Where Do Kids Learn About Sex?
Birds, Bees, and Teens
Abstinence vs. Contraception continued...
"Only a handful of conservative politicians are pushing the
more stringent abstinence education, but they are very powerful," Dailard
says. "And parents and teachers aren't willing to be real vocal about this
Sanden calls the debate over abstinence vs. contraceptive use
counterproductive and irrelevant, and high school junior Reid agrees.
"The fact is, teens need to choose either abstinence or
contraception, and many aren't motivated to make that choice." Sanden says.
"Kids who don't think about this ahead of time are the ones who have a huge
risk of getting pregnant."
"I think you can get into a war of words with the
abstinence vs. contraception debate, and you probably won't go anywhere with
that," Reid adds. "Abstinence is the best and most desired method of
preventing pregnancy, but it is also not very realistic for many
Opening the Dialogue
So how do parents approach discussions of sex with their
children? First, don't hesitate to express your own opinions about what is
appropriate behavior, according to recommendations from the NCPTP. Make sure
the discussions are age-appropriate, but be prepared to get specific with older
children and teens.
Monitoring the magazines they read and the television they
watch may be a good way of easing into discussions of sex, Sanders says. She
admits that it takes some courage to watch teen-oriented nighttime soap operas
like "Dawson's Creek" and "7th Heaven" with your kids. A story
line on "Dawson's Creek" this season, for example, had main characters
Joey and Pacey having sex, and Joey fearing that she might be pregnant.
"You may be cringing the whole time you are sitting there
watching, but later on it is going to pay off," she says. "Instead of
throwing up your hands and ranting about how the media is such a terrible
influence, you could use the situation to talk about the consequences of
Teens, Reid says, need to feel they can talk to their parents
"I think parents are pretty uncomfortable talking about
sex, but it is important and they need to address it," he says. "Kids
do respect their parents' opinions, but the parents don't really know that.
They don't think they have an influence, but they actually do."