Parent Talk

Five Things Every Parent Should Know | The Facts | Talking With Your Teen | The Teen Brain | Five Things Every Parent Should Know

Newly released report shows parents want...

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report September 2010 from a pivotal abstinence study with results which indicate the importance of abstinence only instruction according to parents and teens.

The abstinence study's executive summary indicated that:

  • 70 percent of parents agreed with the statement: "It is against your values for your adolescents to have sexual intercourse before marriage."
  • 70 percent of parents agreed with the statement: "Having sexual intercourse is something only married people should do."
  • Adolescents had similar responses for the two questions.

Crossroads is pleased to be able to offer abstinence only curriculum for instruction in area schools. (see abstinence education)

The Facts

"About 1/3 of all 9th graders in the US have had sexual intercourse." CDC, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance-US 2007 "

By the age of 15, 13% of all teenagers in the US are sexually active. By age 19, seven in ten will have engaged in sexual intercourse." Human Life Alliance, February 4, 2010 "

Many 16 - 18 year olds say they had sexual intercourse in their family home or their partner's family home for the first time." Where and When Teens First Have Sex, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2003 "

Relationships with an older partner (two plus years) are much more likely to include sexual intercourse." 14 and Younger: The Sexual Behavior of Young Adolescents, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, May 2003 "

When parents make consistent efforts to know where their teens are and who their friends are, young people report less sexual activity." Blum, R.W. & Rinehart, P.M. (1998). Reducing the Risk: Connections that make a difference in the lives of youth. Center for Adolescent Health and Development, University of Minnesota. Minneapolis, MN.

Teens say parents most influence their decisions about sex and relationships.

Talking With Your Teen

A study involved a subset of 141 parents who were part of a larger study that focused on parent-teen communication about sex. These parents had a total of 155 teens aged 13 - 17 years. Parents and teens filled out a baseline survey and then followed up about 3,6, and 12 months after the initial survey. In each survey, parents were asked what sexual health topics they had discussed with their teen since the last survey. Teens also were asked about any sexual activity in which they had engaged with a partner, such as kissing, genital and breast touching, oral sex and intercourse.

Some of the study's important findings include:

  • By the time teens were engaging in genital touching with a partner, parents had talked to their teens about how to refuse unwanted sexual advances in only 17% of girls and 6% of boys.
  • On average, parents were discussing the importance of not pressuring other people to have sex about the time that the teens and their partners were already involved in genital touching.
  • Parents had talked about the reasons for not having sex and consequences of pregnancy in less than 30% of girls, and even fewer boys, before their teens had engaged in genital touching with a partner.
  • Parents had not yet discussed refusal skills and the importance of not pressuring a partner into sex in about 25% of girls and 40% of boys by the time that they had engaged in sexual intercourse.

This research emphasizes that parents often wait too long to discuss sexual health topics with their children. By the time many parents in this study discussed topics such as saying no to sex and avoiding STDs and pregnancy, their teens had already engaged in sexual activity. And these parents may have been more involved in talking with their children about sex than many other parents since these parents had volunteered to be in a study about parent-child sexual health communication.

We recommend that parents start talking to their kids early in life about the importance of healthy decisions and good relationships. Puberty provides a natural introduction to more specific topics of sexual health and sexual decision making. By beginning these discussions early in your child's life and maintaining open lines of communication, parents can become the primary source of information about sex for their children. They can also reap the benefits of having a formative influence on the physical and emotional health of their children as they progress through their adolescent years.

Beckett MK, Elliott MN, Martino S, et al. Timing of parent and child communication about sexuality relative to children's sexual behaviors, Pediatrics 2010;125(1):33-41

The Teen Brain

The teen brain is not an adult brain. It is under construction. There are 3 main areas of the brain that are struggling to grow, interact, connect and develop during the teen years.

These 3 areas of the brain compose the pre-frontal lobes. The pre-frontal lobes regulate logic, common sense, judgment, reality, and problem solving. All of these skills are part of the journey that will continue until the mid twenties when hopefully the brain becomes fully developed as an "adult brain."

Tips for Parents:

  • Your teen may look like an adult, but does NOT have an adult brain.
  • Teens are struggling to develop mature problem solving skills and will make bad decisions. Allow them to face the logical consequences whenever possible.
  • Teens will listen to what you have to say if you have a relationship and clearly communicate with them. Yelling and lecturing will not work. Find a time or activity that works best for the two of you to communication.
  • You have more influence than you think. Parents, mentors, and others who teens feel emotionally connected to can become the "voice of reason" that a teen will hear in his/her head.
  • Teens who have several significant adults of the same gender that they feel "close to" have better adjustment.
  • Due to hormones surges expect lots of emotional mood swings and struggles with sorting reality from fiction.
  • Teens fluctuate from acting like 22 year olds to 2 year olds all within 3 minutes time; be prepared for either the 2 or 22 year old to appear.
  • During the teen years music creates lifelong patterns in our brain. These patterns shape our views about life, making the message of the music critically important. Indeed, the music of our teen years often becomes the music of our lifetime.
  • Food and emotions stimulate fast growing regions of the brain. Emotional outbursts and binge eating often accompany hormone surges and spikes in brain growth & development.
  • Teens are on a journey; they need lots of physical contact, love and nurturing. Many experts believe that this is a second chance for the brain to wire areas that were missed at 1,2,3,4, and 5. Thus, a 12 year old and a 2 year old act a lot alike.

Talk Early, Talk Often Presentation 2010: Researched & compiled by Ken Horn,

Five Things Every Parent Should Know

You're more influential than you think. Teens continue to say that parents most influence their decisions about sex. Not the media. Not their friends. Not their boy/girl friend. Parents, however, mistakenly believe that peers and popular culture matter more. As teens frequently say, "we really care what you think even if we don't always act like it."

Forget "the talk". Start talking with your kids about sex, love, and relationships when they're young and keep the conversation going as your kids get older. Realize also that simply talking with your teens about the risks of early sex without being more deeply involved in their lives and close to them is unlikely to decrease the risk of teen pregnancy.

Teens need you just as much as toddlers. Teens are not independent operators. New research on adolescent development makes clear that teens need guidance, supervision, and love just as much as toddlers do. Don't underestimate the great need that children of all ages feel for their parents' guidance, approval and support.

Your teens are watching. Behave honorably in your own adult relationships. Children and teenagers observe what you do very carefully. Actions speak louder than words.

Relationships matter. Teens who are close to their parents and feel supported by them are more likely to wait until they are older to begin having sex, and will often behave according to the teaching they've received in the home as to waiting for marriage.

back to top

You have Choices

Crossroads Care Center
Parent Talk