Parents, we've got a problem! It's time we opened our eyes to the harsh reality of the sexual activity that some of our teens are engaging in. We need to: 1) know the facts, 2) talk to our teens, and 3) know where to find resources to help us and our teens.
Know the Facts:
Did you know that approximately one half of all teens surveyed by the Center for Disease Control have already had sex and more than one third have been sexually active in the past 3 months? Furthermore, less than two thirds of those teens used a condom and only twenty percent used birth control pills the last time that they had sex.
Shockingly, every eight seconds a teen will become infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or sexually transmitted infection (STI). By the end of the day, about 10,000 teens will be infected with a STD or STI. Let's break that down, that's one in every four sexually active teens.
Here's the sad news, about 6 in 10 teens who admitted to having sex wished that they would have waited. Three in ten girls will become pregnant at least once before the age of 20. About half of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned. As you can see from the facts, we need to be more proactive in teaching our teens about the consequences of having sex.
So, what can you do? One of the most important things you can do is have "The Talk". Here are some tips to help you communicate with your teen:
1. Have "The Talk" early. Let your teen know where you stand on the issue of sex. See the quiz below to assess your teen's readiness for "The Talk."
2. Encourage your teen to be open and honest with you and follow his/her lead. Don't interrupt or judge. Teens will tune you out if they don't feel that you're paying attention to what they're saying.
3. You are the most influential person in your teen's decision to have sex. Reports show that teens perceive their parents as the primary source of information regarding sex. Your opinion is important to your teen though he/she may never admit it to your face.
4. Give the "The Talk" to boys and girls. There's a myth out there that we really need to talk to our girls about sex. The truth is sex is a two way street and both boys and girls need to know the consequences.
5. Share the facts with your teen. When you present facts it takes "The Talk" from lecturing to information sharing. Stay Teen is a great website for just for teens. It's jammed packed with great information: http://www.stayteen.org/default.aspx
6. Keep "The Talk" light by using humor. If this conversation isn't easy for you just imagine being a teen sitting next to your parent having "The Talk" - One word "Mortifying!" So use a little humor to work through awkward moments in the conversation. You can say something like, "Well, I guess you'd never thought you'd be having this little conversation today did you?" or "I just wanted to surprise you with this conversation about SEX. Yes, I said the word - and no matter how weird this is, I love you and we've got some serious talking to do."
7. Be open and honest but most importantly let your teen know that you're having this conversation because you love him/her. You wouldn't let your child run their bicycle out into a busy intersection so why would you send them out into the world without addressing sex?
Don't let your teen become a statistic.
Quiz - Is Your Teen Ready to Talk About Sex?
FamilyEducation - Great Tips for Parents on Raising Teens
Parent Support Directory by State
The National Campaign Brochure to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy
1. Center for Disease Control. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance - United States, 2009. MMWR June 4, 2010; 59 (No. SS-5): 1-142. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss5905.pdf
2. The National Campaign; http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/default.aspx
3. Campaign For Our Children; http://www.cfoc.org/