In the midst of a debate over the best way to lower teen pregnancy rates, whether it is through teaching abstinence or informing teens about the risks of sexually transmitted diseases and methods of birth control, the story of an eleven-year-old girl giving birth to a baby, to me screams, “neither is working!” The fact is, teachers can preach and teach until they are blue in the face, but until parents take initiative in teaching their own children about sex, teen pregnancy is not going anywhere.
Teens are constantly being bombarded with images of teen sexuality in television, movies, books and magazines. When a teen girl walks into a department store, the racks are full of sexy clothes. Every woman knows that putting on a sexy outfit is going to make her feel sexy, and feeling sexy generally leads to other activities that typically lead to… sex. Surprise! Isn’t that the entire idea behind looking sexy? Teens that do not understand this may be able to slide a condom onto a banana, but they do not know the first thing about sex.
Teens are also being bombarded with heated warnings about the terrible consequences of sex: pregnancy, disease, etc. But unless they respect the messenger, they will automatically file this information in their “won’t happen to me” folder. In the teen years, this folder is virtually overflowing with 98% of all possible negative consequences of every choice they make. The only way to avoid getting thrown in the bin with everything else teens ignore, the message of sexuality and its proper time and use needs to come from someone who has been there from the beginning and understands the listener. Parents, even when they feel like they are not getting through, are still the most influential people in a teen’s life.
Parents should speak from personal experience. Avoid the cliché reasons to wait to have sex. They have heard it all. Speak directly from the heart about why it is important to you that your teen abstain. Don’t wait until it is too late. They need a rock solid foundation from which to make their decisions before the decisions need to be made. Draw the line far, far way from sex. Talk to your teen about the importance of dressing appropriately. Explain that sex does not truly begin at intercourse; it starts with an attitude. Actions that seem innocent in themselves are actually a slippery slope that leads to ground where it is too difficult for most to step back and say “no.” Don’t reduce sex to how it is portrayed in media, a single act of lust without consequences. It is an important part of a committed martial relationship and the beginning of families. It is a special union to be treasured, not a prize to be flaunted or won. When teens begin to focus on the value and importance of sex, rather than the negative consequences, and they understand how much their parents care about the choices they make; that is when teen pregnancy rates will decline for good. Teens naturally reject the notion of negative consequences, but they do strongly value their relationships. Parents need to bank on this and stop relying on other authorities to keep their teens out of the labor and delivery ward.