Health Department

Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month: Talking to Teens

Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month: Talking to Teens

Health Article by Larry D. Jones, MPH, Health Director

May 7, 2013

Parents have a very important influence on their teenager’s choices. Although teen culture may often seem to be little more than an over-the-top sexual innuendo, parents need to know that when it comes to young people’s decisions about sex, their influence has not been lost to peers and popular culture. Parents are powerful and they can use this power in sound, helpful ways.

According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, parents who clearly communicate their values and expectations to their children along with expressing their concern or supervision over their child’s selection of friends and role models are more likely to avoid a host of risky behaviors than parents who do not. The overall strength and closeness of parent/child relationships seems to be the best protection of all.

The close parent-child relationships that help protect young people from early sex also help limit other risky behavior such as violence, substance and alcohol abuse, and school drop-out. Whether parents are concerned about drinking, drugs, violence, trouble in school, smoking or sex, the best advice is the same, stay closely connected to your teenage sons and daughters.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association states that teens who are close to their parents and feel supported by them are more likely to abstain from sex, wait until they are older to begin having sex, have fewer sexual partners, and use contraception more consistently.

So, what can parents do to help their children avoid teen pregnancy and parenthood? Here are a few practical, research-based tips for parents from the National Campaign for Teen Pregnancy Prevention.

· Be clear about your own sexual attitudes and values- Communicating with your children about sex, love, and relationships is often more successful when you are certain in your own mind about these issues.

· Be a parent with opinions- In addition to being an “ask-able parent,” be a parent with a point of view. Tell your children what you think.

· Supervise and monitor your children- Establish rules, curfews, and standards of expected behavior, preferably through open family discussions.

· Know your children’s friends and their families- Friends have a strong influence on each other. Meet with the parents of your children’s friends so you can get to know them and establish common rules and expectations.

· Help your teen-agers to have options for the future that are more attractive than early pregnancy and parenthood- The chances that your children will delay sex, pregnancy, and parenthood are significantly increased if their future appears bright. This means helping them set meaningful goals for the future, talking to them about what it takes to make future plans come true, and helping them reach their goals.

· Let your children know that you value education highly- Encourage your child to take school seriously and set high expectations about school performance.

· Talk to sons as well as daughters- The nearly 900,000 teen girls who get pregnant each year don’t do it alone. Boys need to know that teen pregnancy has serious consequences for them, too.

· Know what your kids are watching, reading, and listening to- Television, radio, movies, music videos, magazines, and the Internet send many messages about sex: Sex often has no meaning, unplanned pregnancy seldom happens, and few people in the media having sex ever seem to be married or even committed to each other.

Parenting is one of life’s most rewarding and challenging responsibilities. Helping young people navigate the passage to adulthood and avoid such problems as pregnancy, violence, drugs, alcohol, smoking, and school drop-out, can be daunting. Parents should recognize that a close loving, relationship with their children can be the best protection of all. It’s never too early to start or never too late to improve a relationship with a child or teenager.

For more information on Teen Pregnancy and Prevention, please contact the Maternal Child Health Division of the Independence Health Department at (816) 325-7185.

Information provided by:

National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy: Parent Power

Sustaining and broadening intervention effects: Social norms, core values, and parents. In D. Romer (Ed.), Reducing adolescent risk: Toward an integrated approach (pp. 193-200). Thousand Oaks, CA. Sage Publications, Inc.

Protecting adolescents from harm: Findings from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health. Journal of the American Medical Association, 278(10), 823-832.