Parenting Sexuality

New Study, Old Issues

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Recent data from a new government report documenting the welfare of children shows a drop in teen births going from “21.7 births per 1000 girls in 2008 to 20.1 per 1000 in 2009.” Other aspects of the report weren’t as positive: the number of eighth-graders who’ve used illicit drugs has risen; more children are living in poverty; fewer children are likely to live with at least one parent who is working full time. The report was compiled by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, a “working group of 22 federal agencies that collect, analyze, and convey data on issues pertaining to children birth to 18 and their families.” The study is notably multidimensional, as it covers everything from teen pregnancy and drug use, to obesity, math scores, and poverty.

Still, this study doesn’t provide us with any answers in terms of how to continue to encourage the decline in teen births, or even how to decrease the rising numbers of illicit drug use. It is, however, a great marker for us to refer to as we continue on our parenting journey.  The crux of the matter is we still need to broach the thorny subject of sex, pregnancy, drugs, et cetera, with our kids. We need to talk about the uncomfortable issues before the theory of pregnancy or drug addiction becomes reality.
Talking about the birds and the bees includes more than just the covering the technical side of how babies are made. As much as we may be concerned about the outcome of unfettered sexual activity, there are still runaway emotions occurring simply because of a teen’s developmental status. Fortunately (and unfortunately), we live in a time where conversation triggers are everywhere: films like Juno, or Saved, and television shows like 16 and Pregnant or Teen Mom are certainly fodder for beginning this conversation. Just talk about it; take away the mystery. When that’s gone, the intrigue just may begin to wane as well. Think about it: When you were a kid, and someone implicitly told you not to do something or touch something, was your curiosity piqued? I know mine was.

This conversation is important and ongoing! If we begin to broach the subjectt early on and with as much candor as is age appropriate, we gain the potentiality for honest communication with our kids. Knowing that you can trust your parents and talk to them about the “big” stuff is important—in essence, try to be the one your kids come to rather than the one they hide things from! At the end of the day, it’s far better if this information comes from us as parents than the misanthropic, older kid your child might admire!

Some helpful links to refer to:

New Govt Report On Child Welfare Presents Mixed Picture

Report: Teen Births Drop, Middle-School Drug Use Up

LA Times

How to Talk to Your Children About Sex


National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month

It’s May. Do you know what that means? It’s National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month!

There’s value in suggesting one can enjoy their teen years without the added stress of sexual relationships added to the mix, but that’s not always realistic. Adolescence means hormonal changes (puberty!), accelerated brain development, and of course a natural proclivity for recklessness.  Puberty is confusing: thoughts are scattered and often vacillate between sexual urges to feeling depressed and shut down; we are, by nature, unpredictable during this developmental period. But you know what? This is also normal!
So, it’s not only important to talk about pregnancy prevention, but also the emotional and physical states that tend to lead us toward getting pregnant in the first place. The pressure to fit in and do what everyone else SAYS they’re doing can be overwhelming. Adolescents are also prone to having a tight relationship with hyperbole when it comes to their sexuality.  Remember Jonah Hill’s character in Superbad and his exaggerated boastfulness about sex? Or how about the iconic scene in 16 Candles where The Geek borrows Samantha’s panties for 10 minutes so he can hold them up for his friends as proof of his sexual prowess? Anything to prove he’s not a virgin, right? Ironically,  statistics prove otherwise and frankly make The Geek look pretty average. In fact, “nearly 8 out of 10 guys say there is way too much pressure on them to have sex”!
Here are some things to think about before things get hot and heavy. Better to be preparedthan placed in a position to struggle with your own maturation in tandem with a child’s.

  • If you’re drunk or high, it’s hard to make good decisions about sex. Don’t do something you might regret or might not remember!
  • Did you know: Half of high-school teens haven’t had sex.
  • It’s OK to have friends without “benefits” — Sex ≠ love!
  • Think twice before pressing “send” on your phone or email. One third of teens say that those who share sexy images of themselves are “expected” to put out. Is that the impression you’d like to leave?
  • If you are going to have sex, use protection. Condoms are the only birth control method that can reduce your risk of getting HIV or STDs. Know your options.

Some statistics about teen pregnancy:

  • 3 out of 10 girls in the US get pregnant at least once before age 20.
  • Parenthood is the leading reason why teen girls drop out of school; less than half of teen mothers complete high school and fewer than 2% earn a college degree before age 30.
  • Having a baby won’t make him stay – 8 out of 10 fathers don’t marry the mother of their child.
  • More than half of all mothers on welfare had their first child as a teen.
  • The daughters of young, teen mothers are 3 times more likely to become teen mothers themselves.
  • The sons of teen mothers are twice as likely to end up in prison.

Have a plan. Educate yourself and start asking questions. Parents, school counselors, Planned Parenthood: those are all viable options. Also, if you aren’t comfortable having a direct conversation with your potential partner(s) about sex, you probably aren’t ready to have sex in the first place. Take some time and get informed!  And remember, it’s okay to say “No!”

References for this blog and additional information:

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