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Talking to Kids about Sexual Topics

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Beyond the Big Talk: Every Parent’s Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Teens—from Middle School to High School 

Mothers’ Influence on Adolescent Sex
Being Connected Can Make Crucial Difference in Important Decisions
by Louise Hajjar Diamond

Most parents would agree that they would prefer their middle or high schoolers not become sexually active. However their preferences may not be the reality. Therefore it’s important that parents educate their children about the consequences of having sex.

The Facts:

  • Sexually active girls are predisposed to genital tract infections, cervical cancer and pre-cancerous lesions.
  • Both girls and boys who have sex put themselves at risk for sexually transmitted disease. Sexually transmitted diseases acquired during the teenage years can contribute to adult infertility.
  • AIDS remains a leading cause of death during adolescence.
  • Although teen pregnancy has been declining steadily over the last decade, and more teens are delaying having sex, teen sexual activity contributes to medical, social, and economic problems in our nation. As reported by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, four in ten teenage girls get pregnant at least once before the age of twenty, resulting in 900,000 teen pregnancies a year.
  • The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate of all the industrialized countries in the world by a wide margin.
  • Children born to teenage parents are at higher risk for health problems, poor school performance, inadequate parenting, poverty, and child abuse.
  • Each year, the federal government spends about $40 billion to assist families that began with a teenage birth.

Parents have a responsibility to their children to take an active role in teaching them about the consequences of sex.

In a study published in September 2002, researchers at the University of Minnesota found that teenagers are less likely to start having sex when their mothers are deeply involved in their children’s lives and successfully communicate their values on sex with their kids.

According to the study:

  • When teens perceive that their mothers oppose them having sex, they are less likely to do so.
  • Connectedness proved to be more important to kids than what mothers said.
  • When mothers recommended birth control to their teens, kids were less likely to perceive their mothers’ disapproval of them having sex.
  • When mothers reported feeling satisfied with their relationships with their 14 and 15 year-old daughters, their daughters were less likely to report having intercourse.
Being actively involved in the lives of their daughters is another way Moms may help preventing early sex. Mothers seem to have more of an influence delaying their daughters from having sex than their sons. Boys may be more influenced by fathers, siblings, and peers on the timing of first intercourse.

Too many parents believe they simply can’t make the difference in their kids’ choices during the teen years. According to this new research, this view couldn’t be further from the truth.
  • During adolescence, children need as much guidance as they needed in earlier years.
  • Two-thirds of teens that have sex, end up wishing they had waited.
  • Many parents who feel comfortable talking with their kids about other dangers such as drugs, drinking, and smoking, avoid or minimize educating their kids on sexual facts and values.
  • Placing a high premium on education and self-worth may empower kids to have confidence and to set goals for the future.
  • Girls with high self-esteem and who feel accepted at home are less likely to have sex.
  • When they have positive and meaningful relationships with a parent, girls are less likely to seek acceptance elsewhere such as in a sexual relationship with a boyfriend.

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy suggests:
  • Parents to be clear about their own sexual values and attitudes and tell them to your children.
  • Start talking to kids about sex and love at and early age and be specific.
  • Establish curfews, rules, and standards of behaviors for young teens.
  • Always know the whereabouts and company of your children.
  • Discourage early, frequent and steady dating.
  • Know what your kids are reading, watching, and listening to.
  • Know your children’s friends and their families.

As with all aspects of parenting, there are no guarantees of outcomes. It should be comforting to parents to know their close relationship and connectedness they have with their kids might help to prevent destructive choices during the teen years. Through effective communication, example, and guidance, parents can make a crucial difference in their kids’ important decisions.

Parents can learn more about prevention by visiting The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy’s website www.teenpregnancy.org. For more information about the new research findings, visit www.allaboutkids.umn.edu.

Louise Hajjar Diamond is a guidance counselor, freelance writer and mother of two. To reprint this article, e-mail her at weazer@sprynet.com.

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