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POSTED: Tuesday, April 1, 2014, 5:30 AM
Filed Under: Rima Himelstein | Sex | Tips
Can we talk?  While most of us agree it would be best for our teenagers to wait until they are older to have sex, at least half are having sex by the time they graduate high school.  And what’s more troubling is that their behavior is sometimes based on myths, which puts them at a high risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy.  Here are eight of the myths that I hear most often from my teenage patients and how I respond:

1. Myth: STIs and pregnancy won’t happen to me.

My response: You are normal to believe “it won’t happen to me” because it is a normal part of adolescence (the “personal fable”) to feel that way.  But STIs and pregnancy can happen to you.

POSTED: Tuesday, February 18, 2014, 5:30 AM
Filed Under: Anita Kulick | Parenting | Sex

I vividly remember the first time my son’s pediatrician asked me to leave the examining room during his annual check-up. He said that as his patients approached adolescence, it was his practice to spend a few minutes with them privately. It would allow them to ask any questions or voice concerns that they might not be willing to discuss in front of their parents.

At first, I was fuming.  I thought, “Who does this doctor think he is?” After all, my husband and I have been in charge of our son’s health from the moment of his conception. We’re his parents, the ones who know him best. We have a good relationship, we openly and often talk about difficult issues and the challenges he may be facing. We only want what’s best for him.

Once I got over my misplaced anger, I realized that the doctor also wanted what was best for our son.  That day turned out to be a learning milestone for all of us. Our son had the chance to take another step away from childhood and toward independence and manhood.  He also had the chance to share his thoughts, worries, and personal questions with someone other than his Mom and Dad, someone especially skilled at asking and answering difficult questions.

POSTED: Tuesday, December 31, 2013, 6:00 AM
Filed Under: Janet Rosenzweig | Parenting | Sex

A very long time ago, I found my 3-year-old son standing by the wheel chair of a frail, older family member four generations his senior, saying in a taunting tone of voice, “My Mommy says I don't have to kiss you if I don't want to."

At a previous family gathering, he had been terrified when she removed her dentures, and he still hadn't recovered from the sight. Part of his recovery involved me letting him know that he was allowed to keep his distance from anyone who made him feel uncomfortable, relative or not. While he had clearly learned important early lessons about boundaries, he knew nothing at all about empathy. As embarrassing as that may have been for me, I had to remind myself that it was totally normal behavior for his age.

Empathy, or the ability to tune into the feelings of others, is a sophisticated process that takes time to unfold. It’s not fully developed until late adolescence, but there are important things that parents can do to build the early foundation. Punishing or shaming a child for blurting out a statement that embarrasses you (“Mom -- look how fat that lady is!”) doesn't help -- in fact it generally does more harm than good. As bad as you feel for the person whose feelings were hurt, your young child likely has no idea what you're upset about. A sudden expression of anger can bathe your child in shame and frustration, two emotions not at all conducive to learning. But kids do understand feeling good; the easiest way to teach young children about empathy is to let them bask in your praise when they have made someone else feel good. This starts the process for them to gradually understand that their behaviors have an effect on other people.

POSTED: Tuesday, December 17, 2013, 5:30 AM
Filed Under: Growing Pains | Rima Himelstein | Sex

Life is full of double standards. And it starts early. Some of it is harmless. For instance, from day one of life, the name cards on newborns’ cribs are pink for girls and blue for boys.

Research shows how double standards may influence human behavior. In one experimental study looking at this issue, a group of male babies were dressed in pink, and then handed to adults who were told they were girls. The adults described the boys in pink as "adorable, cuddly, sweet and cute." Female babies dressed in blue were called "slugger, tough, strong and stubborn."

In what seems like “the blink of an eye,” our babies become teenagers, and the double standards continue.  Only now it is often the teen boys and girls who have the double standards.  Sometimes they have double standards in their attitudes about sexual behavior:

  • According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, boys aged 12-19 are more likely than girls the same age to say they feel pressure to have sex and more likely than girls the same age to think that it is embarrassing to admit that they are virgins (24 precent vs. 14 percent).
  • Teen boys say that they feel pressure to have sex because they think that “everyone is doing it.” In reality, everyone is not doing it: a 2011 survey by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention of 15,425 students grades 9-12 from 43 states and 21 large urban school district, found that about half of high school males (49.2%) and high school females (45.6%) reported having had sex before.
POSTED: Tuesday, November 19, 2013, 5:30 AM
Filed Under: Janet Rosenzweig | Parenting | Sex

Kids need to learn about their bodies and sex; parents know that. But most parents struggle to find the right way to teach them. A good book, carefully chosen, can help you teach sexual health and safety, but where to start to find the perfect book?

The local branch of a chain bookstore had sections for pre-schoolers and teens. In the area for very young kids, I found a few books with catchy titles and age-appropriate graphics, dedicated either to helping little kids learn where babies come from or how to avoid stranger danger.

While several books had good information, each book I read had at least one point that killed it for me. For example, one book offered the fact that "penises get hard so they can go into vaginas". That's no help to a child whose penis gets hard in the bath, in his sleep or worse yet, at the touch or a predator. A parent reading this book could add their own explanation or substitute their own words for the author’s.Parents may think that adding their own commentary defeats the purpose of using a book to help communicate the most sensitive points, but what it really does is underline that books are not a substitute for an on-going conversation between parents and kids.

POSTED: Thursday, November 7, 2013, 9:20 AM
Filed Under: Anna Nguyen | Parenting | Sex

Schools, communities, and parents can play a role in improving the use of condoms and increased availability of condoms among sexually active teens, encourages the American Academy of Pediatrics in its recently released updated policy statement on condom use

Abstaining from sexual intercourse should be encouraged for adolescents as the most effective way to prevent sexually transmitted infections or STIs and unintended pregnancy. At the same time, doctors should support consistent and correct use of condoms, and encourage parents to discuss condom use and prevention of STIs with their adolescent children. More awareness is needed among parents that making condoms available to adolescents does not increase the onset or frequency of adolescent sexual activity, according to the AAP statement.

Why should I talk to my teen about condoms? Studies have found parental communication about sexual risk and condom use are associated with increases in adolescents’ use of condoms. The AAP policy statement notes that the timing of the discussion is important. In one study, the highest rates of condom use at first and last sex, as well as for regular use, were found among adolescent girls who communicated with their mothers about condom use before onset of sexual activity compared with after initiation.

POSTED: Tuesday, October 22, 2013, 5:30 AM
Filed Under: Janet Rosenzweig | Sex

If your children have access to a device with Internet access -- and it's a good bet that they do -- it's an equally good bet that they've been exposed to pornographic images.

A major study found that almost all boys and two-thirds of girls over age 13 have been exposed to online porn. Most exposure happens between the ages of 14 and 17, but thousands of children 13 and younger are exposed to sexually explicit images daily. Boys are more likely to report that they sought out pornographic images while girls were more likely to report involuntary exposure.

Impact of porn on kids:

POSTED: Tuesday, October 15, 2013, 11:17 AM
Filed Under: Janet Rosenzweig | Parenting | Sex

This is a guest post from Janet Rosenzweig, M.S., Ph.D., M.P.A., interim executive director of Prevent Child Abuse - Pennsylvania, a program of the Pennsylvania Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics. Rosenzweig is the author of The Sex-Wise Parent: The Parent’s Guide Protecting Your Child, Strengthening Your Family, and Talking to Kids about Sex, Abuse, and Bullying, (Skyhorse Publishing, 2012)

The sexual abuse stories in the news these days can be hard to read, but they provide parents and caregivers with a good opportunity to open dialogue with our kids about sexual health and safety.

Imagine the drive to soccer practice. No sooner do you get your child to remove the earphones that generally appear to be permanently implanted in their ears then the radio announces the latest development in the clergy scandal or Sandusky case. Great, just what you had in mind.

About this blog
The Healthy Kids blog is your window into the latest news, research and advice around children's health. Learn more about our growing list of contributors here.

If you have questions about your child's health, ask them here.

Anna Nguyen Healthy Kids blog Editor
Stephen Aronoff, M.D., M.B.A. Temple University Hospital
Christopher C. Chang, M.D., Ph.D Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Jefferson Medical Colg
Mario Cruz, M.D St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, Drexel University College of Medicine
Katherine K. Dahlsgaard, Ph.D. Lead Psychologist - The Anxiety Behaviors Clinic, CHOP
Gary A. Emmett, M.D. Director of Hospital Pediatrics at TJU Hospital & Pediatrics Professor at Thomas Jefferson Univ.
Lauren Falini Bariatric exercise physiologist, Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
Hazel Guinto-Ocampo, M.D. Nemours duPont Pediatrics/Bryn Mawr Hospital
Rima Himelstein, M.D. Crozer-Keystone Health System
Anita Kulick President & CEO, Educating Communities for Parenting
Janet Rosenzweig, MS, PhD, MPA VP for Programs & Research for Prevent Child Abuse America
Beth Wallace Smith, RD Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
W. Douglas Tynan, Ph.D. Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Jefferson Medical Colg
Flaura Koplin Winston, MD, PhD Scientific Director of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention
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