October 11, 2018
October is “Let’s Talk Month”
Children who talk with parents and caregivers about sex and relationships are less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior
Some parents might not believe it, but young people say their parents and caregivers influence their decisions about relationships more than their friends, media, siblings or their dating partners.
That is why Governor Dayton has proclaimed October 2018 as Let’s Talk Month: Let’s Talk Month Proclamation (PDF). As part of Let’s Talk Month the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is encouraging adults to have open, honest conversations with young people to foster responsible and positive attitudes toward sexuality and healthy relationships. October Let’s Talk Month is a national and statewide initiative.
Research shows having those conversations helps kids stay on the right track. Minnesota teens who say they have an adult they can talk to and who cares about them are less likely to have sex during high school, according to the Minnesota Student Survey. In addition, young people whose parents have open conversations about healthy relationships start having sex at a later age and engage in sexually risky behavior less often than peers, according to Advocates for Youth.
“We encourage parents to look for opportunities to talk to their children about sex and relationships,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. “Research shows parents can play a powerful role in improving their child’s health through open, honest conversations. That ranges from having age-appropriate talks with young children about where babies come from to talking with teens about how to have a healthy relationship.”
In addition, MDH is asking parents and caregivers to share their tips and stories. As part of our #MakeaDate campaign, parents, guardians, caregivers and caring adults can go to MDH's Facebook page or “Make a Date” campaign survey page to share a time when their children asked about the birds and the bees, or when they had a conversation about relationships and sexuality. Parents and caregivers who share a story will have a chance to receive a free age-appropriate book that will help guide conversations with their children. Parents and caregivers can also visit our Let's Talk Month webpage to get expert resources and guidance for getting started.
MDH recommends that parents and caregivers start having age-appropriate conversations about healthy relationships, their body and sexuality early in a child’s life. Though better late than never, parents and caregivers may miss an important window for preventing sexually transmitted diseases by waiting for the teen years. In the U.S., one in four teens contract a sexually transmitted disease or infection each year. The human papillomavirus (HPV) or genital warts, can be prevented through the HPV vaccine series, which is routinely offered for all adolescents at age 11 to 12 years. This safe and effective vaccine prevents life-long infection from HPV types that are responsible for numerous cancers.
In Minnesota, 11 percent of ninth graders and 35 percent of 11th graders report having sex, according to the 2016 Minnesota Student Survey. Of those who reported having sex, only about two-thirds used a reliable form of birth control in 9th grade and only about three-fourths used a reliable form of birth control in 11th grade, according to the 2016 survey.
Minnesota has a variety of teen pregnancy prevention programs involving evidence-based and informed sex education, abstinence, birth control, parent education, and family planning.
Minnesota has one of the lowest teen pregnancy rates in the country. There has been a 71 percent decrease in teen pregnancies since 1990, from 59 pregnancies per 1,000 teen females then, to 17 pregnancies per 1,000 teen females in 2016.