Is the slogan "Abstinence is saying 'yes' to the rest of your life" enough?
Watching TV one evening, and a commercial came on with preteens and teens encouraging their parents to talk to them about waiting to have sex. In the commercial they assured their parents that even if Mom and Dad tell them to wait, they’ll still love them and be their little “Pooky Bear.”
Chrystal de Freitas, M.D., founder of Healthy Chats, says that “health education is very much the responsibility of parents at home, regardless of what may or may not be covered in school at a later time.”
So what keeps parents from talking about abstinence with teens? As a parent, it’s not always easy to have these conversations. Either you’re concerned that you’ll come across as a hypocrite because you didn’t wait, or you might see your teen as still being your baby and not the type of child that would indulge in promiscuous activity. And then there are some parents who just don’t know where to begin.
Where Do I Begin?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Forty-eight percent of all high school students report that they have had sexual intercourse.” It’s important to start talking with your teen as early as possible. At a young age, talk to them about love and respect in a relationship, as well as the importance of respecting themselves. Once they become pre-teens, talk to them about dating, having a boyfriend or girlfriend, their bodies and reproduction, as well as the advantages of abstinence.
As teens get older, the conversation about waiting continues. Help your kids understand that having sex does not make a person more grown-up, and that it’s more than just physical contact – it has emotional consequences as well. Don’t worry if you don’t know everything about sex. The most important thing is that you’re communicating with your teens, sharing your beliefs and encouraging them to make healthy choices. Share some facts about teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Remind them that the healthy choice, and the only guaranteed way to ward off unwanted pregnancies and STDs, is to abstain.
Let’s Get it Started
According to www.4parents.gov, when a parent tells his teenager he wants him to wait to have sex, the son is more likely to wait. But for some parents, the hardest part of talking to teens about sex is just getting started.
Take advantage of every opportunity, including TV time. If you’re watching TV with your teen and the topic of sex comes up, that’s a great time to initiate a conversation. Ask a general question about peer pressure, his friends, or ask your teen about his future goals. All can lead to a conversation to where you can share your beliefs about relationships and sex.
Diolinda Brickman says her daughter initiated the conversation while in grade school by asking, “Where did I come from?” At the time Brickman gave a vague and honest answer, but found that “conversations were much easier to initiate” after her daughter had a sex education segment in her sixth grade science class. Now they have conversations easily when they hear anything closely related to the subject.
- “Approximately one in four sexually active teens contracts an STD every year.” That’s approximately four million teens each year.
- 50 percent of new HIV cases involve individuals under the age of 25, and most are infected through sex.
- 34 percent of “young women become pregnant at least once before they reach the age of 20.”
- Some STDs can be spread through oral sex.
They’ll Still Love You
One of many responsibilities parents face is educating kids and constructing a moral foundation. Though teen sex might not be preventable, it’s important that teens are armed with information.
Even if you’re encouraging your teen to wait, give him the facts. Don’t assume he knows where babies come from. Tell him about the teen pregnancy rate and the various types of STDs and how they can be contracted, as well as how these things can affect his future plans. Most importantly, persuade him to talk to you if he has any questions or concerns. Assure him that you love him and that you’re available to talk to him about anything, at anytime. Abstinence might be one way for your teen to say “yes” to the rest of his life, but being armed with facts, can save his life.
Sharon C. Cooper is a freelance writer.