I bet you didn’t know that was a thing! I will admit, it isn’t as cool as National French Fries day (which is on July 13th if you need to mark your calendar) but I would argue that for a whole lot of reasons that teen pregnancy prevention is way more important.
As some of you know, I spoke that the Texas Symposium for Teen Pregnancy in March and I had a great time. I learned and listened and felt grateful! I am so impressed with the people I met there. It was so cool to be surrounded by sex educators and researchers who to want to empower teens and their families to live the lives they most want.
It was also a really interesting reminder that living in Austin, I have access to different resources that so many of the more rural Texas communities.
So how do we prevent teen pregnancy?
For starters, education.
And to me this can start in small ways even when kids are toddlers by giving them the proper names for the genitals, they are shameful or dirty, they are body parts! I also keep around books that have illustrations and information about the body. Encourage your kids to ask you! You don’t have to know everything but you can become a resource to them.
Talk about your values and expectations!!
Talk about them and start early. At the conference I learned that statistically speaking maternal values are more predictive of behavior than paternal values. (When I asked why that would be, the researcher presenting said she wasn’t sure.) That doesn’t mean that fathers shouldn’t speak up, it does but it does mean that kids are looking to their parents for guidance on this issue.
Prepare them for their peers!
Remind them that everyone develops on the inside and the outside at a different pace. What their friends may feel ready for may not be right for them and they don’t have to do anything they don’t want to do.
In Texas schools, they only teach abstinence. Texas pretty consistently ranks highly in states with teen pregnancy. The conventional wisdom is that it is because we only teach abstinence in schools. That is probably a big factor but I have to wonder if shame isn’t a factor as well. In the south, particularly in more rural areas, you just don’t talk about those things. Sex is implied but rarely if ever discussed.
I know that this can be an uncomfortable conversation to have with your kids. But keep in mind, if you don’t, who will? Your kids want to please you and live up to your expectations but you have to tell them what they are in order for them to be successful.