This Week in Family
It’s often tough for American parents to figure out the right time to start talking to their children about their changing bodies, especially when it comes to sex.
Twenty years ago, American Girl published the best-selling book The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Girls in an attempt to help preteen girls understand the changes that accompany puberty. As Allison Pohle writes, the book’s reassuring tone is one reason why it has helped her, and millions of girls, navigate the often confusing world of hormones, tampons, and bra shopping for the first time.
Americans tend to be squeamish about talking about the proverbial birds and bees with children, and schools don’t always fill in the gap by providing comprehensive sex education. The Netherlands provides a stark contrast, writes Bonnie J. Rough; sex ed in schools starts when kids are 4 years old, and parents talk early and often about reproduction and the differences between people’s bodies. Dutch sexual-health outcomes tend to support this approach, too—teenage pregnancy, STI rates, and sexual-satisfaction rates are better than in the U.S.
In possibly the most dystopian marketing stunt in recent memory, KFC is offering a prize of $11,000—in honor of the company’s 11 herbs and spices—to the family of the first child in the U.S. named “Harland,” after the company’s mascot, Colonel Harland Sanders, on his birthday. The Atlantic staff writer Joe Pinsker writes about the reasons why the corporation’s self-insertion into the baby-naming process feels so particularly cringeworthy, especially in an age where brands often one-up themselves to compete for media attention.
Studies have found that American adults aren’t having much sex these days, but a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that rates of sexually transmitted diseases are at an all-time high. The finding might seem rather counterintuitive, says the Atlantic staff writer Ashley Fetters, but it likely has to do with increasing infection rates in heterosexual people, as well as declining condom use and risky sexual behaviors associated with opioid addiction.
Every Monday, the psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb answers readers’ questions about life’s trials and tribulations, big or small, in The Atlantic’s “Dear Therapist” column.
This week, a reader wrote in asking about his husband’s upcoming eight-month work trip and his fears that it will negatively impact their newly adopted toddler. He’s worried about parenting by himself and about his son’s attachment to his husband, especially since the child was adopted through the foster-care system.
Lori advises him to make sure their family feels as stable as possible by helping their son make sense of the big change:
You could bring up the ports the boat will dock at, how long it’ll be till Daddy returns, the “special friend” (the babysitter) who will come to play while Daddy’s gone, and all the snuggling, giggling, and reading you’ll still do together each night. Whatever you decide to include will reflect the day-to-day of your lives for the next eight months and show your son that some things will change and some will remain the same, but in the end, everything will be back to normal.
Send Lori your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.