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Maribel Diaz

Strategy and Planning, City of Hope

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Let’s Talk About Sex

02/19/2016 11:20AM | 7188 views

I was dressed a todo lo que daba in my puffy cream colored satin dress, and I felt like a princess; ringlets of brown curls cascaded down my waist and my make-up was flawless! I was finalizing my prom look when my father called me to the kitchen. He asked me to sit with him at the table and, in a serious Spanish voice as he placed his hand on my leg, said, “If your date puts his hand on you like this, tell him to stop.” And then the conversation was over.

I realized that this was my father’s version of the “sex talk” but I did not give it much thought as I finished getting ready for my senior prom. It was not until a few years later, as I swapped stories with Hispanic college girl friends in the dorm and reflected on this experience, that I realized the lack of conversations on sex and sexuality between Hispanic parents and their teen children. We chuckled as we shared stories of awkward conversations about this topic with our parents, but the reality was that this was not a laughing matter, especially given the statistic that Hispanics have a higher overall teen birthrate than the nation at large (link) and they risk sexually transmitted diseases.

Ample research exists to support how much Hispanic families struggle more than other ethnicities to have an open dialogue about sex and sexual health with their children. Specifically, one study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that “compared to other groups, Hispanic teens were more likely to strongly agree that their parents don’t know what to say about sex or when to start the conversation” (link).

The time to change the discourse (or lack of) is now, especially since parents are the ones who have the greatest influence on teenagers’ decisions about sex—more than peers, popular culture, teachers, and others. In fact, 91 percent of Hispanic teenagers agree that it is significantly easier for them to postpone sexual activity and avoid teen pregnancy if they were able to have more of an open, honest conversation with their parents (link).

Let’s make 2016 the year to have these talks within our families—the younger generation would benefit greatly and it is important to build a safe, open space to have these conversations. While they can be difficult and perhaps uncomfortable at first, here are a few tips to facilitate such conversations:

• Talk to your own network of parents for advice. Not only can they share nuggets of wisdom as you prepare, but it will also help you become more comfortable talking about the topic before broaching it with your teenager.

• Do your research. There are ample resources and books available on this topic to guide you and make these conversations easier.

• Consider your teenager’s point of view. There is a high likelihood that your child has already thought at length about this topic and discussed it with his or her peers. Thus, you can begin by first understanding what they already know and encourage them to ask YOU questions as part of the dialogue.

So...let’s talk about sex in 2016!

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