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Anonymous Q&A Box

We understand that asking questions related to sex and sexual health can sometimes feel uncomfortable. That's why we've created an anonymous questions box for you to ask those questions! Once you submit your question, it's forwarded to one of our highly skilled and knowable TeensHELP educators. Someone is sure to answer your question and add it to the list below within 1-2 business days. If your question needs immediate help, please contact a trusted adult, medical professional, or 911 in the case of an emergency.

Ask us ANYTHING! Submit your anonymous questions here:

You asked, we answered!

There are no rules for human bodies when it comes to puberty. Everyone’s puberty journey is unique and that includes the start of menstruation. That being said, the average age of menarche (someone’s first period) is 12 and a half years old. 90% of people who menstruate will start between the ages of 11 and 14. Most often a person’s period will start about 2 years after their breasts begin to develop. There are a number of reasons why someone might start their period later than their peers or have inconsistent or irregular cycles. Just remember that there is not a universal norm when it comes to puberty and menstruation – overtime you will figure out what is normal for you!

Burning or discomfort after sex is not uncommon, but we wouldn’t call it normal. The delicate tissue of the vulva and vagina can sometime burn from the friction cause by sex. Even if lubricant is used, it may not be enough to prevent this. This burning sensation may take a day or two before it stop as the tissue heals. Vaginal burning or pain while urinating may also be a sign of some medical issue, like a yeast infection, UTI, or sexually transmitting infection (STI). This would be a good time to talk to your doctor about staying sexually healthy. A quick exam can determine if there is anything to be concerned about moving forward. If the irritation continues or happens again, your doctor will be able to help you rule out an allergy to the latex in the condom, the lubricant, or maybe even your partner’s body wash. Either way, whatever you think caused it, there is no reason to ignore it. Work with your partner and your doctor to feel better and hopefully avoid discomfort in the future.

No, you cannot get pregnant from having anal sex. However, the opening of the vagina is very close to the anus and it may be possible for a partner to accidentally get semen in the vagina without meaning to. If this were to happen, pregnancy may be possible. To reduce the chance of this happening, your partner should wear a condom during anal sex. In addition to helping to prevent pregnancy, condoms greatly reduce the chances of contracting and spreading sexually transmitted infections.

No one deserves to feel scared or pressured to do something they don’t want to do, especially when it comes to sex. Expressing yourself in a sexual way is a deeply intimate act. When you and your partner have taken the time to talk about the responsibilities that come with having sex, as well as what having sex means for your relationship, things after feel less scary. If you are still scared or have more questions, it is always ok to wait. Take the time to talk to someone you know and trust. You owe it to yourself to make sure you and your partner are both really ready. Also, if your partner keeps pressuring you, it may be time to rethink your relationship. Respect is a key element of a healthy relationship.

It sounds like you’re starting to explore your sexual orientation! Sexual orientation is all about who you feel attracted to emotionally, romantically, physically, and sexually. Teens who are attracted to others of a different gender (for example, girls who are attracted to boys) often call themselves ‘straight’ or heterosexual. Teens who are attracted to the same gender (for example, girls who are attracted to other girls) may call themselves gay, lesbian, or homosexual. Teens who are attracted to both boys and girls may use the term ‘bi’ or bisexual to describe their sexual orientation. Teens who are attracted to individuals who identify with non-binary genders or all genders might use words like queer or pansexual, and those who are unsure of their sexual orientation might call themselves questioning.

There’s nothing wrong weird or gross about any of these sexual orientations; they are just different. Being one or another doesn’t make you any better or worse than anyone else. Sexual orientation can be dynamic and fluid. Who you are attracted to and in what ways can change and develop over time. Don’t feel too much pressure to find the “right” label right away. It’s ok to change the way you identify as you figure yourself out or as the way you feel changes. You don’t have to fit neatly into any one box. If the term gay (or bi, or queer, or questioning) feels right to you, go for it! If it doesn’t, try another label on for size. Just remember that a label does not define you- it merely describes a part of you. By all means, continue to explore your sexual orientation. Just don’t feel like you need to stress out about it.

Finding out that you’re pregnant can be very difficult, especially if you are a teen and the pregnancy was unplanned. You likely feel confused, scared, worried, and nervous. Those feelings (and many others) are completely normal. Try to stay calm and remember these two things: you do have options and you don’t have to handle this situation all on your own.

If you are pregnant, you have three options:

  1. Parenthood – giving birth and raising the child.
  2. Adoption – giving birth and then giving the child to someone else for them to raise.
  3. Abortion – terminating or ending the pregnancy.

 

You have the right to choose the option that is best for you, even if your friends, parents, or partner, don’t agree. Just remember, there are many things to take into consideration before making a decision as big as this one. It’s important for you to take the time to learn about the pros and cons of each option, examine your personal values and beliefs, think about your hopes and dreams for the future, and assess your current financial situation before deciding.

It can be scary to start this conversation, but you may find it helpful to talk to your parents or a trusting adult regarding your thoughts and feelings about being pregnant and the options available to you. They may be able to help you remain calm and process everything that is going on in your head. There are also several local and national resources available to discuss all three options with you, including a confidential hotline. Some teens find it helpful to talk to a professional about their situation, someone who is caring, compassionate, and capable of remaining neutral.

Finding out that you’re pregnant can be very difficult. You might feel confused, scared, worried, or shocked by the news. Those feelings (and many others) are completely normal. Just remember, you don’t have to handle this all on your own. Your mom may turn out to be a valuable resource to help you make important decisions and support your choices, but you need to tell her first.

Start by imagining how your mom might respond to the news. Some parents may cry and yell, others may go silent, and others still may spring into action. While you will never know for sure until you tell her, lots of teens are surprised at how supportive their parents turn out to be. Second, pick a good time and place to talk to your mom. Having this conversation may not be easy, no matter when or where, but things should go smoother if both you and your mom are calm, free from distractions, and able to focus on the issue at hand. Next, figure out what to say in advance. Putting your feelings into words is not easy, so don’t worry if you cry or get emotional as you’re saying them. It may help to be as clear and direct as possible. You could say something like, “I have something difficult to tell you. I found out that I’m pregnant”, then wait for her reaction. Make sure to give your mom time to process what you are telling her and express her feelings without interrupting her, even if that means letting her vent.

Once the initial shock wears off, you may then be able to talk to your mom about all of your options and what support you need. Becoming a teen parent can seriously affect your hopes and dreams for the future, things that are really important to you. Is that something you are ready for? Whatever you decide, make sure it is something you can be proud of, both now and in the future.

Dating can be so confusing! There are no laws that regulate dating in New York State. You and your 15-year-old partner are going to be guided by the rules and expectations of your friends, parents, school, church, etc., and your own person boundaries. That said, most people would consider the age difference from 12 to 15 to be concerning and here’s why.

Sexual activity and a power imbalance are two big concerns people have about big age differences in teen couples. Younger partners in teen relationships are more likely to feel pressured to act the way the older teen partner wants. This could include pressure to have sex. And while the law says nothing about dating, it has a lot to say about sex and sexual activity. Neither of you can legally consent to any sexual activity until you are 17 years old. So, while a brief kiss on the face or lips wouldn’t trigger any legal issue, making out (and anything more intense than that) might cross the line and start raising red flags. So here’s the thing: right now you two hanging out may get you a few odd looks, but no big consequences. But if the relationship becomes sexual, the consequences could be huge. We hope you can use this information to have an open and honest conversation with your partner and your parents or other trusted adults in your life.

It sounds like you are concerned about losing your best friend if you act on the new feelings you have for him. You are right to be cautious and concerned. A relationship not based on honesty can never be super healthy. If you have lasting feelings for your best friend and you try to hide them, the deception could hurt the friendship.

But wait! Feelings are complicated and often confusing. It’s hard to know exactly what you’re feeling when you are learning who you are and what you want out of life. Feelings are not bad, but they also don’t have to be acted on right away.

Think about the huge number of words there are for romantic relationships. You can be crushing on someone, in love with them, hooking up, talking to them….You get the idea. Take it slow. There’s no rush. You’ll have to take some risks to let your best friend know how you feel, but make sure the feelings are going to last and it’s not just a passing impulse.

Figuring out just how you feel is key and talking about it privately is a great idea. You already took a good first step by asking an anonymous question! Is there a trusted adult or older sibling you can talk to? It might help to hear from someone you respect how their feelings changed when they were your age.

What is TeensHELP?

TeensHELP is a teen pregnancy prevention and sexual health education program. This program is designed to create a network of people of all ages who want to make sure youth reach their full potential. Since its start in 2011, Teens HELP has positioned youth as the primary agents of change. We believe everyone has a role to play in helping youth make healthy decisions, and through youth empowerment we have developed strategies that work for youth..

We use a combination of North Country ingenuity and current technology to serve the largest rural territory with limited grant funding. In addition to our sexual health education program and community work to increase teen access to sexual health care, Teens HELP also runs Asset Building Clubs throughout the 3 county region. Clubs run for 6 months and include a service learning project. Asset Building Clubs run under the direction of our Youth Development Specialists. 

  • Mission: To reduce the challenges of teen pregnancy and help teens of St. Lawrence, Lewis, and Jefferson Counties make healthy sexual decisions
  • Funding: Supported through the New York State Department of Health Comprehensive Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (NYSDOH CAPP) Grant

Current Evidence-Based Programs Offered

Be Proud! Be Responsible! 

BPBR provides teens with the knowledge, motivation, and skills to change their behaviors in ways that will reduce their risk of contracting HIV. Although not specifically pregnancy prevention oriented, many of the communication and condom skills taught will also help participants avoid unintended pregnancy and other STDs. 

Making Proud Choices! 

MPC gives teens the information, skills, and confidence to protect themselves from unplanned pregnancy, HIV, and other STDs. It empowers young people to change their behaviors and lower their risks by abstaining from sex or by using latex condoms if they choose to have sex. 

The following topics are covered by each EBP: 

Be Proud! Be Responsible! 

Making Proud Choices! 

Module 1: Introduction to HIV and AIDS 

Module 1: Getting to Know You and Steps to Making Your Dreams Come True  

Module 2: Building Knowledge About HIV 

Module 2: The Consequences of Sex: HIV Infection 

Module 3: Understanding Vulnerability to HIV Infection 

Module 3: Attitudes About Sex, HIV and Condom Use 

Module 4: Attitudes and Beliefs About HIV, AIDS and Safer Sex 

Module 4: Strategies for Preventing HIV Infection: Stop, Think and Act 

Module 5: Building Condom Use Skill 

Module 5: The Consequences of Sex: STDs 

Module 6: Building Negotiation and Refusal Skills 

Module 6: The Consequences of Sex: Pregnancy 

Add-On Module: Birth Control Methods 

Module 7: Developing Condom Use and Negotiation Skills 

 

Module 8: Enhancing Refusal and Negotiation Skills 

Teens HELP meeting

Confidential Reproductive Health is Available to Teens

In the North Country, Planned Parenthood has provided confidential care to teens for decades. They have payment options for you too. Enter your Zip code here to find the clinic nearest to you.

New York State law allows minors to consent to confidential reproductive health care. That means your doctor MAY treat you without notifying or asking permission of your parent or legal guardian.

The law does not require any provider to agree to this confidentiality. The only way you know that your clinic will keep your treatment confidential is to ASK them. If they agree to treat you without your parents and later notify your parents, that would be a violation of the law.

If your clinic agrees to see you confidentially and you use your parents’ insurance, the insurance company will notify your parents that you used their insurance and the location and date. This is not controlled by your clinic. It is not a violation of confidentiality. If you cannot use your parents’ insurance, ask your clinic if they have other ways for you to pay for the services like cash, sliding fee cash payments, or a government program you can sign up for.

 

FAQs from Educators & Youth Workers

An evidence-based program (EBP) is a curriculum that has been scientifically evaluated, rigorously tested, and has demonstrated effectiveness in achieving desired outcomes. The EBPs we use (Be Proud! Be Responsible! and Making Proud Choices!) are based on theoretical approaches demonstrated to be effective in reducing health-related risky behaviors, target clearly defined health behavior outcomes, use multiple learning activities and strategies, and feature interactive and cooperative learning approaches.  

With Comprehensive Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (CAPP) funding and support from the New York State Department of Health, the St. Lawrence Health Initiative implements sexual health-related EBPs in most of St. Lawrence, Lewis, and Jefferson counties. Our CAPP educators are highly trained sexual health education facilitators and receive technical assistance and training from the ACT for Youth Center for Community Action. We provide EBP implementation and other youth programming at no cost to our partners.

Both evidence-based programs empower young people to change their behaviors and lower their risks by abstaining from sex or by using latex condoms if they choose to have sex. They use interactive activities such as videos, games, brainstorming, roleplaying, skill-building, and small-group discussions to engage youth and make learning fun. They both also aim to help young people make proud and responsible decisions about their sexual behaviors, delay the initiation of sex among sexually inexperienced youth, and reduce instances of unprotected sex among sexually active youth. 

In short, the biggest difference is that BPBR focuses primarily on HIV prevention, while MPC expands this focus to also include information about other STIs and pregnancy prevention. This means that MPC takes longer to implement. Because of this, the majority of our school-based partners choose to go with BPBR.

NO! These evidence-based programs do not encourage sexual activity in any way. In fact, they stress that delaying sex until a later age (abstinence) is the best way to avoid unplanned pregnancy, HIV, and other STIs. They encourage young people to build healthy relationships so that they can talk with future partners about the decision to abstain or practice safer sex. They provide information about how to prevent pregnancy, HIV, and other STDs in order to help young people avoid these risks if/when they choose to have sex.

Time needed to effectively implement our evidence-based programming depends on both the specific EBP used and the implementation setting.  

Be Proud! Be Responsible! (BPBR) consists of six hours of content divided into six 1-hour long modules, plus an additional birth control methods demonstration. For implementation within a school setting, we have adjusted these modules to fit within 7-8 40-minute class periods. BPBR can also be implemented in a variety of community settings, by way of a 1-day format (all 6 modules in one day), 2-day format (3 modules each day), 3-day format (2 modules each day), or 6-day format (1 module each day).  

Making Proud Choices! (MPC) consists of eight hours of content divided into eight 1-hour long modules. For implementation within a school setting, we have adjusted these modules to fit within 10-12 40-minute class periods. MPC can also be implemented in a variety of community settings, by way of a 2-day format (four modules each day), 4-day format (two modules each day) or 8-day format (one module each day).

YES! Our CAPP educators, with assistance from the ACT for Youth Center for Community Action, have developed a virtual adaptation of Be Proud! Be Responsible!. We have worked tirelessly to meet youth’s educational needs in this “new normal”, while also staying true to the core components of the program to ensure the desired outcomes to the best of our abilities. However, since the virtual implementation of the program has not been evaluated in the same way as the original curriculum, we cannot say for sure how effective the virtual adaptation is. 

You have the opportunity to take advantage of resources and trained educators provided by the Comprehensive Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (CAPP) Initiative of the New York State Department of Health. Comprehensive, age-appropriate, medically accurate sex education benefits all youth. Providing such education through an evidence-based program (EBP) is an effective way to support youth in making healthy decisions. For teens who are already having sex, EBPs will help them understand the risks and teach them how to protect themselves. For those who are not yet having sex, EBPs can help motivate them to wait. Additionally, our EBPs align with numerous NYS Health Education Standards, justifying the time it takes to implement them in a school-based setting. To learn more about these standards and performance indicators for BPBR, click here. For MPC click here.

If you have any more questions or would like to talk more about bringing Be Proud! Be Responsible! or Making Proud Choices! to your school or youth-serving agency, please reach out to the Health Educator Supervisor, Kat Manierre, via email or at 315-261-4760 ext. 224. 

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