It is important for parents to talk to their kids and teens about STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). Your kids need to understand how STDs spread and how to protect themselves. STDs (also called sexually transmitted infections, or STIs) are infections that spread through sex (vaginal, oral, or anal). Some STDs can spread through close contact with the genitals or body fluids.
Talking to kids and teens about sex and STDs does not make it more likely that they'll have sex. But if they do become sexually active, they will understand the risks and know how to protect themselves.
Talking about STDs and other personal subjects like sex and puberty shouldn't be one big talk at a particular age. Instead, start the conversation early, and slowly build on your child's understanding. By about 10–13 years old, most kids understand what sex is and are ready to learn about STDs. But even if your child is older and you haven't started talking about STDs, it's not too late to have the conversation. A late talk is better than no talk at all.
Bringing up the subject of STDs can be hard. A good time to start the conversation might be when your child asks questions about sex. Or during a TV show or movie that shows a romantic relationship. You might ask, "What sorts of things do people in a relationship need to think about?". Another time would be when your child gets the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. You could say, "This shot protects you from a type of STD. Do you know what an STD is?"
Your discussion with your child should touch on the various types of STDs such as chlamydia, genital herpes, gonorrhea, HIV, etc. Here are some other key discussion topics:
- STDs mainly spread through sex but can spread through close contact with someone's genitals or body fluids.
- The best way to completely prevent an STD is to not have sex (oral, vaginal, or anal). If someone decides to have sex, using a latex condom every time can prevent most STDs.
- Some people with an STD have no signs or symptoms but they can still spread the infection to a sexual partner.
- Antibiotics can cure some STDs (like chlamydia and gonorrhea). But some STDs (like herpes or HIV) have no cure.
- You can get an STD the very first time you have sex.
If you don't feel comfortable talking with your kids about STDs, make sure they can turn to someone else for accurate information. This could be a doctor, counselor, school nurse, teacher, or a trusted family member. Kids and teens need to know about STDs and it's best if they get the facts from someone reliable.
Written by: KidsHealth.org
Submitted by: Burnett Medical Center
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