Family planning has always been a controversial public health issue for a variety of reasons.
As a father of four, I can honestly admit that well, I didn’t plan very much. Like most East Texas parents, my folks tried their hands at sharing the important information, but what teenager wants to discuss that with their parents over chicken and mashed potatoes?
Looking back now in my thirties, I wish that more had been shared, so I decided that my kids needed to know the issues, the options and ‘no-no’s. The issues and the options were easy, it was the ‘no-no’s that tripped me up. But I knew I had to do it.
My oldest, soon to be a teenager himself, had already experienced all that middle school had to offer, and fortunately, he felt safe enough to come home and talk to me about it. That was when I realized that if I didn’t educate him, someone else was going to. I also realized that to tell him everything was a ‘no-no’ wasn’t going to go very far. Sure, he’s a great kid and I trust that he’ll follow most of my rules, but I also remember that despite my values, beliefs and ethics, things happen that we don’t necessarily plan on.
And that’s also when I realized that educating my kiddo had nothing to do with values, beliefs and ethics. It was my job, my right. And he deserved it too.
So we had the family planning talk. I asked him what kind of family he wanted, how many kids, when he would marry and so on – just to see what was in his head.
Then, we moved on to a more grown up conversation about the birds and the bees as dad used to call it. We talked about pregnancy, abstinence, sexually-transmitted diseases, emotions, feelings and the whole nine yards as they say. I was so relieved once we did.
You see, parental involvement makes all the difference in the world to a kid’s life. I realize now that if I had told my son all the no-no’s and left it there, someone might tell him otherwise, and he might get curious and when he found out that I hadn’t shared all the information with him quite so accurately … he wouldn’t trust me anymore. Now of course, what a child hears needs to be consistent with what he/she is mature enough to understand. But by the young teenage years, they probably ought to hear about abstinence, and the methods of protection that exist if abstinence doesn’t work out. And there are a variety of reasons it doesn’t, not because it isn’t the best preventative method, but because of peer pressure, hormones, people kids have learned to trust other than us, and for terrible reasons like being taken advantage of without your permission.
I resolved that I wanted my child to be prepared, educated and ready to make a good decision. But I also know he’s a brand new teenager, and things happen that don’t make me a bad parent, or him a bad kid.
So from one parent to another, I encourage parents everywhere to have the family planning discussion with their children, and by doing so, we remove the stigma and move forward in the fight to eliminate unnecessary disease, unwanted pregnancy, not to mention, save a whole lot of money that could be spent elsewhere. If you need an icebreaker, try http://www.parenting.com/article/talking-to-kids-about-sex-21335549. It’s a great start and then you can decide what’s appropriate and when. You can also contact your Cherokee County Public Health Depart-ment and we’ll provide a few additional resources.
Christopher Taylor is the executive director of the Cherokee County Public Health Department and the father of four.