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Let’s Talk Month

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October is Let’s Talk Month. It shouldn’t just be one month but a reminder about the importance of talking to your child about sexuality and their sexual health on a regular basis. We want you to be able to open the door to this conversation. myHealth provides parent education sessions Next one is Oct. 19th where you can hear real questions students ask in school and learn tools to support conversations with your child, teen or young adult.

Like these: (real questions from students)

  • I heard you can’t get pregnant your first time is that true?
  • If you have 1 STD does that keep you from getting another one?
  • How do you know if a relationship is healthy or not.  My friend is ALWAYS getting txts from her boyfriend and he gets mad if she doesn’t answer right away even if she’s in school.
  • My friend started ghosting me. It totally sucks what can I do?
  • Are you supposed to shave your pubic hair? What if you’re a dude?
  • Is it normal to question your sexuality?
  • How do I tell my parents that I’m bi?
  • Why does oral sex count as sex?

There is a lot of assumptions out there when it comes to what our young people are learning and how much of that information is helpful. Let’s bust a few of those myths.

MYTH: My child gets sex ed in school. They get all the information they need.

FACT: Did you know MN State Requirements make us one in only 24 states that actually require sex ed and HIV education.  Let’s dig into what those requirements mean.  MN schools are required to teach about abstinence, HIV, and healthy relationships (and it could be assumed to cover STI’s but it’s unclear given the wording). Our state does not require that information be inclusive of sexual orientations, provide information on contraceptives or condom use, be medically accurate, culturally appropriate, age appropriate and lastly there is no restriction against promoting religion in our sex education. (Guttmacher 2017)

– Funny take of the sad reality of Sex Ed in our country John Oliver clip from 2015 (The statistics are still pretty accurate and the video helps to break down the state standards and their meaning)

Now, those are just the basic requirements. Some schools have amazing semester long comprehensive sexual health education where they talk about contraceptives, barrier methods, boundaries, consent, communication, navigating pressure, gender, sexual orientation, love, pleasure etc. On the other end of the spectrum, some schools teach only the required minimum and pack it into 1-3 classes ONCE during a students’ entire high school education. As a parent, it’s up to you to know what your school policy is because there is such a wide range. If you feel information at your school is lacking, this TIP SHEET can help you advocate for more comprehensive sexual health education. If your child isn’t getting all the information you want them to have, it’s important to supplement that education at home or you can bring them to myHealth.  We provide medically accurate, fact based, age and culturally appropriate education is provided value and judgement free. We will answer any of their questions so they can make the best decision for themselves.

Though hard at times, it is important to talk with your young person because it helps keep your child/ teen safe. By having fact based information about their body, how to keep their body healthy, how to build healthy relationships and make the best decisions for them. Sexuality is a broad topic that includes body parts, self-esteem, friendships relationships, messages from the media and our friends, and our values etc.

– Sexuality at every age and stage (LINK TO HOW TO TALK TO CHILDREN ABOUT SEXUALITY)- check out this tip sheet of what topics and questions are relevant at each age and stage.

MYTH: Talking about sex and sexuality will cause my child to have sex and be unsafe.

FACT: Parent-child communication about sexuality promotes sexually healthy behaviors

“When young people feel unconnected to home, family, and school, they may become involved in activities that put their health at risk. However, when parents affirm the value of their children, young people more often develop positive, healthy attitudes about themselves. Although most adults want youth to know about abstinence, contraception, and how to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), parents often have difficulty communicating about sex. Nevertheless, positive communication between parents and children greatly helps young people to establish individual values and to make healthy decisions.”

– Tips to keep kids safe – talking to our kids/teens about sexuality, boundaries, and our bodies keeps them safe from abuse.

KEEP THE CONVERSATION GOING!

It’s easy to let our emotions run the conversations when we are worried or concerned about our young person.  Remember that you love them and you want them to have the information to make the best decisions. Take a breath, remind yourself that you care about them, pause, and then respond.  Try using some of the Door Openers below to start the conversation.  You’ll be amazed how much more they will share with you. Try to keep the door open to conversations about sexuality. Ask them what they think and why? How they came to that conclusion? How will it feel if … happens to a friend or if … were to be a consequence of a behavior?  Young people are learning their own values and figuring out what is important to them so keep picking their mind to ask them how they decided on that.  This helps them understand how they make decisions because their prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that uses logic and critical thinking) is still being developed during adolescence and into early adulthood.  Help them sort through their values and the why’s behind them.

When we use the Door Slammers it does just that, it ends the conversation. They may not turn to you next time they want a second opinion and they will find it somewhere else. Take a minute to share your values and seek their perspective.

Door Openers

  • “What do you think?”
  • “That’s a good question.”
  • “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”
  • “I’m trying to understand what you’re feeling/ asking?”
  • “Do you know that word means?”
  • “I’m glad you told me about that.”

Door Slammers

  • “You’re too young.”
  • “Where did you hear that?”
  • “If you say that word again, I’ll …”
  • “That’s none of your business.”
  • “I don’t care what your friends are doing.”
  • “That’s just for boys (girls).”
  • “We’ll talk about that when you need to know.

MORE RESOURCES

Purposeful Parenting

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I feel like my time is running out. My kids are teenagers, thinking about college. The thought sends my stomach into a knot and brings tears to my eyes. It does not seem possible that the last 17 years have passed so quickly.

I have received lots of parenting advice. Pick your battles. Bribery works. Cuddle. Teach them to make good choices. Be there for them. Let them experience disappointment. Prepare them to manage money and their time and homework. Teach them manners. Show them respect, but ensure that it is reciprocated. Make sure they eat vegetables. Teach them to be kind. Don’t baby them. Make them strong. So many words from so many who have done this before me.

If only someone had told me how much my heart would break every time my child experienced disappointment. How my eyes would well with tears each first day of school as they walk towards the school doors, their backs to me. How proud I would be when they were proud. How this normally non-competitive, rational woman would turn into a snarling lioness when some unfairness toward her offspring was encountered. If only I had known how much love I would have for these two beautiful creations.

I have given up a lot for my children. Money, sure. They are very expensive. The man-child eats as if he may never get another meal. My personal interests have gone by the wayside. Although I enjoy it, I have not picked up a golf club in six years. I cannot remember the last time I read a book for an hour without interruption. I have spent eons of time putting together, sorting, breaking apart and searching for Legos. I have watched more Pixar and superhero movies than a normal adult should admit to. I have played games on the Wii, Xbox and Play Station until my thumbs hurt. I have colored with crayons, with colored pencils and with ink pens. I have been crafty, creative, and enthusiastic for every single school project, even when it is unexpectedly due tomorrow. I have watched episode after episode of silly Disney channel shows that bore me to tears.

And I would do it all again. Because that is what happens when you become a parent. A part of you is lost, for a while, as you focus on creating an adult. Time is lost doing things you need to do, not what you want to do. Parenting is an act of kindness. Of selflessness. Parenting is about being an example and a teacher. Parenting is about being militant and forceful. Of talking about difficult topics, and not shying away when they ask a personal question you’d likely prefer not to answer. Parenting is about being honest about yourself and being honest with them. Parenting is a 24/7 job. A job I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Gerilyn, Executive Director

Happy Pride Month!

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For many, June is a time of celebration! It is finally time to enjoy outdoor BBQs, spend time with family and friends at the beach, the park, and be OUT in the open. For many in the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community, it is a time to recognize those that came before us, those that fought for our rights, for our freedoms, and for passing the laws that allow us to be OUT with our families and OUT with those we love. It is a time to be thankful we have the same freedom and respect as everyone else.
Some people hide their true selves based on fear for their safety, fear of discrimination, loss of access, loss of rights, or fear of persecution from their family, friends and communities. As a society, we have made huge strides since the  Stonewall Riots (read about the history of Stonewall here  https://www.britannica.com/event/Stonewall-riots ) but we still have significant work to do.
The LGBTQ community (and allies) are still fighting for equal rights and the ability to live a safe and happy life. In many states, people of the LGBTQ community are legally terminated from jobs, denied housing, and denied access to public spaces, namely restrooms. Many schools refuse to recognize transgender youth; they ignore their pronouns, names, and/or prevent access to the restroom that matches their gender identity. Transgender people of color are one of the most targeted groups of people in our society; they experience harassment, discrimination, are murdered and commit suicide at an alarmingly high rate.
Amongst so much hate and marginalization, PRIDE is an opportunity to gather as a community. It is a practice of celebration, resistance, love, acceptance, and communal self-care.
 

This year in particular is incredibly special. My wife and I will be able to take our newborn twins to PRIDE. Attending PRIDE, feels like we are introducing the twins to our extended family. A family of resiliency and love that expresses themselves wholly and does not hide their true selves. My wife and I are so thankful for those who fought tirelessly for our right to exist, those who fought for our love to be recognized and those who fought for our ability to be a family without persecution, OUT and in the open.

As a health educator, I have the unique privilege to facilitate conversations about sexuality. This is Includes conversations about gender, sexual orientation(s), dating, relationships, friendships, communication skills, sexual health, sexually transmitted infections (STI’s), safer sex methods, puberty, body image, etc. During each classroom presentation, I am able to talk to a LOT of young people and answer a LOT of (anonymous) questions.
One of my favorite presentations is our lesson on gender and sexual orientation. Our education team always receives thought provoking questions while also learning new information and terminology from students.

The most common questions we receive from individuals outside of the LGBTQ community tend to ask us about the differences between gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and sexual orientation. Allow me to shed some light on the matter, here, in this blog post, for our readers.

Every person has a biological sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expresses their gender.
Wow, that is interesting!
GENDER IDENTITY – how a person identifies and who we individually and internally know ourselves to be. It is our deeply held, internal sense of self as man, woman, other gender identity, a blend of all, or neither, etc.
GENDER EXPRESSION – how we present our gender in the world and how society, culture, community, and family perceive, interact with, and try to shape our gender. For example, a person can express their gender by the way they dress, talk, act, walk, or types of hobbies they pursue.
*Both Gender identity and gender expression vary depending on location, time-period, community culture, etc. The two most common gender identities are boy and girl (or man and woman), and often people think that these are the only two gender identities. However, gender actually exists on a continuum and not limited to just two possibilities.
BIOLOGICAL SEX (Sex Assigned at Birth) refers to measurable organs, hormones, and chromosomes of a person. Often this means, female=vagina, ovaries, XX chromosomes; male=penis, testes, XY chromosomes; intersex= a combination of the two.
SEXUAL ORIENTATION – who you like, love, or are attracted to. The LGBT(QAI+) acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Asexual, and Intersex. The LGBQA are sexual orientations that explain who a person likes, loves and/or is attracted to. The T and I refer to  gender identity and sex assigned at birth.
*Each of these categories exist on a spectrum. Each category can influence the other, but does not determine the other. A person can place themselves somewhere on one spectrum and it does not mean that they will automatically be in a certain place on the other spectrum.
** You can find more information on all of this here: TSER

LGBTQ Resources

National Programs

PFLAG, (Parents and friends of Lesbians and Gays) works toward providing support, education, and advocacy for LGBTQ communities and their allies –  https://www.pflag.org

Human Rights Campaign –  http://www.hrc.org/blog/hrc-proclaims-june-2017-as-uniteresistenlist-month

TSER – Trans Student Educational Resources-  http://www.transstudent.org

Local Programs

Outfront MN, an organization that provides resources for greater MN, legislation for LGBTQ Rights, Statewide GSA network, and anti-violence program –  https://www.outfront.org/home

MN School Outreach Coalition, a coalition of non-profit organizations (myHealth is part of this) that plan several events for LGBTQIA Youth around the twin cities –  http://www.mnschooloutreach.org

Q-Quest, a queer statewide youth conference that occurs happens every October.

Queer Prom, April social event.

Youth Day at the Capital, a statewide youth conference that occurs in the spring.

Youth Pride – An event that occurs at the end of May or early June.

Transforming Families –  https://transformingfamiliesminnesota.org

MN Trans Health Coalition, provides support groups, shot clinic, HIV testing, and professional development trainings –  http://www.mntranshealth.org

GLBT Host Home, several host home and support programs for GLBTQ youth  –   http://www.avenuesforyouth.org/programs-glbthosthome.html

Rainbow Health Initiative, provides education and training for medical professionals of how to better serve LGBTQ community. Facilitates research on health disparities in LGBTQ communities and the ways in which to provide support –   http://www.rainbowhealth.org/

CLINICS that support LGBTQ youth and young adults

myHealth for Teens & Young Adults

Family Tree Clinic

Annex Teen Clinic

UofM Boynton Health Clinic

Teen Pregnancy Prevention & Awareness

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It is May.  All I see on Facebook is picture after picture of my friends’ kids dressed up in fancy clothes for prom.  The girls look beautiful, alive and in some cases quite alluring.  The young men look more mature than I have ever seen, a bit cocky even, wearing their suits, ties and tuxedos. The kids don’t look like kids.  They look like young adults.  And now that I’ve thought about that, I’m focused more on what’s going to happen on prom night than on what they are wearing and how happy they look.

Not too long ago, I had a conversation with my 15-year-old son about condoms. He has been to the clinic where I work and he knows that there is a bowl full of free condoms in the lobby.  As we were driving home from school one day he said casually, ‘Can you only get condoms at the clinic?’  I snorted a giggle and said, ‘Of course not.  You can get them anywhere.’  Seriously, how did he not know this? His response, ‘You’re lying.  You can’t just get them anywhere.’  Well, he was right about that.  They aren’t available anywhere. But nearly. I explained that you can get them at a CVS, Walgreens, pretty much any pharmacy, gas station, convenience store and of course at Target and the grocery store.  ‘Target?’ he says.  ‘You must be kidding.’

Shortly after this conversation, now with both my teen daughter and son in tow, we were in Target picking up a few staples for the household. Without really saying much about it, I marched towards the feminine hygiene aisle, right down to the end of the aisle where there is a very large and elaborate selection of condoms, dental dams and other products capable of providing safer sex. I just stopped and pointed. ‘See, they have condoms at Target.’  And then the three of us just stood in front of the display and stared.  For several minutes.  Certainly, the selection is much greater at Target than at the clinic.  Who knew there were so many choices, colors, scents and even flavors?  Well, now both my teenage kids know.

Prom night is special not only because they are often quickly graduating from high school.  In some cases, prom night is the night these kids have decided to lose their virginity.  The event is depicted, often with great humor, in many movies and TV shows. However, many young people are not fully prepared, or equipped, to have safe sex on prom night. As a parent, you can help your soon to be adults into making responsible choices by giving them access to and the knowledge about where to buy condoms. It is not that hard.  It is not that scary.  Just take the lead and walk them through the aisle at Target.

In the clinic, May is often a month where we see a few extra unplanned, positive pregnancies. To all the parents reading this: whether you have a tween, a teen or a young adult at home, please make sure they know where to buy condoms.  It just makes sense.

STIs, Know Your Status

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WALK IN STI TESTING!

(At the clinic we use the term STI- Sexually Transmitted Infections. STI’s and STD’s are the same thing but it’s how you look at them. If someone gets an infection they go to the doctor to get treatment! We try to break down the stigma so young people seek treatment not hide in the shadows)

Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD’s) are one of those topics that people typically avoid talking about, but it’s one that needs more attention, especially with the current rise of STD’s both in the state of Minnesota and nationally. The most recent CDC STD report showed a significant increase in STD’s.

  • Chlamydia up 2.8%
  • Gonorrhea up 5.1%
  • Syphilis up 15.1% 

The CDC estimates that nearly 20 million new   STD ‘s occur every year in the US , half among young people aged 15-24.   https://www.cdc.gov/std/   Each of these infections is a potential threat to an individual’s immediate and long term health and wellbeing.  STD’s can lead to severe reproductive health complications, such as infertility (for both men and women) and ectopic pregnancy. This means STD’s could prevent you from having/ making a baby in the future.

When it comes to STD’s, ignorance is not bliss: what you don’t know can definitely hurt you in the long run. You can’t just assume your partner is free of STD’s- you need to ask them if they have been tested. Most people that have an STD don’t have any symptoms, so they don’t know that they have an infection. To help reduce the chances of getting an STD you have a several options:

  • Abstain from sex-  Everyone always reserves the right to choose not to have sex whether it’s because they’re not ready, they want themselves and their partner to get tested, they want to wait until their in a better mood or until they finish high school or college etc. Abstinence is not just waiting to have sex until marriage which is the definition we hear a lot. Its waiting to have sex until it’s the right decision for you and the right decision for your partner and for a time when you can make that decision together without pressure, without fear, without guilt, without obligation.
  • Use a barrier method each and every time-  If you do have sex (whether it’s vaginal, oral or anal sex), always use a barrier method (male condom, female condom, or dental dam). This will help prevent sharing of bodily fluids which is one way that STI’s spread. If you or your partner are on a form birth control.. that’s amazing but birth control only protects against pregnancy they don’t protect against STI’s
  • Limit the number of partners you have – The more partners you have the more chances you potentially have to get an STI.. you can keep safe by knowing your partners status each and every time and it doesn’t hurt to know how many partners they have had in the past. It helps you make the decision that is right for you
  • Know your status!  Get tested before each new sexual partner and have your partner get tested too!
  • Chat with our Nurses!  If you ever have any other questions about what you or your and your partner can be doing to keep safe you can always stop into our clinic and chat with our staff. The can answer any questions you may have about STI’s and how to be safe!

 

We want you to be safe, to take care of your body and to be responsible so come on in for a walk in appointment and get tested! While you’re here at the clinic stock up on some condoms or other barrier methods (THEY’RE FREE)

Role Models

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It is difficult to imagine how my life would be altered had the people in it not been there, how it would be affected had other individuals been inserted. The advice I seek out, the opinions offered, and the support given continually adds indescribable value to my life. My father was my first mentor and role model. He believed in me, loved me unconditionally, and supported my decisions. He allows me to make mistakes and fail, a crucial part of growing and learning. He continues to be my sounding board and cheerleader. The amount of love I feel and experience is overwhelming.

As a professional, I connected with coworkers and supervisors who have guided and supported me; one of which is our executive director, Gerilyn. She is one of the strongest women I know. She gave me courage to leave a job that was breaking me down emotionally, and supports me as I grow with my role as a health educator at myHealth. I would not be at this organization or in this position had it not been for her, and I am so grateful. I have an abundance of strong women in my life who mentor me. I have had serious conversations, laughed, and cried with these women. They have encouraged me to take jobs, or not take jobs; they have reminded me of my value and inner beauty, and most importantly, they have challenged me.

It is not possible for us to know exactly what we are doing, how do we learn if we have never done it? Mentors can share their experiences and failures to help us thrive and avoid making the same mistakes.

http://www.mentorset.org.uk/what-is-mentoring.html

What is mentoring?

“Mentoring is to support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximize their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be.” Eric Parsloe, The Oxford School of Coaching & Mentoring

 

More resources about mentoring:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevenberglas/2012/02/02/seven-reasons-most-people-need-a-mentor/#792ab72456f8

http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/13288/1/The-Importance-of-Role-Models.html

http://www.rootsofaction.com/role-models-youth-strategies-success/

Healthy Relationships

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  • 1 in 3 high school teens in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse from a dating partner. ( loveisrespect.org )
  • 1 in 5 of U.S. teen girls report having experienced physical and/or sexual violence in an intimate relationship. ( www.futureswithoutviolence.org )
  • 1 in 4 teens in a relationship report having been called names, harassed, or put down by their partner by cell phone or texting. ( www.futureswithoutviolence.org )
  • Only 33% of students experiencing partner violence ever told someone about the abuse. ( loveisrespect.org )

Adolescents are especially vulnerable for abuse for many reasons:

The brain of a young person is still developing until age 25. In this development, they are learning the skills around assertive communication, the complexities of relationships, and creating healthy boundaries. This stage of development paired with peer pressures, social pressures for intimacy, and media’s failure to show healthy examples of dating and intimate relationships, make it challenging for individuals to differentiate a healthy vs. unhealthy relationship.

Are you in a healthy relationship?

Does the person you are hanging out with, seeing, or dating:

  1. Treat you well?
  2. Respect you (including what you feel comfortable doing physically or sexually)?
  3. Give you space to hang out with your friends?
  4. Let you wear what you want to wear?
  5. Make you feel safe and comfortable?
  6. Not pressure you to try to get drunk or high because they want to have sex with you?
  7. Respect your boundaries and ask if it’s okay to touch or kiss you?

Ask yourself if the person you are seeing treats you with respect and if you treat them with respect.

Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and everyone deserves to be in a healthy relationship. If you want to talk about your relationship, myHealth is a safe place to come and talk with a caring adult. For more information check out these sites:

www.futureswithoutviolence.org

www.loveisrespect.org

www.sexualviolencecenter.org

24-Hour Crisis Line:  612-871-5111

Mental Health Wellness

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Anxiety is normal and everyone struggles through symptoms at some point in their lives. Anxiety can, at times, be positive (it motivates us to do well on a test, urges us to communicate with others, etc.). But, for some, anxiety can become exhausting when it starts to fill our heads with worrisome thoughts more often than not. Our teen clients dealing with anxiety have said it can feel like:

“I’m worried people will judge me and think I am dumb if I say what I’m thinking.”

“I always have that feeling that something bad is about to happen, even if it never does.”

“I’m constantly criticizing myself no matter what I’m doing.”

“My mind just spins and spins. I can’t stop thinking about things. Even the littlest thing will make me worry.”

“Anxiety is torture. Once it starts, I feel like I am going to have a heart attack. Sometimes I cry because I just want it to pass.”

 

Anxiety disorders are diagnosable when more of your day is spent thinking anxious thoughts than non-anxious thoughts. This might look like spiral thinking where you can’t stop thinking about something and it begins to give you physical symptoms such as an upset stomach, pounding in the chest, sweating, and difficulty breathing. Some people even say that they feel like they are going to have a heart attack.

Yep, that’s how I’m feeling…So, how do I deal?

Try the 4x4x4 deep breathing technique. Take four deep breaths that fill your lungs completely. Hold the air in your lungs for four seconds and release for four seconds. Repeat four times.

Write out your emotions in a journal or in your phone. Releasing the spiraling thoughts helps to calm the mind.

EXERCISE! Move your body, go for a walk, shake it out of you!!!

Talk to someone that you trust or seek out a counselor at myHealth for Teens & Young Adults.


Anxiety can be painful, but it’s common and can be managed. If you or someone you know are dealing with anxiety and want help, please contact a counselor at myHealth for Teens & Young Adults for assistance.