In a sixth grade class today, we were playing a game to review some of the topics covered through the In Control program, and one of the students was asked to name a negative influence in the modern media. Without skipping a beat, she replied, "Brittany Spears' sister." With the news plastered across our television sets and Internet news services, we cannot escape the latest celebrity non-marital pregnancy.
Since Jamie Lynn Spears is only 16 years old and has been considered a role model for children, many parents are wondering what good can come out of this situation. On Channel 12 this afternoon, we will be sharing some suggestions, but here are ten ways to take advantage of an opportunity to discuss sexuality with your children:
1) Parents have the most influence on their children's decisions regarding sexuality. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that 91% of 15-17 year olds who had not had sex said they were influenced by what their parents had taught them regarding sex. In another study, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy reported that 88% of teens say it would be easier to postpone sexual activity and avoid teen pregnancy if they were able to have more open, honest conversations with their parents.
2) Children deserve to be held to a high standard. Often, adults argue that kids are going to have sex anyway, so why not give them condoms now to avoid pregnancy later. In actuality, our children deserve the freedom that comes from saving sexual activity until marriage. Encouraging them to wait, but giving them a condom or birth control pills "just in case" sends a mixed message. We cannot imagine telling kids, "Don't drink and drive ... but if you do drive really slowly." Or saying, "Don't do drugs ... but if you do, don't share needles." In a similar way, advocating forms of birth control don't truly "protect" children, they only decrease their risk of pregnancy or STDs (for condoms). Don't kids deserve better than just a decreased risk?
3) Young adults don't want to be lectured. They want open, honest communication, which includes parental listening. Asking your children questions and engaging in conversation or discussion can be much more effective than a 30 minute monologue.
4) Provide guidelines for your children. Saying no can be very loving. Assist your children in learning how to make good decisions by monitoring their media input, setting dating boundaries and getting to know their friends. Though they may roll their eyes and groan now, they will thank you later.
5) Educate yourself. It is very important for parents to become aware of the media and culture that surround their children. As you learn more about what your children are involved in and what trends are blossoming, you will be better able to answer your children's questions and to counter negative influences they may be dealing with.
6) Let your children know you are always there for them. Make sure that your children know you love them and want them to be comfortable asking you questions. This does not mean watering down the truth in order to make them think you are kinder. In reality, kids will respect you more (and feel more respected) if you hold them to a high standard and speak the truth in love.
7) Use teachable moments. The media offer countless opportunities to discuss sexuality with your children. While incidents like Jamie Lynn Spears' pre-marital pregnancy are not ideal situations, they do offer an excuse to bring the topic of sexuality to the forefront. This is also an opportunity to remind your children that what they see or hear in the media does not always reflect reality. The lives of celebrities are often very different from those of the average teenager.
8) Let your children know that they are not alone. Of junior high students who had Pregnancy Center East's In Control program last year, 77% said they were committed to chastity, 20% were considering a commitment and 3% said they were not interested in chastity. National studies have shown that the majority of high school students are saving sex for marriage and have high opinions of those who are waiting.
9) Teach your children the goodness of sex. If sex was unimportant, then it wouldn't matter when we have it. Because sex is so special, it is meant to be protected within the boundary of marriage. If we were given an heirloom china tea cup from Grandma, would we toss it in the backpack and bring it everywhere or would we put in on a high shelf, wrap it in tissue paper and treat it as the special gift that it is?
10) Pray for your children. No one said it is easy to practice chastity in society, but your children are worth the benefits of this lifestyle and are completely capable of it. Praying for them to have the strength to say no and to realize their inherent dignity is of inestimable value.
What suggestions would you add?