church, civic and school groups. For more information, contact the Adolescent Health Division, 405/271-4471.

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