By Sue Hubbard, M.D.
May was National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. Although I think this should be a topic of attention year round, it's good to be reminded about the importance of educating our children about their sexuality.
The good news is, the teenage pregnancy rate is dropping. The bad news is, an estimated 750,000 teens in the United States become pregnant each year, and 400,000 give birth. That means 70 young women out of every 1,000 become pregnant. To continue to reduce these statistics requires improved education and continued dialogue about the risks of teen pregnancy.
Although some teens think becoming pregnant is a way to escape their own situation, the reality is that teens who become pregnant are less likely to finish high school or enter college, and are more likely to experience poverty. Being a parent is a hard job for anyone, but trying to be a teen parent is especially tough, even with a good support system. The effects of teen pregnancy are far reaching for all of society.
Studies show that teenagers who receive comprehensive sex education are 50 percent less likely to experience teen pregnancy than those taught abstinence only. Other studies have recently shown that the decline in teen pregnancy rates are due to increased use of contraception. However, 39 percent of sexually active teens studied did not use condoms when they last had sex, and only 23 percent of teens reported that they or their partner used hormonal birth control.
Parental involvement in sex education should take place in every home, beginning with that "birds and bees" talk.
The conversation needs to continue during the tween years, and should be not only about development and physiology, but also about family values and stressing to your child that they can talk to you about anything. Let young people know that although they may feel embarrassed about "this sex stuff," it's part of growing up and you are there for any and all questions.
Lastly, by the time you have teens in the house, you realize that their hormones are raging and with those hormonal changes come sexual feelings. This is time to reiterate your family values and expectations, while at the same time keeping the conversation open. Knowing that over 50 percent of high school seniors admit to having sex, it's crucial that parents have calm and rationale discussions about the importance of safe sex.
Of course, just because you talk about safe sex doesn't mean you condone it, but to ignore the subject may only mean that your child fails to get the correct information or ends up as a statistic due to lack of education. No parent wants that for their child.
Dr. Sue Hubbard is a nationally known pediatrician and co-host of "The Kid's Doctor" radio show. Submit questions at www.kidsdr.com
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This was printed in the June 16, 2013 - June 29, 2013 Edition