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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 issue."

 

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 teens."

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 sex."

 

Teens, Reid says, need to feel they can talk to their parents about sex.

 

"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."

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