For those of us invested in the wellness of adolescents, it’s impossible to ignore the important role that parents, caregivers and other trusted adults play in keeping them healthy and safe. This is particularly true when we are talking about sexual and reproductive health. Teens who feel like they can openly communicate with their parents are more likely to delay sexual debut, and teens who have had open communication about sex, birth control, and STDs with their parents are more likely to use condoms.

The evidence supporting the protective role a positive parent-child relationship plays in the sexual health outcomes of youth is undeniable. That’s why at Essential Access Health (formerly California Family Health Council), we don’t only leverage technology to deliver sexual and reproductive health information and resources to youth and young adults, we also outreach to parents.

Our website TalkWithYourKids.org is a resource for English and Spanish speaking parents. It provides them with reliable and accurate information about adolescent sexual and reproductive health, as well as tips and advice on how to engage their kids in age-appropriate conversations about puberty and development, healthy relationships, safer sex and prevention. My favorite parts of the website are the Talk With Your Kids Timeline + Tips (yes, sexuality education can start at age 0!) and the Let’s Talk About blog section which features advice and best practices from parents and other experts in the field of family communication about sex.

I recently attended the California State PTA Convention to share our Talk With Your Kids materials and outreach materials for teens, including our teen-friendly website TeenSource.org, our Condom Access Project and our text-messaging program Hookup. While there were a couple of parents who were intimidated about sharing these materials with other parents at their children’s’ schools, almost all parents were receptive and even excited about sharing information and resources with their kids. I think most parents want to be a resource for their kids when it comes to puberty, sex, and relationships. And as public health professionals and educators, we have the unique opportunity to connect them to the right information.

Let’s Talk Month is a great time to boost our efforts to connect with parents and support them in initiating a conversation about sexuality with their kids. Advocates for Youth has some great resources and we’d love for you to share our website and Talk With Your Kids Facebook page with the parent populations you work with. They can also get communication tips sent straight to their phones by texting “TWYK” to 877877.

For more information or resources about Let’s Talk Month or Essential Access Health, you can contact us here. And check out some of these quotes from parents we’ve worked with as a testament to how much parents really want to be a sexual and reproductive health resource for their kids:

“I want my daughter to get the facts and know she can always come to me.”
“I want my son to be healthy and have access to the care he needs.”
“It’s important for us to share our values with our son so he can have a foundation for making healthy decisions.”
“We want our daughter to know that we are here for her no matter what.”

About

Sandee Differding is the Adolescent Health Program Manager at Essential Access Health (Essential Access). She manages Essential Access’s digital outreach programs, including the TeenSource.org website, the statewide Condom Access Project, the HookUp text messaging program, the Multi-Media Peer Educator Program, and the Talk With Your Kids program. Sandee received both her Master of Public Health degree and Bachelor of Arts Degree in Public Health from UC Berkeley. Prior to working at Essential Access, she worked for Berkeley Media Studies Group where she researched how the news impacts public policy, and worked for both the California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control. She is especially interested in the intersection between new media and adolescent sexual health.

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