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Workshop Helps Parents, Kids Talk About Sex

Lunch break dialogues drew both together to discuss attitudes, health issues

FRIDAY, July 11 (HealthDay News) -- Teach parents how to talk about sex with their teen, and they will tackle this tough subject more readily and often, a new study says.

The study, published online July 11 in British Medical Journal, evaluated a workshop-based program called "Talking Parents, Healthy Teens" aimed at parents of 6th- to 10th-graders. In eight weekly, hour-long sessions, the parents use role-playing and other interactive exercises to learned techniques for starting and sustaining conversations on sex in everyday situations. The parents were also instructed on how to listen to their children without interrupting or lecturing, and how to teach decision-making and assertiveness skills to their kids.

The program also recognized diverse views on sex that parent might have. For example, one session covered both abstinence and condom use for teens.

"The great thing was that the parents really learned," lead researcher Dr. Mark A. Schuster, chief of general pediatrics and vice chairman for health policy research at Children's Hospital Boston, said in a news release issued by the hospital. "We'd teach them some skills one week, and they'd come back the next week, bubbling over with excitement that they'd talked with their teen about relationships, love or sex, and this was the best part: Their teen had actually engaged in a real conversation with them, or role-played a topic like how to say no to unwanted sexual advances."

Several surveys done after the program reported the participants said they had more dialogues about sex with their kids than ever before and were also better able to discuss sex openly with their children.

Similar follow-ups with the participant's children agreed. For example, they reported in a survey done one week after the classes concluded that 18 percent of their parents had gone over how to use a condom, compared with 3 percent of the parents in a control group. Nine months after the sessions ended, this gap had grown to 25 percent versus 5 percent.

The researchers held the program sessions during lunch breaks at large private and public companies, a strategy designed to draw more parents to the program through convenience alone.

"Many employers provide programs to help employees lose weight or stop smoking," Schuster said. "We wanted to see if we could apply worksite health promotion principles to help parents address their kids' sexual health. It turned out that employers loved the idea. They are under pressure to create family-friendly workplaces. And they're often providing the health insurance for these kids, so they are concerned about lost productivity when parents are distracted with their kids' sexual health issues."

More information

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has more about talking to your child about sex.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: Children's Hospital Boston, news release, July 10, 2008

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