The other day my son and I were watching a comedy show. The comedian made a joke about having genital herpes. My son laughed at the joke while I cringed. I was diagnosed with genital herpes in my early twenties but my son is unaware. There is such a stigma attached to having genital herpes and the last thing I want is for my son to be another of the multitude enforcing it. So how do I talk to my son about having genital herpes?
Your concern is understandable. How you talk to your child about genital herpes and/or sexual health in general will vary based on the age of your child. Unfortunately, you did not mention the age of your son so we are unable to give tailored advice. What we do suggest is that you do take into consideration your child’s age and maturity when deciding how to approach the topic. When to talk to your child will also vary, some parents find it easier to bring up the topic in the moment, like in the instance when the herpes joke was told; others may choose to schedule a time to talk. You may want to have some information on hand and prepare yourself for questions that your child may ask. Again, bear in mind your child’s age when responding, a response that is too technical may confuse the child and stunt further conversation.
Also evaluate whether you are an “askable” parent-here are some phrases that describe an askable parent:
- Shows respect, value and love for children.
- Realizes that every difficult situation is not a crisis.
- Wants communication, but doesn't expect to have all the answers.
- Knows the most important part of communication is listening.
- Doesn't laugh when a child asks a question, even in reaction to the child's cuteness.
- Doesn't expect to be perfect, and knows that admitting mistakes is a valuable lesson for the child.
- Is sometimes embarrassed by sexuality, but acknowledges the discomfort and explains it to the child.
Children are more likely to talk to an approachable parent. For more information on talking to your child about sexual health please visit www.ashastd.org/parents/parents_overview.cfm and http://www.iwannaknow.org .