Following a bit of advice in Meta, I wanted to ask for the advice that parents who have this experience (or know who has) what is best.

I am strictly not looking for opinions about whether this is right or wrong.

I am in an organization that happens to be religious and we are doing care packages for our outgoing seniors to college. A lot of food and toothbrushes and things have been collected, and that's awesome.

I've spoken to my pastor and she said not only was it fine by her, and knowing the congregation, I believe it should be no problem.

Setting aside that preface, my question is: *how best to do this logistically for the kids (who are now adults). The care packages are going to be received by mail, will include all sorts of food and things, but I want to include condoms as my contribution.

As parents, is there literature or packaging that should accompany these in the care packages? These are going randomly to about 100 of our college students almost evenly split gender.


  • Enough food and clothing has been collected
  • They don't expire until 2019
  • The recipients will be both adult men and women and I'm concerned about any embarrassment when the packages are opened around peers.

What, from a parent's personal experience, is the best way to include condoms in a college care package? Instructions? Put them in an envelope to avoid initial embarrassment? Do you think they would like instructions (condoms come with them and I can copy them and include it). This question is not about whether it should be done (that has been established), it is about best logistics & packaging, and your experience as a parent on this.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Acire
    Apr 6, 2017 at 11:45
  • Can you give some geographical context to the question? Different countries have different cultures, which in turns means a correct answer to your question might be different.
    – user25657
    Apr 7, 2017 at 13:21
  • @RaduMurzea - Apologies; this is Portland in a relatively progressive part of the United States. To my knowledge, all of the recipients are going to Universities domestic to here - whether they are progressive or not is beyond my knowing (e.g. one is attending Baylor, which I understand has a reputation for being socially conservative).
    – Mikey
    Apr 7, 2017 at 17:47
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    Voted to reopen because parenting.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1135/…
    – Peter
    Apr 9, 2017 at 22:51

9 Answers 9


Speaking as a parent, I'm grateful to see this being done by a religious institution. So kudos.

To be effective - including against pregnancy and STIs - condoms need to be used and stored in a certain manner. Improper use/storage may lead to undesirable consequences, so it only makes sense to include instructions with the items.

The young adults who receive the care packages usually live in a communal setting (a dorm) and other kids often want to see what the recipient got. In order to avoid potential embarrassment, putting the condoms in a separate, discretely labeled envelope ("Contraception"?) makes sense. To make sure that the recipients don't overlook the envelope, I suggest including in the package a list of contents, and list condoms. That will introduce the recipients to the contraceptives twice.

I can't find a study on the effect of including condoms in care packages, but studies indicate the availability of condoms does decrease pregnancy and STIs in young adults.

The most common errors include placing the condom upside down and then turning it over (29.1%), taking condom off too soon (28.4%), putting the condom on too late (19.7%), opening the package with a sharp object (10%) and using an oil-based lubricant (6.5%).
School Condom Availability

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    Serious question -- if storage and shipping is a concern, how could condoms be shipped across the country outside of the manufacturers carton and (I have no idea how the manufacturer stores them) put into care packages? Is temperature an issue? Otherwise the condoms I have here say "do not open before use". (I put a box in my daughter's bathroom and replace them according to instructions. I do not open the box to see if she has used any or given them away.. That's the 'deal'. )
    – WRX
    Apr 3, 2017 at 17:32
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    I was going to write an answer, but every aspect I think of is covered in this one. As a parent of a teenage girl who's going to be in college all too soon, I think avoiding publicity and/or embarrassment is key to having it received well. A bit of omg why would they send me condoms is pretty likely, from young men or young women... but it can be much more easily dealt with if it's all internal dialog, rather than everybody in the common room joking about it.
    – Acire
    Apr 3, 2017 at 17:59
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    @jpmc26 - I consider myself to be a Christian. One of the great failings of mainstream Christianity is their anti-abortion stance coupled with their ridiculous - yes, ridiculous - refusal to provide the means to prevent pregnancies in the first place. Hence, I'm very glad to see this. "Don't have sex" doesn't cut it; look at the stats for Christian kids and sex. Apr 5, 2017 at 3:15
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    @anongoodnurse I am actively restraining myself from debating the issue of whether providing condoms is appropriate or not with you because it's not on topic for this question or for this SE, so please do not respond by trying to debate that topic. The entire point of my comment was that this is not the place to debate that topic, and since it's not appropriate for us to do so, I am posing an issue that is relevant to this answer, question, and SE: is it really appropriate to make a comment in the first place in a venue where it's not appropriate to respond to it?
    – jpmc26
    Apr 5, 2017 at 4:18
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    @jpmc26 When a topic is not being debated (as it wasn't, before your first comment), the best way to express that "this is not the place to debate that topic" is to not express that. It's weird to run into a room full of people who aren't debating something and blurt out "As somebody who finds this upsetting, I just wanted to tell you all to not debate it. Peace!"
    – Jason C
    Apr 5, 2017 at 5:17

I am a parent who for many reasons including religious ones, does not want my children to have premarital sex.

I sent my son to university with a package of condoms and he said he was instructed in health ed at school. Also he reminded me that he can use the internet!

I would rather he has condoms and does not need them than he does need them and does not have any.

I think you should just supply the condoms and perhaps add a link to a trusted medical website with information about sex education.

That sex ed should be info only and no judgement. Put them in a baggie or envelope with the word Condoms and the website you selected on it.

If they are old enough to be in college they know what sex is.

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    This doesn't answer the question at all, which is "HOW" to send them. It does exactly what the OP said they were NOT interested in, which was "is it right or wrong to do this at all". If I had more reputation you'd see my downvote for these reasons.
    – Beanluc
    Apr 3, 2017 at 17:03
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    @Beanluc even before the edit, there was some information on "how"
    – Acire
    Apr 3, 2017 at 17:09
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    Out of the 6 paragraphs, only 2 address the actual question. Your answer could be worth more if you just deleted the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 6th paragraphs... Apr 4, 2017 at 10:40
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    Why are people being so damn pedantic? Who cares if this answer isn't 100% on "point"? Sometimes the best answer is the answer that doesn't answer the "asked" question... sometimes different answers work best for different people. This is a good answer and good advice.
    – WernerCD
    Apr 4, 2017 at 23:37
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    @WernerCD The reason is to prevent an off-topic non-sense discussion as in comments to the anongoodnurse's answer.
    – yo'
    Apr 5, 2017 at 8:53

If the goal is to prevent embarrassment, change the target of the embarrassment to yourself.

Put the condoms in an envelope marked "extra strong balloons".

Then, it changes from "OMG my church sent me sex stuff" to "OMG someone at the church has total Dad Humor".

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    I'd say this is an excellent way to package them and remove any sort of embarrassment. When I was that age, something like this would have just made me and my friends laugh if we received it. +1
    – Anoplexian
    Apr 5, 2017 at 15:29
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    Sorry, I had to downvote this. Humour is hardly ever a good thing when dealing with people you don't know in person.
    – yo'
    Apr 7, 2017 at 7:56
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    @yo' - Fair enough. But you're going to get some level of awkward here (because you're also sending contraceptives to someone you don't know), so arranging it that the "blame" can be shunted to you rather than the student is a plus IMO. Apr 10, 2017 at 19:13

Maybe you're over thinking this? I forget who said, in the US sex is an obsession, elsewhere a fact. Nobody dies from 2 minutes of embarrassment or nervous giggles. That said, I like the idea of putting them in an envelope marked private, with some basic instructions and maybe a web link. Kudos on the idea better to have them and not need them than not have them.

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    This is what I keep thinking, too. Even if the kids do get embarrassed for a minute, it's not like some day they're going to look back and say "I could have done something with my life, I could have been somebody, if only I didn't get that embarrassing box of condoms that one time in college." --- Plus, to be honest, I feel like if kids are still that embarrassed by condoms by the time they're in college, you sort of already completely missed the chance to raise them to not be so weird about it and the problem happened long ago and is unrelated to a care package of condoms.
    – Jason C
    Apr 5, 2017 at 5:26
  • You have a point. I remember (1) a bunch of (male) teenagers getting condoms as Xmas gifts at one party, and (2) condoms offered for free to another group of teenagers in a "grab one or two if you wish" fashion (note that in the end, everybody wanted to grab some). However, I think it makes sense to overthink this a bit than to underthink --- remember you aim at the people who are least self-educated in the topic and possibly who are most shy about the topic.
    – yo'
    Apr 5, 2017 at 8:58

Instructions will certainly be appreciated. The chance of teaching them how to use condoms so they actually work is far more valuable than the condom itself. They may have heard the basics, but some facts are often omitted*, and others may have been forgotten, so repetition helps.

Don't worry about the embarrassment, and expect most of these condoms to be used as balloons. If they are too embarassed to even look at a condom before they need one, that is exactly one of the things you want to change.

In short, Instructions: hell yes. Disguise: no need.

*Things I rarely hear are the following:

  • Condoms can and do break and/or fall off in case of insufficient lubrication or wrong size. This is rarely mentioned, and far too often often people will be extremely assertive in belittling this fact.
  • Don't use oil based lubricants also means to pay attention if you recently applied oil based lotion for skin care.
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    (I went off to read.) Also add if the woman is small (and many women are), you might need a stronger condom.
    – WRX
    Apr 3, 2017 at 17:48
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    @Willow ... my perception of your name has changed forever ... :) Thanks for the advice.
    – Peter
    Apr 3, 2017 at 19:14
  • I'd say, add a link to a good online resource, together with the printed instructions.
    – yo'
    Apr 5, 2017 at 8:55

Some answers are focusing on things I don't think matter in this case. Things like temperature, age, packaging, etc. of the condoms in the package. You may want to think instead of why you are putting together the care package. You won't be able to put enough condoms in to cover everyone's usage and the same can be said for any item in the package, so I'd suggest using the condom as a reminder. Add a note to go with a single condom stating the box receiver should be aware and remember to practice safe sex if they choose to engage in that activity. Care packages aren't meant to provide all of what a student needs, but rather remind them they have family and friends that care about them and wish them well and want them to be safe.

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    Your last sentence particularly resonates with me. Good perspective!
    – Acire
    Apr 5, 2017 at 12:22
  • A single condom doesn't seem very helpful. Someone (male) who has never used one before might want to try putting one on before they actually need one?
    – jwg
    Apr 6, 2017 at 6:49
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    A single condom is symbolic. As I stated, you can't put enough of anything in a care package to be "useful". You can't put in a loaf of bread and expect the receiver to not have to go to the store at some point.
    – user99448
    Apr 6, 2017 at 12:52
  • I'd always thought of a care package as "we know that college money is tight, so here's some things to make the budget stretch a bit further". So that loaf of bread does mean they don't have to buy that loaf this week. :) Apr 6, 2017 at 16:18
  • If you know money is tight, why not cover all of their costs? The care package is called "care package" to indicate you care about them and are thinking about them. You could just as easily add money to a bank account if it's simply a matter of meeting need.
    – user99448
    Apr 9, 2017 at 2:36

To focus on the question - leave the condoms in the box they come in. If its a three pack that's ok, 12 pack would be perfect, but a 144 pack might be a bit much for one.

Why? The foil/plastic outer is a lot stronger than they used to be but are not impervious. Leaving them in a box will add protection to the protection.

Also, the box will have usage instructions and other details that maybe didn't make it onto the individually wrapped items.

As for embarrassment, just put the box in first so its down the bottom of the package, and is covered by other items. If they're not seen there's no embarrassment at giving time. The young person can unpack it at their leisure in privacy.


I would think most of the value of such a project would be related to how good a note you can get written to accompany the packages.

I would include more than one note, preferably with at least one that might be read aloud publicly. I would put the condoms in a labeled envelope inside a sealed note possibly marked private, personal or read later. In the envelope with the condoms I would include hygiene and condom use reminders.

Condoms are readably available at many colleges and almost all towns with colleges. The problem is many people seem to have some issues about acquiring them. By giving them at least semi-discreetly you delay them needing to face that issue. The next step is to encourage the recipients to use them correctly and remind them that getting more isn't really an issue they need to make stress about.

A good note should bluster self acceptance more than provide information, and should set out where to get more help and information. Hopefully set out in a way that doesn't put pressure on them to act in a way inconsistent with their self interests or your organization's goals.

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    Thanks - regarding paragraph 3! Also, while getting them is easy, it's often put off until it's time they're needed. (I should caveat that the decision to provide them is mine, only that the organization making the care packages has confirmed it is okay to do it)
    – Mikey
    Apr 3, 2017 at 21:14
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    @Mikey include a note telling them to speak to their campus health department to find out where to procure replacements (I believe most campuses in the US at least have facilities to obtain low- or no-cost condoms) and to do so when they are running low, so they have more before they run out.
    – Doktor J
    Apr 4, 2017 at 0:00
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    Your notion about issues with procurement might have been very valid in the '80s, but in the age of Amazon I doubt millenials still face that problem. Apr 4, 2017 at 16:42
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    +^ @JohannesPille - but timing might be prohibitive.
    – Mikey
    Apr 5, 2017 at 12:45

The best way to provide the condoms is probably in the form of a gift certificate, both to prevent embarrassment and because you presumably don't know what size would be required.

If you think the recipients of the packages need instructions, you might mention that condoms are vanity sized. Of course, if you want to encourage abstinence, you might leave that off and let any first experiences be painful.

Personally, I think it's kind of tasteless to include condoms in a care package from a stranger like this, but then, I think care packages from strangers aren't a great idea in the first place. As a parent, I think it's a better idea to trust the parents to take care of their kids.

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    This is the right answer.
    – jkdev
    Apr 9, 2017 at 7:28
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    Better yet, since some recipients might not be sexually active (imagine that!), why not provide a gift certificate that can be used for other things?
    – jkdev
    Apr 9, 2017 at 7:33
  • @jkdev - yeah, we have Amazon gift cards for each box, as well.
    – Mikey
    Apr 12, 2017 at 14:32

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