Adults have a tendency to come up with solutions on their own for the issue of teenagers’ bad decision-making. So I decided to survey teens to see what they believe the solutions are. Below are some of the most common responses I received when I specifically asked students what they thought it would take to decrease the number of teenagers having sex:
1. Higher expectations from parents and adults!
I believe that if teens knew that their parents believed in them, parents would not be disappointed. ~High School Student
I have reconnected with many former students who told me the reason they had not had sex was because they didn’t want to disappoint me (not their parents, but me). For many of them, their parents expect them to be sexually active as a teen. I am saddened when I hear them say I have higher expectations of them than their own parents have.
My parents, and family in general, seem to disagree with the opinion that children should remain abstinent in high school, but I have to thank you for reinforcing that thought in my head. ~High School Student
It is great to know that even when parents don’t expect their children to make good choices other positive adults can step in and often influence their children to make good choices by raising the bar. If you are not physically able to mentor a young person who may not be getting the best guidance at home, consider financially supporting an organization that can.
2. More education for teens!
Talks like these do make a big difference and impact how teens live their lives. This presentation should be available to ALL teens. ~High School Student
Though information alone doesn’t change behavior, students cannot make informed decisions without it. This student says it best:
The information you provided was extremely helpful and enlightening. As I talked to others you have talked with, they all said you were going to scare us out of having sex. After hearing what you’ve said I realize it’s not some sort of scared straight program at all. It’s providing the knowledge to make better choices because choices made from ignorance never end well. ~High School Student
Knowledge is power!
3. Education for parents on how to talk to their teens about sex!
I really wish some parents had gone to your parenting workshop; I think that would have helped a lot. ~High School Student
One of the first questions I ask students in class is, “How many of you have had a conversation with your parents about sex?” Rarely will more than 50% of the class raise their hands. When I ask the ones who have had the discussion with their parents how the discussion went, most of them say, “It was really awkward!”
Believe it or not, teens really don’t mind having conversations with their parents about relationships, dating and sex as long as it is not an awkward experience. And there are ways for parents to have that discussion without it being so awkward. Below are a couple of things to consider:
A close relationship should come first.
The most important thing that parents should focus on is building close emotional bonds with their children. Many studies have shown that strong emotional connections with parents provide a protective factor against many at-risk behaviors. I love when I hear a student in the classroom tell me they can talk to their parents about anything because they have such a close relationship. Note: Having a close bond or connection is not the same as trying to be your child’s friend.
Don’t wait until they are teenagers and don’t make it a big production.
The students who are the most positive about their discussions with their parents are the ones who say their parents did not wait to have “The Talk.” Their parents have been having age appropriate discussions about relationships, values and boundaries with them for a very long time.
If you do a good job with the following, your child will have a better chance of not being sexually active:
- Sharing your values and influencing your child’s values
- Helping your child understand the importance of establishing boundaries
- Discussing the foundations for healthy relationships
Just remember: parents who start having conversations early, have high expectations AND have emotional bonds with their children can be the dominant influence in their children’s lives. It is possible to drown out all other voices that your children hear.
If you have found effective ways to have this discussion with your children, please share below so we can learn from each other.
The month of May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. During May 2013, I published a blog series titled, “Teens Tell All: Top 10 Reasons why Teens DO and DON’T Have Sex.” If you did not read the posts or watch the videos, you can find them by clicking on the links below.
Why High School Girls Have Sex: