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The importance of having someone to confide in

August 23, 2009 |  6:00 am

Did you have a cool aunt growing up, someone in whom you could confide anything -- even stuff about sex?

The National Sexuality Resource Center at San Francisco State University is looking for people like that to take part in a survey. The "aunt" concept is pretty loose -- a "cool aunt" could be a parent, family friend, minister, uncle or older cousin, someone who acts as a mentor to young people and gives them straight answers and sound advice about topics such as sex, pregnancy, peer pressure and sexually transmitted diseases.

"We really believe that family and community members are really important in young people's lives in terms of being able to help them get not only accurate information, but learn about values, too," says Ann Whidden, the center's communications and Internet director. Although a "cool aunt" could be a parent, some children and teens find it difficult to talk to their parents about sensitive subjects -- and vice versa --and schools aren't always equipped to handle questions.

The survey asks "cool aunts" about topics they feel comfortable discussing, how they communicate with young people, plus a bit of background information. Whidden says the center hopes to not only celebrate these mentors, but also find out what they have in common, and what kind of resources they may need to do their job better.

"We want to highlight that cool aunts are a source that is sometimes underutilized and under-recognized," she adds. "We want to share how important they are."

-- Jeannine Stein

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