Roughly one in four teen girls become pregnant at least once by age 20 and fully half of all pregnancies in the United States are reported by women themselves as unplanned. Not too good.

By posting some intemperate thoughts about sex, love, relationships, pregnancy, childbearing, the media, public policy, our dogs, and other topics, we hope to spark a two-way discussion about how best to bring down the high rates of teen and unplanned pregnancy in this country. And who knows…from time to time, we might even offer up a few cogent thoughts that will be helpful.

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Contraception, Parents, Popular Culture, Relationships, Teens
September 30, 2014

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...it's October and that means it's Let's Talk Month.

At the Campaign, we spend a lot of time encouraging parents to have open, honest conversations with their kids. In fact, a favorite phrase around here is "it's an 18 year conversation" by which we mean that it's never too early to begin communicating with your children in age-appropriate ways about sex, love, and relationships. But those three topics are some of the hardest for parents to broach with their children. In fact, regarding sex, most parents admit that they don't know what to say or how to say it and so many of them simply let Dr. Google do their teaching for them. 

But believe it or not, despite the glazed looks in their eyes and the horrified expressions on their faces, teens consistently say that parents--not peers, not partners, and not pop culture--MOST influence their decisions about sex.  In fact, teens say it would be much easier for them to avoid pregnancy if they were able to talk more openly with their parents about these topics.

So parents, we want to challenge you to bite the bullet and open the lines of communication between yourself and your children by participating in Let's Talk Month. Created and coordinated by the good people at Advocates for Youth, Let's Talk Month--which takes place each October--is dedicated to encouraging parent/child communication about sex, pregnancy, and related issues. 

So how to get started? Well, here are a few modest thoughts...

Timing is everything. Don't wait until you're pulling up to the school drop off zone to drop a bombshell on your teen...there's probably nothing they want to hear less than "Have a great day at school, sweetie.  By the way, are you having sex?" Instead, find a time that is quiet, low stress, and private to chat with them. 

Listen more than you talk. Truly, "talking" is job number 2 for parents. Job number 1 is all about listening...listen to what your children are telling you and respond in ways that will reach them where they are. 

Be honest. Children have excellent BS-meters and they will know when you're not being truthful with them. It is your job as a parent to tell your children your beliefs on sex and dating and to then live those beliefs in your everyday life.  

Don't freak out. Recognize that your child asking you a question about sex doesn't necessarily mean that she is having sex. Children have a lot of questions about sex, love, and relationships and if they trust you enough to come to you with those questions, you should respect them enough to answer them in a truthful, level-headed manner.

Respect your child. They may always be your little baby, but your sons and daughters have real feelings and can experience love, pain, heartbreak, and more--just like adults do. One of the most consistent complaints we hear from teens is that their parents don't take them seriously. So if your child comes to you about their relationship, resist the temptation to brush it off as puppy love or to treat them as if they are too young to understand real feelings.

Use the world around you to start the conversation. Are you watching a television show with your child that features a storyline about unplanned pregnancy? What about a movie that shows people who are sexually active but doesn't ever refer to birth control? These are excellent opportunities to start a conversation in a low pressure way...simply saying "I can't imagine how hard it is to have a baby at 14...have you ever imagined what your life would be like if you got pregnant/got someone pregnant?" or "Does that couple's relationship seem realistic to you? They fight all the time but they still stay together...that doesn't seem healthy to me. What do you think?"

    For more information on talking to your children about sex, love, and relationships, check out these resources from The National Campaign and visit our Parent's Portal for even more tips, facts, and information.

    The When, The How, and the Why: Talking to Your Teens About Sex, Love, and Relationships [VIDEO]
    This video features nine teens who tell parents in their own words when to start conversations about sex, how to start them, and what to say. Parents take note: teens want to hear from you about more than just body parts and biology. They want to know that you are there to love and support them and having a conversation about sex is just one more way to provide them with this love and support.

    More than Just the Talk: Talking to Your Teens About Sex, Love, and Relationships [VIDEO]
    This video features nine teens who offer a few words of advice to parents about talking to your teens about sex. It really is more than just "the talk."

    10 Tips for Parents to Help their Children Avoid Teen Pregnancy [PDF]
    We hope that these tips can increase the ability of parents to help their children pass safely into adulthood pregnancy-free.

    Relationship Redux: Tips and Scripts for Talking to Your Kids About Relationships [PDF]
    This publication provides some thoughts on what to say to your children about relationships and underscores why it is so important to discuss the topic. It also provides sample scripts and ideas for starting a conversation with your teens.

    Authored by: Jessica Sheets Pika

    Jessica Sheets Pika is the Director of Communications at The National Campaign. In that capacity, Jessica is the community manager and content strategist for The National Campaign’s award winning websites, www.TheNationalCampaign.org (the Campaign’s corporate website) and www.StayTeen.org (the Campaign’s teen website). She curates and writes content, manages consultants and content contributors, handles both sites’ social media presences, and develops new activities and content areas for both sites. In addition, Jessica handles press initiatives, spearheads the design and creation of new National Campaign materials, and provides general communications and editorial guidance to all program areas of the Campaign.

    Jessica joined The National Campaign in 2006 and has more than 10 years of experience in the non-profit healthcare world. She received a Bachelors degree in Communications and Political Science from Wake Forest University and lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, her adorable son, and their dog, Cora.

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