part 3 of a series of paraphrases from AIDS-Proofing Your Kids: A Step-By-Step Guide
-- It's a shame that too many book stores are embarrassed to carry it! --




If rain clouds threaten, don't let your kids out without rain-ware. If they're not protected and it rains, they'll get wet.

What's the AIDS weather forecast? Are your kids at risk? We have about as much success forecasting AIDS and STD infections for particular areas as we do the weather -- perhaps weather forecasting is a bit better. The fact is, all the statistics in the world won't tell you what the chances are that YOUR kid is, or is about to be, sexually active. And there are no statistics which tell you whether YOUR kids are active with kids who are carrying, knowingly or unknowingly, the AIDS virus. In our book, we give you some landmarks or caution signs that may show if YOUR kids are at HIGH RISK but in the final analysis, prepare for it and expect the best. AIDS-PROOFING, happily, is an excellent way to relate to your kids, in general. We do have the highest expectations that AIDS-PROOFING, at the very least, can improve any parent-child relationship.

Are your kids going bare? If, and it's hardly a question, your kids are at any risk for sexually transmitted diseases, make sure they have the "rain-ware" -- it doesn't take a whole lot of AIDS virus to kill. And catching AIDS may be up to 8 times more likely for our daughters than our sons. Learning to purchase, apply, carry, and dispose of condoms are skills that are as important for our daughters as for our sons.

Abstinence is best but you are going to have a difficult time guaranteeing no rain when the clouds threaten. Coming instalments will guide you through effective ways of encouraging abstinence but there's no substitute for preparedness -- unless you know about some rain magic that really, really works.

Does preparedness encourage sex? We can't, for sure, say "NO". Planned Parenthood apparently has data suggesting that kids who have partaken of sex education with their parents are LESS LIKELY to subsequently become sexually active. We are advocating an EFFECTIVE SEX EDUCATION program which will be comfortable, entertaining, and productive. Washing your car, planning a picnic, taking a raincoat with you, certainly doesn't make rain more likely. Being more skilled at safer-sex, likewise, doesn't make sexual opportunities magically appear. But once those sexual opportunites are there, safer-sex savvy may allow sexual happenings to proceed with greater safety. Carrying condoms does not cause others to jump out of alleyways, lusting for sex. Waving condoms wildly in the air, may -- but so do many other enticing behaviors. We don't want you to teach your kids how to wave condoms in others' faces. We just want you to teach them how to be skilled with them if and when a situation dictates their use. Let's face it, these situations or opportunities for sex are often completely out of our control as parents and care-givers (though stick with us, our instalment on abstinence will tell you how to gain some control).

Don't be disgusted because we're recognizing the call of the hormones. We are not saying that SEX and YOUTH are inseparable. Certainly there are folks who never became sexually active until their adult years, or later. But are you willing to gamble your kids' lives on such a happening? Being skilled in the use of condoms, having options of non-penetrative interpersonal sex, feeling fine about masturbating are all life skills that guard against sexually transmitted diseases and the AIDS virus. These skills, or confort and ease with them, must be taught -- not on the streets but by responsible, knowledgable, and caring adults. We can help you in this endevour. Later instalments will cover additional topics but, first, we want to start with condom skills -- purchasing, carrying, effectively applying, and disposing.

Purchasing condoms is not an easy skill for millions of otherwise responsible adults, let alone kids. The folk humor is full of references to adult males having to face female pharmacists, check-out clerks booming out over loudspeakers, "Can I have a price on Trojans, latex?", and many other examples which show our discomfort with purchasing condoms. Can we have high-hopes for our kids coping with these problems? Not without help! The consequences are much more severe, now, for indulging embarrassments.

Providing free condoms is not the answer. One of our readers, in Dallas as I recall, placed a fish bowl, filled with condoms, on the diningroom table. Family members were cautioned not to count them and the bowl was kept topped-up, as needed. The whole situation became quite a hoot and that's not bad. Everyone in that family was at ease, had broken the ice, had progressed through the earlier chapters of our book. What was WRONG here, was the fact that the diningroom table was not where the action was (I can only presume).

Kids out for a Saturday night are out in the community. Whether sexual activity will be confined to a car, someone's apartment, a park, a beach, a special rendezvous, is anyone's guess. What we do know is that the commercial providers of condoms are OUT THERE, not on the diningroom table (or Dad's top drawer). When that special opportunity comes about, chances are it has NOT been specifically planned for. Sexual opportunity arises by the combined effects of many uncontrolled happenings. When "things fall in place", there is little liklihood of stopping off at home to rob the fish bowl, rob dad's top drawer, or get a condom hand-out. And if a condom is being carried, it has likely been tucked away in a wallet for several months or more -- condoms do have a shelf-life and hip pockets are hot and humid. We'll have more to say about effective carrying of fresh condoms in a later instalment but the lesson here is that drug stores are usually open, some to very late hours, and drug stores are out there in the community where the action is. No matter how liberal and modern you may be, even to the point of offering to supply a condom when needed, kids, like us, don't like having to reveal to their parents that they hope to have sex that night. Our kids MUST BE TAUGHT EFFECTIVE, CONFIDENT, COMFORTABLE SKILLS OF CONDOM PURCHASING.

Condom machines in schools are not the answer. For the very same reason of happenstance, and the fact that schools are not usually open at night, late, this is not a good source. We commend the schools and their communities for recognizing that condoms must be talked about, dealt with, and provided where possible but this is no substitute for confident, quick buying of condoms from the many available commercial outlets, when the need arises.

Bite the bullet, teach them independence. Teach your son, your daughter to walk in, head high, eyes open to package-dating, armed with knowledge about latex vs others, knowing which brands are safest, to be mature and unflinching in the face of pharmacists and check-out clerks.

Promises aren't worth a damn. Your kids may swear up and down that they can purchase condoms with ease. Unless they can provide you with a number of cash receipts, along with the goods, you can't count on their best intentions. It's their lives at stake here, don't settle for anything less than seeing them in action. If they're reluctant, this is where the keys to the car come out of your pocket, the allowance bonuses appear, and all the incentives we talked about in the last instalment or, for even more detail, in our book, become important. This is no time to settle for promises. You wouldn't let them drive the streets, swim, scuba dive, kayak, ski, parachute, sky-dive, cycle or........ just on the basis of promises of knowing how. You want them to demonstrate their skills to teachers, instructors, or yourselves, as a bare minimum. Don't do less with AIDS-PROOFING. AIDS and STDs can kill and maim more surely than almost anything else. Don't be satisfied with your kids saying, "I know," "I know how to....," "trust me." The best of intentions are absolutely NO SUBSTITUTE for safer-sex skills (or abstinence skills, as we'll see in later instalments).

What follows is a strategy that depends on your child's age, how much you've broken the ice, what skills they already have, in short, your particular circumstances. We are suggesting a series of easy steps that lead to comfortable, confident purchasing of condoms. These steps have worked for many parents with younger or more reticent, older kids. For many other parents and counsellors, the steps may be combined and altered, as needed, into one or just a few trips to a drug store. But whatever modifications you make, DON'T SKIP THE TRIP!

Start easy with the drive-by: Telling your kid that all that's required for the arranged incentive is for him or her to ride in the car with you and go past the drug store that they'll eventually being going into. That's all! That's it! Sound silly? Maybe so but the incentive is there to help it happen and the silliness, if any, keeps the whole thing light and minimal. What could be easier for earning the incentive. Easy is the key word here. If you must make it even easier, as a dad in Phoenix did, than start with just getting into the car and getting out again -- use a good incentive, at EVERY STEP, always, no matter where you start.

Drive-up and park: If you've driven by once, yesterday or today, an effective incentive is bought by just driving into the lot and parking, then leaving. Are you getting the picture? One step at a time. Our book is AIDS-PROOFING: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE and we mean it. Exercise after exercise is step-by-step, from talking to doing, from risk to safety. Hang in there!

Walk-in and walk-out: You've got it. On the same trip or days later, depending on your circumstances, you walk in together, you walk out together. NO MORE!

Walk-in and approach: With younger kids, especially, they'll likely lag a few paces or an isle behind as you approach the condom section or pharmacy counter. Approach and leave. No words needed to anyone. (A mother, in Toronto, pre-arranged these happenings with her local druggist so that shoplifting fears wouldn't be aroused -- the druggist was more than happy to cooperate.) Walk in, towards, and away. That's just fine and earns the incentive. They'll get closer with another visit and, if they don't, you can work out other step-by-step ways of reaching goals. The key is to keep it easy, keep the progress to small improvements and don't forget that promised incentive.

Browse only: Get to the condom displays. Look at them without picking anything up. Look at other nearby, adjacent, non-sexual products -- pick THEM up. Wait a few seconds with your kid in tow or alongside. Respond to any positive comments they make. Ignore any negative ones or postural displeasures. Keep it cool. Leave and go get that promised doughnut, ice cream, or other incentive.

Browse and pick-up: Pick up a pack. Read the package to yourself. Handle it. Can you pass it to your kid? If so, great. If not, next time. Incentive time!

Pick-up and bury: Eventually, your kid is to pick the item off the shelf and BURY it among other items in a shopping basket. This is an important goal -- maybe reached on the first visit, maybe only after a hundred visits. Your circumstances are your circumstances and whatever they are, don't push. Rather, PULL with incentives.

Check-out: There it goes, across the counter with a bunch of other stuff (don't put yourself in the poor-house over this), and it's purchased. With younger kids, we've then gone home and made water balloons -- great fun!

Fade yourself out: Here, the particular circumstances of your involvement up to now, and the progress of your kids will determine exactly how and how fast you can get yourself out of this scene, altogether, with respect to future progress. The goal you're working towards (and your circumstances may bring this about in one large step) is for your kid to go to the store, purchase a pack of condoms, bring them home with the receipt, and thus earn the incentive. By-the-way, you're providing the funds for this!

Practice, practice, practice: Once is not enough. Practice makes for confidence and the learning of how to deal with unexpected changes such as a female pharmacist if your kid is a boy, a friend of the family behind you at the check-out stand, a booming call for prices, a check-out clerk who goes to school with your kid. Practice is essential but can be sporadic -- it doesn't have to occur repeatedly in a day or even in a week. If the incentives are there for practice, if the incentives are good ones, your kids will be asking for a chance to practice (which translates into a chance for another "goodie").

One parent's short-cut: A family in Victoria, upon discovering that a famous juggling act (The Flying Karamazov Brothers) was performing in town, was able to take one giant step in educating their young daughter. The Karamozov Brothers issue a challange, in any city they perform in, to bring to the show an item that they'll not be able to juggle. People bring toasters, hair dryers, sofa springs, wet fish....., you name it. This family conspired to bring condoms filled with water. Of course, a very natural incentive to go out and participate in the buying of the condoms was the promised fun and look on the jugglers' faces when confronted with the challange. It was a natural. Indeed, it made the local news papers the next day. Never lose sight of potentially natural and highly potent incentives as they may present themselves to you.

The rules, again, and always:


A condom in the hand is not one on the...... so let's get into effective use. There is nothing so damaging to a kids future use of condoms than to have the first use involve fumbling, tugging, pinching, tearing, a general mess, or loss of erection. Let's make sure the hands are nimble, quick, and that condoms add to arousal and ongoing sensuality.

The condom races are coming!

Support this effort: AIDS-PROOFING YOUR KIDS: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE (Beyond Words Publishing: 1-800-284-9673 - $8.95). It's a shame that too many book stores are embarrassed to carry it!

Sincerely and from our families to yours,
Drs. Loren Acker, Bram Goldwater, and William Dyson
University of Victoria, British Columbia, CANADA
email: [email protected] or [email protected]

[back to Easy Does It]

INSTALMENT #3 of a series which we know will help you plan and implement an effective AIDS-PROOFING program for YOUR KIDS, GRANDCHILDREN, KIDS IN YOUR CARE or as an effective means of HELPING OR EXPRESSING YOUR CONCERN FOR LOVED-ONES WITH CHILDREN.

AIDS-PROOFING YOUR KIDS is endorsed by the Canadian Public Health Association, favourably received by the World Health Organization, the American Psychological Association, the Association for Behavior Analysis, numerous national AIDS organizations, clergy, parents, kids, and our families. It's a shame that too many book stores are embarrassed to carry it!

[email protected] (Thu Jan 4 02:48:13 1996)