Talking to Your Kids About STDs

 

Talking to Your Kids About STDs

It is important for parents to talk to their kids and teens about STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). Your kids need to understand how STDs spread and how to protect themselves.

What Are STDs?

STDs (also called sexually transmitted infections, or STIs) are infections that spread through sex (vaginal, oral, or anal). Some STDs can spread through close contact with the genitals or body fluids.

Does Talking About Sex and STDs Make Teens More Likely to Have Sex?

Talking to kids and teens about sex and STDs does not make it more likely that they’ll have sex. But if they do become sexually active, they will understand the risks and know how to protect themselves.

When Should I Talk to My Kids About STDs?

Talking about STDs and other personal subjects like sex and puberty shouldn’t be one big talk at a particular age. Instead, start the conversation early, and slowly build on your child’s understanding. By about 10–13 years old, most kids understand what sex is and are ready to learn about STDs.

But even if your child is older and you haven’t started talking about STDs, it’s not too late to have the conversation. A late talk is better than no talk at all.

How Do I Bring Up the Subject of STDs?

Sometimes it can be hard to find the right time to talk about STDs. A good time to start the conversation might be:

  • if your child asks questions about sex
  • during a TV show or movie that shows a romantic relationship. You might ask, “What sorts of things do people in a relationship need to think about?”
  • when your child gets the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. You could say, “This shot protects you from a type of STD. Do you know what an STD is?”

What Should I Talk About?

Talk about the types of STDs:

Cover these key points:

  • STDs mainly spread through sex. But some STDs can spread through close contact with someone’s genitals or body fluids.
  • The best way to completely prevent an STD is to not have sex (oral, vaginal, or anal). If someone decides to have sex, using a latex condom every time can prevent most STDs.
  • Some people with an STD have discharge from the vagina or penis, or sores in the genital area.
  • Some people with an STD have no signs or symptoms. Even then, a person can spread the infection to a sexual partner.
  • If someone has an STD and does not get treatment, it can lead to medical problems such as long-term pain and trouble getting pregnant later.
  • Antibiotics can cure some STDs (like chlamydia and gonorrhea). But some STDs (like herpes or HIV) have no cure.
  • You can get an STD the very first time you have sex.

Where Can We Get More Information About STDs?

You can get reliable information about STDs at:

What if I Have Trouble Talking to My Kids About STDs?

If you don’t feel comfortable talking with your kids about STDs, make sure they can turn to someone else for accurate information. This could be a doctor or

, counselor, school nurse, teacher, or a trusted family member.

Kids and teens need to know about STDs. It’s best if they get the facts from someone reliable.

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It’s a Kid’s Job | NIH News in Health

 

Playing Helps Kids Learn and Grow

What would childhood be without time to play? Play, it turns out, is essential to growing up healthy. Research shows that active, creative play benefits just about every aspect of child development.

“Play is behavior that looks as if it has no purpose,” says NIH psychologist Dr. Stephen Suomi. “It looks like fun, but it actually prepares [kids] for a complex social world.” Evidence suggests that play can help boost brain function, increase fitness, improve coordination, and teach cooperation.

Suomi notes that all mammals—from mice to humans—engage in some sort of play. His research focuses on rhesus monkeys. While he’s cautious about drawing parallels between monkeys and people, his studies offer some general insights into the benefits of play.

Active, vigorous social play during development helps to sculpt the monkey brain. The brain grows larger. Connections between brain areas may strengthen. Play also helps monkey youngsters learn how to fit into their social group, which may range from 30 to 200 monkeys in 3 or 4 extended families.

Both monkeys and humans live in highly complex social structures, Suomi says. “Through play, rhesus monkeys learn to negotiate, to deal with strangers, to lose gracefully, to stop before things get out of hand, and to follow rules,” he says. These lessons prepare monkey youngsters for life after they leave their mothers.

Play may have similar effects in the human brain. Play can help lay a foundation for learning the skills we need for social interactions. If human youngsters lack playtime, says Dr. Roberta Golinkoff, an infant language expert at the University of Delaware, “social skills will likely suffer. You will lack the ability to inhibit impulses, to switch tasks easily, and to play on your own.” Play helps young children master their emotions and make their own decisions. It also teaches flexibility, motivation, and confidence.

Kids don’t need expensive toys to get a lot out of playtime. “Parents are children’s most enriching plaything,” says Golinkoff. Playing and talking to babies and children are vital for their language development. Golinkoff says that kids who talk with their parents tend to acquire a vocabulary that will later help them in school. Let kids guide the conversation. When you take over the conversation, you may shut it down.

Unstructured, creative, physical play also lets children burn calories and develop all kinds of strengths, such as learning how the world works. In free play, children choose the games, make the rules, learn to negotiate, and release stress. Free play often involves fantasy. If children, say, want to learn about being a fireman, they can imagine and act out what a fireman does. And if something scary happens, free play can help defuse emotions by working them out.

“Sports are a kind of play,” Golinkoff says, “but it’s not the kids calling the shots.” It’s important to engage in a variety of activities, including physical play, social play, and solitary play. “The key is that in free play, kids are making the decisions,” says Golinkoff. You can’t learn to make decisions if you’re always told what to do.

Some experts fear that free play is becoming endangered. In the last two decades, children have lost an average of eight hours of free play per week. As media screens draw kids indoors, hours of sitting raise the risk for obesity and related diseases. When it comes to video games and other media, parents should monitor content, especially violent content, and limit the amount of time children sit.

There’s also been a national trend toward eliminating school recess. “Thousands of children have lost recess altogether,” says child development expert Dr. Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek of Temple University. “Lack of recess has important consequences for young children who concentrate better when they come inside after a break from the schoolwork.”

Many kids, especially those in low-income areas, lack access to safe places to play. This makes their school recess time even more precious. In response to these changes, some educators are now insisting that preschool and elementary school children have regular periods of active, free play with other children. The type of learning that happens during playtime is not always possible in the classroom. School recess is also important because of the growing number of obese children in the United States. Running around during recess can help kids stay at a healthy weight.

Play also may offer advantages within the classroom. In an NIH-funded study, Hirsh-Pasek, Golinkoff, and their colleagues found a link between preschoolers’ math skills and their ability to copy models of two- and three-dimensional building-block constructions. Play with building blocks—and block play alongside adults—can help build children’s spatial skills so they can get an early start toward the later study of science, technology, engineering, or math.

“In a way, a child is becoming a young scientist, checking out how the world works,” says Hirsh-Pasek. ”We never outgrow our need to play.” Older children, including teens, also need to play and daydream, which helps their problem-solving and creative imagination. Adults, too, need their breaks, physical activity, and social interaction.

Play can also be important for medical care. At the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, “Recreation therapy services are seen as essential to the patients’ recovery,” says Donna Gregory, chief of recreational therapy. She and her team tailor activities for both children and adults. Games can get patients moving, even for just minutes at a time, which improves their functioning.

Medical play helps children cope with invasive procedures. A 2-year-old can be distracted with blowing bubbles; older kids can place their teddy bear in the MRI machine or give their doll a shot before they themselves get an injection. It gives kids a sense of control and supports their understanding in an age-appropriate, meaningful way.

Without play and recreation, people can become isolated and depressed. “There’s therapeutic value in helping patients maintain what’s important to them,” says Gregory. “When you are physically and socially active, it gives life meaning.”

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