For parents, how to talk about sex

News staff writer

January 20, 2007

Lauren Fein might be only 22 and soft spoken, but she doesn’t blush easily when talking about birth control and sexually transmitted infections.

On Monday, Fein will carry a bag full of contraceptives and sex organ replicas into a classroom. The AmeriCorps volunteer has been enlisted by the Hood River County Commission on Children and Families to teach parents a modern “birds and bees” story that is full of grim reality.

“I think one of the huge phenomenons that I’m seeing is that oral and anal sex are not considered sexual activity by many teenagers. So, disease rates from those two practices are just skyrocketing,” said Fein.

Her four-part class offered through Community Education is intended to open the eyes of parents about the risky behavior of many teens. And arm them with knowledge that not only prevents unwanted pregnancies, but stops the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

“What I have found in discussions with children and adults is that they didn’t know how to talk about sex and choices. So, we felt like there was a need to fill,” said Fein, who holds a degree in psychology.

She said the state’s 2006 Healthy Teen survey reveals that 8 percent of eighth-grade girls in Hood River County, and 17 percent of boys, had sexual intercourse for the first time between the ages of 11 and 14.

Fein said teens often appear unaware that they can contact a disease through an exchange of bodily fluids that stays with them forever. One of the more common is genital herpes, which causes recurrent outbreaks of blisters and sores that are both itchy and painful.

Fein said Chlamydia, although a treatable bacteria, can damage a woman’s reproductive organs before she even knows about the infection — and make her five times more susceptible to become infected with HIV/AIDs.

But diseases aren’t the only problem that can occur in the life of a sexually active teen, according to Fein.

She said there is also the emotional pain that comes with a failed intimate relationship.

“I think that teens should also be told that abstinence is the only 100-percent way to avoid unintended pregnancy, disease transmission or the emotional consequences of sexual involvement,” said Fein.

She said numerous studies show that parents who monitor their teen’s behavior tend to have children who are older when they first have sex. However, Fein said these same studies reveal that teens of overly strict, authoritarian parents are at a higher risk to get pregnant.

She said the key for parents is to find the balance — and that is easier done if parents are armed with all the facts.

“I think teens need to know that it’s okay not to have sex. But, if they are going to become sexually active, it’s really important that they use protection as be tested regularly for HIV and other infections,” said Fein.

Her evening classes for parents takes place from 6:30-8 p.m. on Jan. 22 and 29, and Feb. 5 and 12. Class size is limited to 30 people and the cost is $15. Interested parents can register by calling the Community Education office at 386-2055.

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