I am the result of a teen pregnancy.

My mother faced this challenge at a time when it was expected that the couple get married and raise the child together. She did that. The marriage didn’t last.

She was very open with me about her pregnancy and encouraged me to have safe sex and use birth control methods not available to her to prevent me from repeating the cycle. I listened!

In turn, I was always very open with my children (both born after I was married and in my late 20’s) about sexual health. I was the only mom at my son’s elementary school when they had the “boys only” talk (“How embarrassing mom!” including the biggest eye roll ever). It was a great conversation starter. I didn’t attend my daughter’s “girls only” talk because we had already had it at home. I hope they appreciated hearing information on how their body was changing from someone they trusted. Overall, it was a smooth transition into the teen years.

I also witnessed the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s.

Parents like to think our kids aren’t sexually active, but realistically we MUST know that they are. It’s important not only to talk to your sons and daughters about safe sex but to be specific about the possibility of pregnancy and STD’s. And how it will change their lives and their futures, not just for a few days or months but many years to come. Again, be specific. Talk to your kids about their goals and your goals for them. Explain how those goals get hijacked by pregnancy and STD’s. There are long-term consequences of both.

I always told my son to remember his “rain coat” (code word for condoms!) when he was going out with friends. It became an inside joke not just between the two of us but with his friends as well. I used the same code word with my daughter. Even after she began birth control, I encouraged her to take her “rain coat” as well to protect from STD’s. I encouraged both of them to provide condoms to their friends who needed them. I told both of them that I’d be glad to buy some for them when they (or their friends!) needed them.

As parents, we work to provide everything our children need. Providing information on their bodies and their feelings should be no less important than providing them a roof over their heads and food on the table.

Expecting abstinence is not the answer.


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