THE BLOG

Talking to Our Kids: The Conversation We Should Be Having

06/29/2015 05:45 pm ET | Updated Jun 29, 2016

As parents we have a number of responsibilities to our kids. Perhaps no responsibility is greater than keeping them safe. When my kids were first crawling and walking, my wife and I baby-proofed our house. We talked to them about the importance of looking both ways before they crossed the street. We reminded them not to talk to strangers. Like so many other parents doing the same thing, we did these things because we believed that giving our daughters information and having them understand the consequences of their actions was the best way to prepare them for the inevitable challenges they'll confront in the world outside of our home. Knowledge is power, as they say.

Unfortunately, in many homes across the country, especially in too many Latino homes, there is one topic that parents don't discuss with their children: sex. Despite the importance of sexual health, many Latino parents, often weighed down by outdated notions of shame and propriety, are failing to provide their sons and daughters with the information to make smart decisions about their sexual lives. The consequences of this silence are crippling. In virtually every Latino community in the United States we find limited understanding of healthy sexual practices, high rates of unintended pregnancy, and disproportionately high rates of infection with STDs and STIs. The ripple effects of our silence and stigma can be felt in everything from academic success to employment.

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In order to address this crisis in our community, Hispanic Federation has partnered with Advocates for Youth, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity & Reproductice Rights, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and Voto Latino to form the I am/Yo soy Campaign. This campaign is a national movement to end the stigma and silence around sex education, birth control, abortion and young parenting within the Latina/o community. I am/Yo Soy asks that organizations and individuals around the country to start community wide conversations about issues such as pregnancy, comprehensive sex education, and reproductive health and wellness. The I Am/ Yo Soy campaign has excellent resources for anyone looking for the tools that can help them understand how best to talk to their children about sex.

It may seem like there is never an opportune moment to begin the conversation about sexual health. In addition to Pride celebrations across the country, this past Saturday was also National HIV Testing Day. Although you may not have taken part in testing day, as a father and a supporter of reproductive justice, I urge you to use this and other awareness days as a conversation starter. Testing for HIV and other STDs and STIs is a critical component of good sexual health and parents should encourage their teens and young adults to be tested. Even if you have recently been tested, the national testing day is a great conversation starter.

I know that talking about sex with our kids isn't easy. Important and powerful traditions and conventions have long kept discussions about sex in the Latino community on the margins of parenting. That has to change. No tradition is more important than the health of our kids.