Short stuff: Health roundupAfter steadily declining for 14 years, the teen pregnancy rate is slowly rising once again—up 5 percent from 2005 to 2007. While that news isn’t good, health advocates hope the silver lining will be renewed efforts by parents to use one of the most powerful tools to prevent teen pregnancy: themselves.
"What we have found in two decades of research is that parents are far more influential than they believe," says Bill Albert, the chief program officer for The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Just as children need guidance about their educational or nutritional choices, he says, they also need parental direction about sexuality. Parents are uniquely positioned to go beyond the basic biological facts and place sex in the context of their values and expectations. But, Albert warns, such conversations must occur often and should begin sooner than most parents are comfortable with.
"In this Twitter/Facebook age, parents have a whole lot of competition out there," Albert says. Children as young as 7 may be learning words and concepts long before parents realize.
Albert shares these tips:
• From the time children enter school, initiate discussions about the correct names for body parts and how boy and girl bodies are different. Ask them to describe their idea of what loving, respectful relationships look like and emphasize the importance of maintaining a healthy body.
• Use your surroundings to prompt discussions, such as television shows or music lyrics. Ask your child, "What do you think about what that character did? What would you do in that situation?"
• Establish some ground rules early—before children reach puberty—and talk about why these rules reinforce your values and keep them safe.
• If your child asks about your sexual history, there’s no need to answer in depth. Parents can say, "Upon further reflection, I wish I had done things differently."
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