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Sexual health Talking with kids

Mariama is 18. Her parents always talked openly with her and her younger sister about sexual health. “My parents instilled in me the values that abstinence was the best thing,” Mariama says. “I waited, and I will continue to wait until I get married.”

Mariama’s mother Gloria, a physician and a Baptist minister, and her husband have taught their daughters about contraception, too. ““It gives them the information, but it also acknowledges the fact that they may make a different choice,” says Rev. Hammond White, M.D. “It says (to kids), ‘If you are going to make a different choice, then be wise about it. Use condoms to protect yourself.’ “That's not really a mixed message so much as it is honoring the fact that they may be in a very different place around that decision, as far as having sex.”

Miriama believes that her parent told her the truth about sex out of respect and wanting the best for her.

'Pamela and her 16-year-old son were buying supplies for his summer camping trip when he made a move that caught her off guard. She faced a dilemma.

“We were walking down the aisle with the toiletries,” Pamela says. “He picks up a carton of – I can't even say it – condoms!” “He puts it in my shopping cart, and he's laughing, and I said, 'You're not allowed to have sex. Put those back!’ So he picked them up, and he went to put them back, and I said, 'Actually, put them in the cart. I will buy them for you. You should take them with you. But I don't want you to have sex, because you're 16. You can't possibly have a relationship with anybody you just met on a camping trip that's intimate enough for you to have sex. But in case you ever do decide [to have sex], I don't want you to get AIDS. I'm scared about it.' “

Felix, the father of three boys, applauds Pamela’s response. He thinks she was clear about her values, hopes, and dreams for her son, and that she also acknowledged he is starting to make his own choices. “It is not a contradiction,” Felix says, “What you're saying is ‘I do have to respect that my child is himself or herself. No matter whether I try to make a decision for them, they are going to [make their own decisions].”

Read Gloria's story.
Portions of interviews have been reprinted with permission of Family Health Productions, Inc.

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