Friday, April 23, 2010

"The Talk" From a Non-Parent

Working for the SC Campaign, we have always supported parents having an ongoing conversation with their young people about sex, but to be completely honest, I never could understand the big problem with talking to your kids. Until I had to give the “Talk” myself.

I should give some disclaimers; I am not a parent-at least not to any human children. I have three cats (cue the jokes, ha-ha…), but they don’t require much more than a full food dish.

And I am not a soon-to-be parent. I reside squarely in the “Children: Someday, not Today” category! But I am a big sister. So big, in fact, that there is almost a decade between myself and my little sister.
She was my own Baby Alive, arriving just short of my tenth birthday! And I was her hero for years, earning money as her summer baby-sitter!

Then high school and being “cool” became my main “thing." I needed a real job to afford the “cool” car and the “cool” clothes. No more summer days with the lil’ sis and with a blink, I turned around and she was 15, in high school and teen years!

The phrase “they grow up so fast” really sank in! I realized what I was going through when I was about her age and that she might need a friend right now, instead of a big sister. So we started to hang out again!
One night when she was at my apartment, I brought up the big, bad subject of boys. The word “boys” had traditionally been followed by moans about how they had “cooties” and were “stinky and yuck." This older version of my sister had a different response. She blushed, and I asked if she had a crush.

Like a waterfall, she told me about this new boy in school and how she thought he would ask her out! She was so excited she even mentioned that she wondered if he was a good kisser, and I had to bite my cheeks to keep my chin from hitting the floor!

My baby sister, who yesterday was two, was now a teenager talking about kissing. I realized then that it was probably the right time to try to have the “Talk." I knew she wouldn’t be as forthcoming with our mother and Mom had just mentioned that my little sister wasn’t interested in boys yet. (Rrrriiiiigggghhhtttt!) So I started to launch the “Talk”…and it wasn’t as easy as I imagined.

First, I asked a lot of questions, to the point where she got suspicious, and clammed up. No more elaborate answers were shared and my questions were being met with squinted eyes as she tried to figure out what was going on. Then, when the word “sex” came out of my mouth, you would have thought I shot her! A shout rang out that sounded a lot like a loud “NOOOOOO!” and immediately, she shut down. So much for on the job training!

I remembered then what I had been hearing about the “Talk” from work, “It has to be ongoing, not just one time”. I had two options; I could run down a list of facts for my little sister right now, or I could let this night continue without delving further until the next time she brought it up. What I chose to do was a little of both.
I told her that being safe was very important and knowing how to be safe was the first step! I offered to help answer any questions she had about being safe and about relationships and left it at that. A few weekends later, watching a movie (thank you Lifetime!) there was a teachable moment and I jumped on it. And from there on, that is how it works for us. When faced with information or questions about sex, sexuality, or relationships, we talk about it. I answer the questions she asks me and get to ask her a few about her choices as well. I have been amazed at how far we have gotten and how much she has learned. And I learned from her too.

I learned immense respect for those parents having the “Talk”. I learned how the “talk” should work. And I learned that I can do it when I have to, someday!

By: Taylor Wilson
Contact Taylor at

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Glee Character Searches for Guidance

Did anyone catch last night’s episode of Glee? This was my first time watching the show of which I am now a huge fan. But, wow does the guidance counselor need some help!

During the episode, Rachel approaches her guidance counselor, Mrs. Pillsbury, for advice on whether or not to have sex because she doesn’t know if she is ready to take that step with her new boyfriend. Well, the Mrs. Pillsbury is also a virgin and does not feel comfortable addressing topics related to sexual behavior with students. She immediately tells Rachel, "this is a perfect chat to have with your mom" to which Rachel replies, “but I am the daughter of two gay dads”.  So Mrs. Pillsbury reponds, "how about your Rabbi."  Rachel tells her that she is not comfortable talking about this with her Rabbi and the conversation ends leaving Rachel with no answers.

So what about the young people who don’t have parents or other caring adults in their lives that are willing to have conversations about love, sex and relationships? If young people can’t turn to their parents, their friends give them conflicting advice, and their guidance counselors won’t approach the subject, where are they to turn? Hopefully most guidance counselors are not as fretful about the topic and realize they can play a role in teen pregnancy prevention. The SC Campaign even has a resource titled, What Can School Counselors Do to spark ideas.

Bottom line, we all play a role in teen pregnancy prevention – not just parents. While our ultimate hope is that conversations about love, sex and relationships are beginning at home, these messages must be reinforced by what young people are learning in the classroom, hearing from their guidance counselors, and talking about in their church youth groups.

By: Cayci S. Banks, Director of Communications
Contact Cayci at

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Practice Safe...Breath?

Perhaps you’ve seen the newest Dentyne Ice commercial encouraging people to “practice safe breath” by using Dentyne Ice gum. In it are several scenes that parody someone needing a condom – a girl asking a guy if he “has something” with him before they get too comfortable in the backseat of the car, a young man very self-consciously making a purchase at a pharmacy, and one roommate interrupting another’s sleep to ask if he can “help him out.” Each scene ends with a pack of Dentyne Ice gum being pulled out of a pocket, passed over a counter, or grabbed from a nightstand – intended to show the best way to “practice safe breath” and be prepared when “you don’t know how close you’re going to get.”

The success of this new ad campaign is dependent on two things – one) that people can relate to the awkwardness of buying “protection” and two) that everyone knows how important it is to have “protection” handy. Given that, we could not have created a better ad campaign ourselves for teen pregnancy prevention!

So why not use this commercial as a springboard to conversation with young people in your life? Here are some key points to take away. First of all, be real with young people. It’s okay to tell them that purchasing condoms or contraception may not always be a comfortable or pleasant experience. The good news is that our recent Secret Shopper campaign showed that the vast majority of the time, anxiety about making the purchase is worse than making the actual purchase. Also, let young people know there are many places where they can pick up condoms for free. Check with your local health department, clinics, and HIV/AIDS prevention organizations for resources. Many towns even have barber shops and nail salons that make condoms available at no cost!

You can also be an advocate locally for teen-friendly contraceptive access points. Ask your local pharmacy to remove condoms from behind the counter or a locked case so they’re easier to find and less embarrassing to purchase. Ask your salon, gym, or other community agency if they could make condoms available for young people. Find out if your schools provide information to young people on contraception as required by state law.

And while you’re making sure young people have access to contraception, go ahead and buy them some Dentyne Ice – because practicing safe breath isn’t a bad idea either!

by: Dana Becker, M.Ed., Technical Assistance Specialist
Contact Dana: