It's never too early for parents to have "the Talk" with their children. Dr. Ryan Pasternak, associate professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans, informs and encourages parents to be proactive with reproductive education.
Pasternak says that parents tend to have the conversation about sexual health as a reaction to something else. It's imperative for parents to share accurate and appropriate information with their children to combat poor advice from peers.
On how parents can go about having "the Talk" with adolescents
The key thing to know is that all adolescents are exploring themselves and their relationships. They are exploring what makes them a unique individual, but also how they relate to other peers and society as a whole. As parents, we have a divided view on how to address these issues with adolescents. On one hand, we imagine being grandparents, but find that having conversations about reproductive health during our children’s adolescence is a difficult topic. The key thing is to start having the conversation. Set aside time on a regular basis and just have the talk. Otherwise, what tends to happen is the conversations come as a reaction to something else.
On when and why to have "the Talk"
The American Academy of Pediatrics expects clinicians to be talking about sexual health, STI prevention, and contraception with our patients by age 12. As a parent, it's important to begin talking about healthy relationships and boundaries with peers and friends when children are 7-9 years-old. One thing we know is that many adolescents aren’t getting the information they need to make healthy decisions in school and other places on a consistent basis. The other thing we see
is that a lot of influence is exerted on adolescents by their peers. Parents are OK talking about peer pressure as it relates to drugs or crime, but it’s a little more difficult to discuss peer pressure when it comes to relationships. As parents, we continue to maintain a strong influence in our children’s lives. That is the most important reason to have the conversation.
On the change from STD's to STI's
The CDC and other groups really thought about these things, and really wanted to call them infections. Many of them can be disease states, but they are transmissible infections that we can prevent or treat and cure – in some cases – as opposed to diseased states that have more stigma.