Friday, January 23, 2009

Sue Scheff - Teen Birth Rates Up?

Teen birth rates up? Parents need to take steps to learn why - what can they do to help their young teens understand having a child is not easy. Before you are faced with this difficult and sensitive situations, continue opening communication about sex as well as contraceptives. Years ago a young teen getting pregnant seemed like the worst possible situation - now having unprotected sex can not only lead to pregnancy and big decisions for young teens, but deadly diseases. Take time to learn more.

“It does give them another way to look at themselves, and to look at their bodies as a powerful force and not just sort of ornamental.”
– Laura Mee, Ph.D., Child Psychologist.

One girl gives birth to a baby. Another plays basketball with her brother. What’s the connection?

Studies show girls who play sports are less likely to have sex and less likely to get pregnant. One reason may be these athletes gain confidence and respect for their bodies.

“It does give them another way to look at themselves, and to look at their bodies as a powerful force and not just sort of ornamental,” explains child psychologist, Dr. Laura Mee.

Experts say experiencing pressure on the court gives them the strength to resist pressure from a boyfriend. And, in their free time, it gives them something else to focus on besides how they look, “Their hair, their clothes, their, like reputation… mostly all they want to do is impress the boys,” says 12-year-old Claire.

What’s more, studies have found that athletic girls have higher self-esteem, better grades and less stress.

So, experts say, encourage your daughters to get involved in sports and then cheer them on. “Make it as important that your daughters have sporting events as you would for your son that you treat them as equally as you possibly can, that you support and encourage and that the other children, whether they are male or female, support and encourage each other in their sports activities,” says Mee.

Tips for Parents

Sex is something parents should constantly discuss with their teens, but you should really give your teens “the talk” before summer and Christmas vacation. According to one study, teens are much more likely to lose their virginity during the months of June and December than any other time of the year. Almost 19,000 adolescents in grades seven through twelve participated in the survey, which identified the month they had sexual intercourse for the first time. The survey also asked if the act was with a romantic partner or was more “casual.”

The findings, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, show June as the most popular month, followed closely by December. Summer and Christmas vacations are believed to be the cause with school out and teens with time on their hands. More events are also planned in June, including high school proms, graduations and summertime parties. The “holiday season effect” makes December the second highest month for teen sex. Experts explained that during the holidays, young females in relationships are more likely to have sex. The holidays usually bring people together and make them closer. The same is true with teenagers.

All studies indicate messages from parents regarding sex are extremely important to teens (Washington State Department of Health). In fact, teens state parents as their number one resource for information on the topic. This talk may be uncomfortable for many parents, so the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) has provided the following tips for parents:

Practice. It may take practice to feel comfortable talking about sex with your kids. Rehearsing with a friend or partner can help. Be honest. Admit to your child if talking about sex is not easy for you. You might say, “I wish I’d talked with you about sex when you were younger, but I found it difficult and kept putting it off. My parents never talked to me about it, and I wish they had.”

Pay attention. Often parents do not talk to their teens about sex because they did not notice they wanted or needed information. Not all teens ask direct questions. Teenagers are often unwilling to admit they do not know everything. Notice what is going on with your child and use that as a basis for starting a conversation about sexual topics.

Look for chances to discuss the sexual roles and attitudes of men and women with your child. Use television show, ads and articles as a start.

Listen. When you give your full attention, you show that you respect your child’s thoughts and feelings. Listening also gives you a chance to correct wrong information they may have gotten from friends. As you listen, be sensitive to unasked questions. “My friend Mary is going out on a real date,” could lead to a discussion of how to handle feelings about touching and kissing.
Parents can also share their feelings on the topic through words and actions. The best way is to talk to teens. Even though it may seem like they are not listening – they are. To have a healthy and effective discussion on sex, the Advocates for Youth Campaign encourages parents to:
Educate yourself and talk with your children about issues of sexuality. Do not forget about discussing the importance of relationships, love, and commitment.

Discuss explicitly with preadolescents and teens the value of delaying sexual initiation and the importance of love and intimacy as well as of safer sex and protecting their health.

Encourage strong decision-making skills by providing youth with age-appropriate opportunities to make decisions and to experience the consequences of those decisions. Allow young people to make mistakes and encourage them to learn from them.

Encourage teens to create a resource list of organizations to which they can turn for assistance with sexual health, and other, issues. Work together to find books and Web sites that offer accurate information.

Actively support comprehensive sexuality education in the schools. Find out what is being taught about sexuality, who is teaching it, and what your teens think about it.
Actively voice your concerns if the sexuality education being taught in local public schools is biased, discriminatory, or inaccurate, has religious content, or promotes a particular creed or denomination.

Demonstrate unconditional love and respect for your children.

Advocates for Youth Campaign
Journal of Marriage and Family
National Parent Teacher Association
Washington State Department of Health