Let’s Talk About … Being the Parent of an LGBTQ Child

The following guest post comes to us from Planned Parenthood Arizona’s education staff. Contact them at education@ppaz.org.

father-and-son-thumbnailOctober is Let’s Talk month, when Planned Parenthood advocates for better parent-child communication around sexuality. Last year we wrote about why it’s so important for any parent to talk to their child about sexuality — early and often. Parents are the primary sexuality educators of their children, and children who can talk to their parents about sexuality wait longer to have sex, and are more likely to use protection.

Planned Parenthood has great resources to help parents talk to their kids. Advocates for Youth also has a comprehensive guide to help parents through difficult conversations. Planned Parenthood also has resources for parents of LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning) youth. You might also ask your friendly local librarian about one of these books recommended by PFLAG, a national organization for families, friends, and allies of LGBTQ people.

Demand LGBTQ inclusivity and comprehensive sex education in your school district.

On November 2, Planned Parenthood will host an interactive workshop in Phoenix for parents of LGBTQ youth, where they can practice being an “askable” parent. Parents of LGBTQ kids may find it a little more difficult to be an “askable” adult. But it’s even more important because your children are at particular risk. LGBTQ youth face significant obstacles in their schools, in the world, and, sometimes, unfortunately, in their own homes. LGBTQ youth experience high rates of homelessness, depression/anxiety, and astronomically high rates of suicides — 3 times higher than straight youth. Study after study has shown that, in schools, LGBTQ youth face much higher levels of bullying, harassment, intimidation, threats, and physical assault than their peers. Stopbullying.gov reports that bullied LGBTQ youth (or youth perceived as LGBTQ) are more likely to skip school, smoke, use alcohol and drugs, and to engage in other risky behaviors.

If your child is transgender, their risks are exponentially higher. Almost all transgender students report being harassed at school about their sexual orientation and/or gender. More than half of transgender students report being physically harassed (pushed, shoved) in school. And about a third report being physically assaulted (punched, kicked, or injured with a weapon). For more information on transgender discrimination in schools, please see Harsh Realities: The Experiences of Transgender Youth in Our Nation’s Schools, available online here. Continue reading

May Is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month

The following is a guest post by Planned Parenthood Arizona’s Director of Education Vicki Hadd-Wissler, M.A.

mother daughterAt Planned Parenthood Arizona, we hope families are talking about changing bodies, healthy relationships, love, and sex throughout the year, and with May’s National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, parents and the important adults in the lives of teens have a unique opportunity to talk with teens about pregnancy prevention. The month is aimed at helping teens to identify their plans for the future, and consider how those plans would be impacted by an unintended pregnancy.

Ongoing conversations between parents and teens build in protective factors. Studies have shown that teens who report having ongoing conversations with their parents about sex wait longer to begin having sex and are more likely to use condoms and other birth control methods when they eventually become sexually active. Even more surprising for many parents is that these studies also show that teens want to hear about what their parents have to say about sex and relationships.

Planned Parenthood Arizona can suggest some amazing resources to fit the needs of your family and to start dialogue with a teen you love. Continue reading

“Let’s Talk”: Parents as Sexuality Educators

The following guest post comes to us from Planned Parenthood Arizona’s education staff. Contact them at education@ppaz.org.

parent child talkingOctober is “Let’s Talk” Month. Do you remember your parents giving you “the Talk”? If you were unlucky, “the Talk” was an uncomfortable event that was never spoken of again. If you were really unlucky, your parents didn’t talk to you at all. If so, maybe you got some ideas on your own, or from your friends, from your coach, or from health class. If you were LGBTQ, maybe you saw a horrifically homophobic video like this. However, if you were lucky, you didn’t receive “the” Talk but instead had many conversations with parents who were open and honest. Maybe it was a bit awkward, like this. But hopefully they gave you accurate information and answered your questions as they came up. If so, good for them!

Being an “askable” parent helps keep the door to conversation open.

Having “the Talk” can be uncomfortable, or even hilarious. But if you’re a parent, make sure you do talk — early and often. At Planned Parenthood Arizona, we recognize that parents are the best sexuality educators for their children. Children get their first messages about sexuality from their parents, and they start wondering about sex earlier than you might think. It’s important for parents to talk about sex so they can be sure their kids understand their family’s values and beliefs. Kids begin collecting information about sex at a very young age — they get messages from the media, from their friends, and from teachers. Parents should ensure the ideas their children have are accurate and in line with their own values. Parents want the best for their kids, and can encourage them to make healthy choices that minimize risky behaviors. Although they might not seem to be listening, most teens say their parents are their biggest influence about sex.

If parents don’t talk about sex, kids get a clear message — that it’s not OK to ask. That’s bad news — If parents aren’t approachable, kids will find information from other sources. Would you want your teenager to follow their friend’s advice? Would you prefer if your children ask you a few uncomfortable questions, or that they go searching the Internet for facts? Continue reading

Abstinence-Only Is a Failure to Educate

Editor’s Note: The following post was written by Julie, one of Planned Parenthood Arizona’s interns. Julie is an Arizona State University student majoring in biological anthropology and women and gender studies. She has a passion for women’s reproductive health, and hopes one day to pursue medical school and become a provider for an organization like Planned Parenthood.

college studentsHow well do college students feel their sex education prepared them for navigating relationships in college and coming into their sexuality?

Though many young people begin dating in high school, college is the time when a lot of relationships flourish and students begin to explore their own sexuality. The experience can be exhilarating, like navigating a battlefield of hookups and breakups without the threat of a curfew.

Abstinence-only programs fail students, who need accurate information to make informed decisions to protect their health.

Facing the dating scene in college can be scary as well, especially for those who didn’t have the chance to learn about sexuality or how to form healthy relationships while still at home. Many schools across the country teach only abstinence to students, and this can leave them ill-prepared to make healthy decisions when they face real-world situations.

Bailey W., an ASU women and gender studies student, describes her experience with sex ed in primary school as anything but comprehensive. Her school provided the abstinence-only education common in schools across Arizona and many other areas of the country. These programs advocate for heterosexual, monogamous marriages as the only appropriate settings for sexual interaction.

For Bailey, this created an unhealthy mental perception of sex that followed her into college. “I felt guilty about my sexuality because I was always taught that there are only two options: Don’t be sexual and stay safe, or be sexual and put yourself at extreme risk of ruining your whole life.” She admitted she didn’t know much about birth control until she came to college, and her first boyfriend basically taught her about her own anatomy. Continue reading

Starting the Conversation: Talking About Sex and Relationships With Your Teen

mother-and-daughterTalking about sex is never easy, but it can be easier.

A survey released last year from Planned Parenthood and Family Circle magazine, with assistance from the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health, found that teens are much less comfortable talking with their parents about topics pertaining to sexuality than their parents are talking with them about the same topics.

Planned Parenthood Arizona will be hosting workshops in Phoenix and Tucson to educate parents on how to have “the talk” with their children.

However, when teens are able to have open, ongoing conversations with their parents about relationships and sex, it makes a difference. Studies show that teens who report having good conversations with their parents about sex wait longer to begin having sex and are more likely to use condoms and other birth control methods when they do become sexually active. Further, when teens are comfortable talking with their parents about relationships and sex, parents are better able to help and support them in the decisions they make.

There is no better time than now to get the conversation started, and Let’s Talk month does just that …

Background on Let’s Talk Month: For those who might not be familiar, Let’s Talk Month is a time during which sexuality education providers and advocates across the country encourage young people and parents to communicate with one another about sexuality. Sexuality comprises a wide range of topics, including relationships, anatomy and body image, reproduction, gender and sexual orientation, sexual behavior, and preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of sex education, offers resources, guidance, and encouragement to teens and parents who are unsure about how to talk about relationships and sex. Continue reading

October Is “Let’s Talk Month”: Communicating with Your Children About Sexuality

The following is a guest post by Planned Parenthood Arizona’s Director of Education Vicki Hadd-Wissler, M.A.

“How do you know when you are in love?” “Where do babies come from?” “What is erectile dysfunction?” If you are a parent, or an important adult in the life of a child, chances are you have heard questions like these from a child in your life at one time or another. The last question was one I received from my son several years ago, right after he saw a TV commercial for Cialis. How we respond to these questions, especially if we are open, honest, and reassuring, goes a long way in creating a sexually health adult.

This month, we’ll conduct three parent workshops in Phoenix and Tucson to empower adults with age-appropriate strategies for discussing sexuality with the children in their lives.

October is “Let’s Talk Month,” a national event organized by Planned Parenthood and more than 50 other organizations to promote family communication about sexuality. Let’s Talk Month gives Planned Parenthood Arizona a chance to spotlight what we support all year long: parents in their role as the primary sexuality educator of their children. There is an abundance of research that reinforces the positive role parents (and other important adults in the life of a child) play in influencing their youth’s sexual decision making. The more parents can “normalize” conversations about sexuality and sexual health, making sure that their kids know that they can ask questions and that their parents want to be an honest resource for their questions, the more likely their kids will seek them out for information. Continue reading