Knowledge is Power: Talk with your kids about their bodies.

Robin Pittman MS, CHES Senior Health Educator

In 1990, there were an estimated one million pregnancies and 521,626 births to U.S. women aged 15-19 years.  Specifically in North Carolina, the teen birth rate was nearly 26 births per 1,000 teen girls. Since the 1990’s, teen pregnancy has declined 69%. Teen pregnancy is still a problem, but now it is the lowest it has been in the past few decades.

The Pew Research Center says the reasons for this decline are the poor economy, less teens having sex, better use of contraception and more information given to adolescents about how to prevent pregnancies.

Additionally, parents are talking more with their teens about this topic.  Knowledge is power to youth.  By educating children about these topics, teens can make educated and informed decisions, which can reduce sexual activity and pregnancy during the adolescent years.

Here are a few strategies to effectively talk with your child about sex and related issues.Parents talking with their teen son and daughter.

  • Give kids the facts. When teens have more information, they are more likely to make educated decisions about having sex.  As a parent, you should be your child’s go to person.
  • Answer their questions.  A one-time talk about the “birds and the bees” isn’t enough.  Parents need to have ongoing conversations with their children about their bodies and sex.  If your child asks you a related question, chances are he/she has already gathered information from somewhere else and likely needs correct or additional details.  By responding to questions, you ensure your child gets good information, and you reduce the risk of him/her seeking help from unreliable sources, such as friends.  Be ready for any question to come your way and take advantage of the teachable moment.  It is okay to say, “let me think about it and come back with an answer for you.”  Just keep the conversation going.
  • Set expectations and make your family values known. Explain your values and expectations to your children.  Make it clear that you expect them to live up to those expectations.  Be sure to set limits, including dating limits.  Decide in advance what age you would like for your child to be before he or she starts dating or even holding hands with significant others.  Make sure that everybody is on the same page.  Every family is different.  There are no set guidelines.  Communicate early and consistently.
  • Help kids to see the world beyond school and friends. Help your children to find his/her own passions and interests.  For example, music, art, sports, theater, or community service are great outlets for adolescents.  Help your children to think about their goals for the next five to ten years.  Giving children a sense of purpose increases their self-esteem which in turn increases chances of delaying sexual activity.
  • Find good resources. Books, such as “It’s So Amazing,” “The Ultimate Girls Body Book,” “The Ultimate Boys Body Book,” can help parents and their kids have open conversations and get good information about important adolescent issues.

The Poe Center is here to help.  Our Family Life programs address adolescent development and related issues for 4th-12th grades.  Additionally, we are offering our popular Girl Talk workshop for 4th-6th graders on September 10th from 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.  To register, email Robin Pittman.