By Rachel Schindler
Schools, churches and community centers across the country will observe an Annual Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Wednesday. The yearly event began nine years ago to promote awareness and address ways to reduce teen pregnancy.
The United States has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the industrialized world. One of three women will become pregnant before the age of 20. The teen pregnancy rate was steadily decreasing until 2005-2006 when we saw the first increase in teen pregnancies since the early 90’s. Unplanned and unintended pregnancies are at the root of many key social challenges and public health issues.
For example, girls born to teenage mothers are more likely to be teen mothers themselves; more than half of all mothers on welfare had their first child as a teenager. Boys born to teen moms are twice as likely to end up in prison.
While teen pregnancy is often a topic in the media, a study by StayTeen.org found that nearly 50 percent of teens have never considered how a pregnancy would affect their lives.
Imagine if teens took the time to really consider how their sexual behaviors could affect them not only now but the impact their decisions have on their futures. Perhaps enabling teens to have open, real, honest conversations around sex, and other risky behaviors may be a good place to start.
It’s important for parents to talk with their teens about sex. Research shows that youngsters who have strong, healthy relationships with parents and peers are less likely to engage in risky behaviors.
In marriage education classes nationwide, couples learn skills for confiding in each other and as a family through exercises such as the PAIRS Daily Temperature Reading and Talking Tips.
Talking Tips can be especially useful to help teens and parents confide in each other. Learning to listen with empathy and genuine openness to learning about each other is important to making it safe for youngsters to share their feelings and experiences. The structure also helps relieve some of the stress and anxiety young people and adults may feel when contemplating important conversations.
Here are examples of Talking Tips between a parent and teen, teen and parent, and teen and peer. Before beginning, the Speaker and Listener should sit facing each other, fully present to one another without distractions. Some people hold hands during the exercise to reinforce connection and empathy. After the Speaker completes each sentence stem, the Listener repeats back what they heard (without responding, defending, explaining or adding anything) to show that they understand.
PAIRS Talking Tips Examples:
Parent – Teen
I notice you had your bedroom door closed when your boyfriend was here yesterday.
You noticed my bedroom door was closed while my boyfriend was here yesterday.
I assume this means you are becoming sexually active.
You think that means I’m becoming sexually active.
I think this is something we should be able to talk about openly.
You think we should talk openly about this.
I am frustrated that you think this type of behavior is ok in our house.
You’re frustrated that I think it’s okay to be with my boyfriend in my room with the door closed.
I am hurt by the fact that you didn’t feel it was important to speak with me about this type of decision first.
You’re hurt that I didn’t talk with you about this first.
I worry about you making decisions that could have lasting consequences.
You worry that I’m making decisions that could have lasting consequences.
I want you to speak to me about big decisions like this that affect your life, and know that I will always support you.
You want me to talk with you about major decisions that affect my life knowing that you’ll always support me.
I appreciate you for being such a loving daughter, having good friends who you care about, and being responsible with your school work.
You appreciate me for being a great daughter, responsible with my school work, and having good friends.
I realize speaking about sexual behaviors can sometimes be uncomfortable.
You realize talking together about sex can be uncomfortable for us.
I hope you continue to confide in me in the future.
You hope I’ll talk to you about these kinds of things in the future.
Teen – Parent
I notice you judge or criticize when I speak to you about personal issues.
You notice that I judge or criticize you when you speak to me about personal issues.
I assume this means you are not interested in how I feel.
You assume this means I am not interested in how you feel.
I think you are too critical of me.
You think I am too critical of you.
I am frustrated that you don’t give me a chance to speak openly.
You are frustrated that I don’t give you a chance to speak openly.
I am hurt by your judgments.
You are hurt by my judgments.
I worry about not being able to come to you if I need you.
You worry about not being able to come to me when you need me.
I want to be able to tell you how I feel without feeling judged.
You want to be able to tell me how you feel without being judged.
I appreciate you for always being there for me.
You appreciate me for always being there for you.
I realize you want the best for me.
You realize I want what is best for you.
I hope we can continue to speak openly.
You hope that we can continue to speak openly.
Teen – Teen
I notice you have been talking about sex a lot lately.
You notice I have been talking about sex a lot lately.
I assume this means you are considering having sex.
You assume this means that I am considering having sex.
I think this is an important decision.
You think this is an important decision.
I am frustrated that you haven’t spoken to me about this. I thought I was your best friend.
You are frustrated that I haven’t spoken to you about this because you thought you were my best friend.
I am hurt by you spending more time with your boyfriend than with me.
You are hurt by me spending more time with my boyfriend than with you.
I worry about you being influenced to engage in risky behaviors.
You worry about me being influenced to engage in risky behaviors.
I want you to think about your choices and how they will impact your life.
You want me to think about my choices and how they will impact my life.
I appreciate you for being my best friend.
You appreciate me for being your best friend.
I realize being a teenager in a serious relationship can be complicated.
You realize that being a teenager in a serious relationship can be complicated.
I hope you know that I am always here for you and that you really consider the consequences that come along with being sexually active.
You hope I know that you are always there for me and that I really consider the consequences that come along with being sexually active.
- National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy
- National Healthy Marriage Resource Center
- PAIRS Foundation
- Smart Marriages, Happy Families