Let’s just be right up front about that.
So if you, like those of us here at Choices Pregnancy Center, are serious about preventing teen pregnancy, we have to start by talking about teen sex and our individual opportunities to positively influence teens’ choices.
You can have a powerful voice in this conversation, whether you’re a parent of teens, a member of a religious or social organization who cares about teens, or a neighbor that wants to see young people avoid the rough road of teen pregnancy.
How? The key is in developing purposeful, caring relationships with teens. And those relationships must be built and maintained over time.
Within those relationships, what can you do to help teens?
First, let’s bust two of the biggest myths about teen sex, and then think about how you can act on the facts.
Myth: Teens Are Just Going to Have Sex
While it’s true we live in a sex-saturated society, the noise around sex doesn’t necessarily mean all teens are having sex—or want to. In fact, research shows today’s teens are postponing sex longer than in previous decades.
Fact: Teens Can and Do Choose Not to Engage in Sex
Listen to the top three reasons teens in the study above gave for abstaining from sex:
- Unmarried sex is against their religion or morals (roughly one-third of teens)
- They hadn’t found the right person yet (about one-fourth)
- They didn’t want to get pregnant (about one-fifth)
How can we help encourage teens like those to stand their ground?
- Churches, families, and community groups can fill teens’ lives with positive, affirming activities and personal interaction to reinforce the value of what teens want to stand for. What steps can you or your group take to strengthen teens’ resolve to live by their values?
- Invite these budding adults into relationships with adults who can model healthy relationships. Encourage discussions about not letting sex distract couples from developing emotional and spiritual intimacy. Share success (and failure) stories from your experience. What have you learned about building deep, lasting relationships that you could share with a teen?
- Commend teens who recognize that pregnancy is always a possibility if they have sex. (After all, many teens are in denial about this.) Talk through the missing pieces in the “safe sex” narrative: both the stats on contraceptive (in-)effectiveness as well as the emotional and physical risks that go with sexual activity. How can you create space for these conversations with teens you know?
Myth: Teens Don’t Listen to Parents
Although teens become more independent during adolescence, they still put a lot of stock in what their parents say. Teens in the study said they would trust their parents’ information about sex over what their peers have to say.
Fact: Parents Have a Lot of Influence on Teens
Teens want to respect and be respected by their parents. So even if your teenage children don’t seem to be listening to you, know that they are.
Here are a few practical things parents can do to support teenage kids:
- Set healthy, age-appropriate boundaries. Get their input on what those boundaries (and the consequences of crossing them) will be. As you develop policies like curfew, accountability on where they’re going and with whom, and transparency about online habits, let your teens know these policies help you support them in avoiding risky situations.
- Give genuine praise and affection. Teens who are loved at home are less likely to seek cheap copies of “love” elsewhere. Share time together in activities that interest them. Avoid criticism. Praise them, not just their accomplishments.
- Be available to talk. Listen attentively to your teens’ feelings and thoughts. Seek to understand where they’re at. Rather than jumping in with quick answers, help them work through problem-solving and evaluating their decisions in light of their personal values.
- Know their friends. Invite their friends to your house. Encourage group activities and be involved in them. And if friendships go sour, equip your teens with strategies and words for getting themselves free of potentially unhealthy situations.
- Cast a vision for a bright future. Teens who can picture themselves reaching long-term goals will find it easier to avoid settling for short-term compromises. But should your teens slip from their resolve to avoid sexual risk, be there to help them deal with the fallout. Help them regain a footing on their values and re-set their sights on positive outcomes down the road.
Choices Pregnancy Center seeks to be a community resource for parents and organizations
looking for ways to influence teens in positive ways about their sexuality.
Stop by or call if we can be of help to you.
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