How To Talk About STDs

Of the many talks you will have your children, talking about sexually transmitted diseases will be one of the most difficult. STDs are a direct consequence of unprotected sex, and for dads, it can be almost unbearable to imagine our children having sex, as we still see them as being young and innocent. However, you don’t want to be too late in talking to your child about sex and STDs since the consequences can be dire. Teen pregnancy and STDs are completely preventable, which is why open communication goes a long way.

There is no better substitute for talking about STDs than Dad. Even though health classes discuss these issues, they should be viewed as conversation starters instead of replacements for the real talk between a parent and his child. If you’re contemplating when to speak to your child about sex and STDs, consider these statistics. Teens are most at risk for contracting STDs, and there are 19 million new STD infections that occur each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Nearly 50 percent of these cases involve young adults between the ages of 15 and 24.

It’s never too late to talk to your child about sex and STDs, even if your child is already a teen. Start with a basic talk about relationships, love and sex, which you may have already discussed with your child. Remember, kids see sex-related things on TV and movies and hear them in music, so you won’t be putting anything new into your child’s head. Instead, you will be clear about particular issues and give your child the opportunity to ask questions. Building this foundation throughout the years will make it easier for your child to come to you with concerns.

Naturally, any conversation about sex can be uncomfortable, which is why so many of us dads just avoid it all together. To make it more comfortable, choose a time and place where you know that you can talk to your child uninterrupted. Bring up a specific scenario, such as something your child may have seen in a movie or heard on the radio. You can also show your child an article regarding sex or STDs and see what he or she has to say about it. Or, be even more direct and talk to your child about getting the recommended vaccine for HPV.

Coming to the conversation well-prepared will help avoid awkward moments of silence that may stop the flow of conversation. In fact, being informed yourself is the best way to keep the conversation on a positive note. If your child asks questions, you want to sound credible so that your child views you as a trusted source of communication. To help, don’t be afraid to collect pamphlets at the doctor about STDs or have a short video to show. Your ultimate goal is to educate, not scare, probe for answers or torture your child.

When speaking about STDs, you should discuss the various types of infections and how they are contracted from a male or female partner. Talk to your child about common signs and symptoms of STD infections and the long-term effects that many of them carry. Remember not to be judgmental about STD infections as you don’t want to scare your child from coming to you in the future. Instead, talk openly and honestly about the infections just as you would about any other medical condition. Also talk about common treatments and what people can do if they become infected.

As a dad, you do have one advantage during this talk. You can share your own beliefs about sex and what you feel is appropriate. This is the role of parents after all, so don’t be afraid to share what you expect from your child in abstaining from unprotected sex. Nevertheless, we know that often times children operate on their own agendas, which is why it’s also important to educate your child on using protection, the second safest way to avoid STD infections.