Would you give a boy in the 6th grade a condom? San Francisco Unified School District and other school districts now provide 6th graders with condoms. If a student wants a condom, all they need to do is talk to a school counselor or school nurse and a 6th grader can get a condom. The talk is less the 30 minutes.
Why are schools considering this option? They are considering this option because research is showing that teens are becoming sexually active at younger and younger ages. It is not uncommon for kids in the 6th grade to be sexually active. Research studies show 5% of 6th graders are already having sexual intercourse. This is not taking into account oral sex. Most 6th graders consider oral sex “messing around.” It is not sex. Therefore, when I conduct a clinical interview with a middle school or high school student before I start seeing them for psychotherapy, when I get to the part of the interview which deals with sexual activity, I need to ask if they are having intercourse or oral sex? Many middle school kids equate oral sex with kissing. This is scary.
I understand that the San Francisco Schools are trying to protect their students, but I don’t think this is the best way to do it. From my experience working with teens, they usually start thinking about birth control after they are already sexually active. Also how much information can be provided in one 30 minute talk. The kids can be told how to use a condom but no one will be discussing the emotional issues and responsibility involved with sex. How much information about STDs and safer sex practices can be covered in the same 30 minute session. Also no one will be asking the child if they are ready for this step and are they prepared if the girl gets pregnant?
If we want to keep our children safe then we need to stop making sex such a forbidden subject. The kids need classes in 4th and 5th grade which explain in detail about different sexual acts and the risk they are taking even if they use a condom. For 6th graders to think oral sex is the same as kissing is crazy. It is also crazy why we are saying to them don’t have sex, when society is telling boys if you want to be a “man” you can’t be a virgin and girls are told if you want a boyfriend you have to give him sex.
Also we need parents not to be embarrassed or shy about talking to their kids about sex. Parents cannot wait until their child starts High School anymore. By the time many kids start high school, it’s too late to be discussing sex. Sexual activity should be something you discuss with your child from preschool on. Of course not going into specific details, but talking at an age appropriate manner. Start educating them about their bodies. If a child sees you are not embarrassed or ashamed they will be more likely to ask you questions before they do something. If parents act like sex is something to be ashamed about a child won’t ask their parents questions.
Also parents you must start the conversation. Many parents tell me they will discuss sex with their child when s/he asks questions until then they will wait. I have teens telling me they won’t ask their parents because it’s too odd talking to their parents about sex. If they don’t ask an adult they are going to learn by trail and error. I have had to become comfortable discussing the subject because many parents tell their teen to ask me. Yes they are getting the information, but they really prefer talking to their parents. I often encourage teens to try talking to their parents explaining that their parents feel just as awkward as they do, but the embarrassment will pass.
The main problems I see with the school handing a 6th grader a condom is no one is really discussing with the child are they really ready to be sexually active? There is a great amount of responsibility that goes along with being sexually active. You can still catch an STD using a condom so the 6th grader needs to tell their primary care doctor they are sexually active. A girl can still get pregnant using a condom. Are the boy and girl prepared for this situation if it occurs. Also when I ask middle school students about condoms, they know very little about condoms. Some middle school students think you have to be 18 in order to buy condoms. Many middle school students think they come in different sizes. These facts tell me we are placing middle school students into sexual situations, they are not emotionally prepared to handle.
To become sexually active is is a huge decision to make and I don’t think a 6th grader is mature enough to make it. Also 6th graders are not always paying attention so they may not know how to use a condom appropriately.
Yes it is shocking that 6th graders are having sex. I think a better way to handle the issue is to look at what we are teaching them in the movies, television shows and video games they are watching and playing. Sex is not a game and we are treating it like a game. This doesn’t help kids in 6th grade. We need real sex education in school and at home.
In therapy often boys will tell me they think they are ready for sex. I ask them are you sure this is the girl you want to have your first time with? I also remind them they only have one first time. I also ask are they ready for the emotions that go along with sex? The biggest one I ask is are you prepared to handle if she gets pregnant? Condoms are not a 100% guarantee. The question that always gets me is when they ask how they can get a condom? I tell them you can buy them at any drug store. I often hear I would be too embarrassed to go buy condoms. My response is if you are too embarrassed to by them then in my opinion you are not emotionally ready for sex. In my opinion handing 6th graders condoms will result in more teens being sexually active who are not emotionally ready to be sexually active. We need to think about that point.
Parents you also need to let your child know they can discuss sex with you. May be you may not agree with them about their opinions, but they need to know they can talk with you and don’t have to be afraid of getting into trouble. The main reason I hear from teens about why they don’t talk to their parents is they are afraid their parents will get mad, they will get a lecture and get into trouble.
I don’t think anyone feels a 6th grader is ready for sex, but it is happening every day. If we are going to do what is best for kids, we need to help them feel safe to discuss sex with us. If we don’t the consequences can be severe for everyone involved.
Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teens in middle and high school and is considered an expert in this area. For more information about Dr. Rubino and his work visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or visit his Facebook page at facebook.com/drrubino3 or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.