Today is The National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Why does teen pregnancy need its own day? Because in the United States, nearly 1 out of 3 girls will get pregnant before she turns 20. No, that is not a typo. 1 out of 3! Your daughter has two best friends? Well guess what…you get the idea. Part of the reason this is so disturbing is because the United States has a higher teen pregnancy rate than any other country in the industrialized world. And this year, for the first time since 1991, that rate is on the rise. Now, more than ever, parents need to be talking with their kids about sex. (And notice I said kids, not daughters—boys need to be taught sexual responsibility just as much as girls do.)
You may think it’s your children’s friends or pop culture that has all the influence in the sex department, but it’s not. You do. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy 87% of teens say that it would be easier for them to postpone sex and avoid pregnancy if they were able to have more open and honest conversations with their parents.
You may worry that talking with your kids about sex or contraception will encourage them to do it. As a result, you might think it’s easier to resort to messages like “you can’t have sex.” But I can tell you right now, that message rarely, if ever, stops teens doing it. And when they do do it, it leaves them completely unprepared.
Here’s how YOU should do it: tell your kids very clearly the situations when you think sex is appropriate, whether that’s marriage, when they’ve reached a certain maturity level, or when they’re in a certain type of relationship (and if you’re not exactly sure, I have an entire chapter dedicated to helping you think about it). Then, after you’ve made very clear the choices you want them to make about when to have sex, teach them about contraception and protection.
Teaching your kids about your sexual values AND contraception is not giving them mixed messages; it’s showing them that you value their health and safety above everything else. Just like telling them to wear a seatbelt isn’t the same thing as encouraging them to drive recklessly, teaching them about contraception isn’t the same as telling them to sleep with whoever, whenever. I can honestly tell you, in the thousands of teens I’ve spoken with about sex, not one has said they lost their virginity just because they had access to contraception. Though on the flip side,not having access to contraception didn’t stop too many of them.
Here’s the bottom line, not only will almost 1 in 3 girls get pregnant before she turns 20, HALF of all young adults will contract an STD by the time they turn 25. With numbers like those, you can’t leave conversations about condoms and contraception out of your sex talk. At the end of the day, you can’t always control what your kids will do. The better you arm them with the knowledge of how to keep themselves safe, the more likely it will be that whenever they do have sex, it will not result in an unwanted pregnancy or an STD.
For more information check out my book, Talking Sex With Your Kids.