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Sally Castillo serves as a community education and outreach coordinator in Clackamas County for Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette

Sally CastilloEvery year in October, Let's Talk Month focuses on normalizing and encouraging open and honest communication between parents or caregivers and their children about sex, identity, bodies and relationships.

Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette knows families are balancing a lot this fall, keeping our loved ones as safe as possible while dealing with the pandemic, wildfires and economic downturn. Meanwhile, young people are growing up, they'll still have questions — and they'll still need support.

There's no better resource than a supportive adult. The open, nonjudgmental conversations you have with your children will help them have healthy and satisfying relationships with themselves and others.

When parents and caregivers are comfortable talking with their children about relationships and sex, they are better able to support them as they learn to make healthy decisions, fostering satisfying friendships and intimate relationships for their future. You just need to be willing to talk, and more importantly, listen.

Numerous studies show that teens want to hear what their parents think and feel about sexuality. Studies also show that teens who report having these conversations with their parents wait longer to begin having sex and are more likely to use condoms and other birth-control methods when they do become sexually active.

In 2016, researchers from the Guttmacher Institute found that fewer teens now than in the past are being provided with important and timely information about a range of sex-education topics. For example, from 2011 to 2013, around half of young people surveyed did not receive information about birth control before they had sex for the first time.

As the nation's largest provider of sex education, Planned Parenthood believes young people deserve age-appropriate, medically accurate information about sex and relationships, without being shamed or judged. Parents and caregivers play a key role.

We know that these conversations can sometimes feel awkward, but you don't need to do it alone. Planned Parenthood's online and offline tools can help you be a go-to resource for your kids' questions, no matter how old they are. We provide videos, activities and resources to support parents and caregivers in starting — and continuing — open communication with your kids at all ages.

PPCW's expert educators are proud to provide programs that align with state health education standards, providing youth and families with tools to make informed and healthy decisions. This month we are offering "Askable Adult Workshops" in Clackamas County to help parents and other adults engage in positive conversations with youth about sex and relationships.

There's no one perfect way to do this. The important thing is to start and continue having conversations. Rather than "the talk," think about communicating with your children in many ongoing conversations that reflect their child's age and development.

It doesn't matter how much time you have — even a few minutes to ask your kids a question, share a resource or reassure them that you're there to listen can build and strengthen a foundation for comfortable, trusting conversations on issues that help kids have healthy and satisfying relationships throughout their lives.

Sally Castillo serves as a community education and outreach coordinator in Clackamas County for Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette. For more information, visit ppcw.org. For resources visit plannedparenthood.org/parents.


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