Teens who talk to their parents about sex make the best choices; Clark County will offer parenting classes on sex communication

In an average Kentucky high school class of 30 students, almost 13 of the teenagers say they have had sexual intercourse at least once, but many of them have never discussed sex with their parents.

And while Kentucky parents may think their children are learning about sex in the classroom because Kentucky mandates sex education, they may not realize that the state has no set curriculum for fact-based, comprehensive sex education, and the only thing required to be taught is abstinence — an approach that has been proven ineffective, Aaron Yarmuth reports for Leo Weekly in an in-depth article about sex education in the state.

This lack of parent-teen communication about sex has prompted a study in Clark County that will include classes to help parents become more comfortable talking about sex with their children, Whitney Leggett reports for The Winchester Sun.

The classes will be led by Shannon Phelps of Winchester as part of her research to earn a doctorate in interdisciplinary education sciences from the University of Kentucky, Leggett reports. It is funded by a $15,700 grant from the Clark County Community Foundation.

“Because the subject matter is not one that many people are comfortable with, part of the objective is to help increase parents’ comfort in discussing sexual health topics so they will be more likely to address those topics with their children,” Phelps told Leggett.

“The overall goals of the program are to increase frequency and quality of parent-child sexual health communication, improve parents’ comfort and confidence in their communication with their children about sexual health topics and increase openness of sexual communication between parents and their children,” Leggett writes. “Topics will range from abstinence to safe sex, contraception, resisting peer pressure and communicating with potential partners, among others.”

Phelps said the six week courses will promote parent-child sexual health communication, which is associated with better sexual health outcomes for young people.

“Research tells us that children, especially adolescents, who have parents who communicate with them about sexual health topics have better sexual health outcomes,” Phelps told Leggett. “That follows logic… Sometimes parents are hesitant to talk to their children for fear that they’ll go and have risky sexual behaviors, but research tells us the opposite.”

Phelps told Leggett that studies show that when parents talk to their children about sex, “it can delay the onset of sexual behaviors and reduce unintended outcomes like sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies,” Leggett writes.

For more information email Phelps at shannon.phelps@uky.edu, or call 859-621-1065.

study published in the Pediatric Journal of the American Medical Association found that nearly one-fourth of youth report that they have not discussed sexual topics with their parents, and even fewer report that they have had meaningful, open conversations with them about this subject. The study attributes this poor communication to parental embarrassment, parents’ lack of accurate knowledge of the subject, and poor self-efficacy.

It’s a topic that needs discussion in Kentucky because almost 10 percent of the state’s middle-school students have had sexual intercourse and almost one-third of its high school students are sexually active, according to the 2015 Kentucky Middle and High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey.  The survey found that overall, 41.7 percent of Kentucky’s high school students have had sexual intercourse at least once.

And there is an obvious disconnect related to birth control. Kentucky ranks seventh in teen births, at 39.5 births per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19, according to America’s Health Rankings. The 2015 YRBS found that 14.5 percent of high school students did not use any birth- control during the last time they had sexual intercourse.

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