Did you know that May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month? I really think that this should be a topic of interest to parents year round, but this is a good month to be reminded of the importance of educating our children about their sexuality.
The good news is that the teenage pregnancy rate is going DOWN! The bad news is that 750,000 teens in the United States experience a pregnancy each year and 400,000 will give birth. That means that 70 young women out of every thousand become pregnant. To continue to reduce these statistics requires improved education and continued dialogue about the risk of teen pregnancy.
Although some teens think that becoming pregnant is a way to escape their own situation, the reality is that teens who become pregnant are less likely to finish high school or enter college, and are more likely to experience poverty. Being a parent is a hard job for any one, but trying to be a teen parent is almost impossible, even with good support systems. The effects of teen pregnancy are far reaching for all of society.
Studies show that teenagers who receive comprehensive sex education are 50% less likely to experience teen pregnancy compared to those who were taught abstinence only sex education. Other studies have recently shown that the decline in teen pregnancy rates are due to increased contraception use. But, 39% of sexually active teens did not use condoms when they last had sex, and only 23% of teen reported that they or their partner used hormonal birth control.
Parental involvement in sex education should occur in every home. This begins with that first, “birds and bees” talk with your child. A comment from a recent young patient after reading “ Where Did I Come From” with her parents “DISTURBING” ! (cue my laughter).
The conversation needs to continue during the tween years and is not only about development and physiology, but about family values and teaching your child that they can talk to you about anything. Let them know that although they may feel embarrassed this SEX stuff is part of normal growing up and you are there for ANY and ALL questions.
Lastly, by the time you have teens in the house you realize that hormones are raging and with those hormonal changes come sexual feelings. This is time to reiterate values, expectations and at the same time to keep the conversation open. Knowing that over 50% of high school seniors admit to having sex, it is crucial that parents have calm and rationale discussions about the importance of safe sex. Just because you talk about safe sex does not mean that you condone it, but to ignore the subject may only mean that your child does not get the correct information or ends up being a statistic due to lack of education. No parent wants that for their child.