Last night, as so often happens when you work at Planned Parenthood, a good friend of mine came to me with a problem. While usually I get asked about sexual health (remind me to tell you about the time a guy at a party started asking me about the little red bumps on his genitals) my friend Carla* needed advice — for her 14 year old cousin.
See, her cousin lives in Florida, goes to a private Christian school, and, apparently, has had no sex education whatsoever. I get the feeling her school teaches some sort of abstinence program (when Carla mentioned condoms her cousin’s response was ‘but don’t they break?’) and her mom just hasn’t felt comfortable bringing it up. So when she ran into savvy New York City-based cousin Carla at a wedding this weekend, the questions started coming pouring out.
Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.
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Carla was *shocked* at how little her cousin knew. Even though her cousin had been getting her period for a year, she had no idea what it was or where it came from. She knew that babies somehow came from sex, but knew nothing about the mechanics or how it happened.
Carla filled her in as much as she could, but as the questions started getting trickier (‘so what exactly would I do if I did have sex and got pregnant?’) Carla started feeling more and more in over her head.
She turned to me for advice, and last night over dinner, after lamenting the fact that a school could even get away with giving kids little to no sex education, we started brainstorming.
In addition to Carla giving her cousin’s mom the PPNYC guide for parents (Hey, What do I Say?) we decided to give her cousin the following:
- A copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves (for reference)
- The book It’s a Girl Thing: How to Stay Healthy, Safe and in Charge for an easy-to-read explanation of the basics
- Send her to the Planned Parenthood web site Teen Talk for reference and information (they have everything about how pregnancy happens, to information about STDs to every form of birth control)
That’s all we could think of for now – I know I’ve had Our Bodies, Ourselves since high school and still refer to it all the time. But any and all other advice is more than welcome. What else have people used? What worked for you? What have you seen that was good?
*Name has been changed to protect her teenage cousin.
A version of this post originally appeared on PPNYC’s blog.