Recently in Parents Category
Jul 02 2013The Morning After a Great TV Show
Last night on ABC Family's new hit show The Fosters, a couple of young teenagers got carried away, got scared about the potential consequences, got a dose of emergency contraception, and used it. The teens also realized they weren't ready for any of this and decided to "stop doing what we did. At least for a little while."
It wasn't the main storyline of the episode, and not even necessarily the most dramatic thing that happened with the Foster family during another terrific hour of this excellent new show, but it's exciting and notable nonetheless. Teenagers knowing they aren't ready for pregnancy and taking responsibility (albeit a bit later than is ideal) by seeking out contraception is exactly the kind of thing popular teen television should be showing.
In the show--written and shot as the rules governing emergency contraception and younger teens were actively changing--15-year-old Jesus asks a stranger at a drug store to buy the morning-after pill for him (well, technically for his girlfriend Lexi) because he doesn't have ID. As luck would have it, Jesus' mom Stef is at the pharmacy at the same exact moment and sees the whole thing go down. This leads to a conversation at home with Stef, Jesus, and his other mom, Lena, in which they ask why he didn't come to them for help, and why he and Lexi didn't know better in the first place. There's also a discussion among the moms about whether they should allow Lexi to take the medication without her parents knowledge, and what might happen if they forbid it.
In real life, the age restrictions that compelled Jesus to turn to a stranger are going away. Emergency contraception will soon be on many store shelves next to condoms or other OTC medicines, which is good news for teens (and anyone else) looking to purchase EC without hassle or embarrassment.
Also in the "good news for teens" category is the fact that shows like The Fosters exist and are telling stories that are real and worthy of attention. For more from The Fosters and StayTeen about teens and EC, check out our blog post and FAQ. You can also watch the episode online.
Jul 01 2013Faith Leaders in Preventing Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy
When I was growing up in a faith community, I often felt like the rare discussions we had about sex leaned simplistically towards "if you have sex, you are dirty and your life will be ruined, so don't even think about it." There was a sense that I should be afraid of my body, other people's bodies, and anything to do with sex. It was not until my last few years in that community that the act of sex ceased being framed as an obvious evil, and the emphasis was placed instead on having open conversations about what sex really meant in the context of a relationship, long-term plans, and my religion.
Out of those experiences, it seems very clear to me now that there is a big difference in effectiveness between telling teens "say no to sex," and actually getting them to think and decide for themselves how sex, love, and relationships fit into their lives and faith. The first is just surface teaching. While some teens will accept and adhere to it, others may not take it as seriously, and a number of teens might even actively subvert it behind the backs of their parents and faith leaders. "Say no to sex"--but why? How can teens take that message and believe in it, when the media, society, and many of their peers say otherwise? How can teens resolve to "say no to sex" if they cannot speak openly and honestly about that decision to their parents or faith leaders, when many of them prefer to think of teens as non-sexual beings until after marriage?
Countering the Silence: A Faith Leader's Toolkit for Preventing Teen Pregnancy (available in English and Spanish) a new resource released by Esperanza, a Latino faith-based evangelical network, is a big step in the right direction. As a new survey confirms, a majority of teens and adults think that faith leaders should be doing more to help prevent teen pregnancy. Silence in faith communities on the subject of sex can contribute to feelings of guilt and shame, misconceptions about sex, and increased risk of unintended pregnancy. Countering the Silence equips faith leaders with tools to break that silence. The toolkit is biblically-grounded and offers data and research, ideas on how to engage teens and parents, and more than a dozen Bible studies to generate open conversations about sex, long-term plans, and God's intentions for teens.
Only by having open, grounded discussions can "say no to sex" become a thought that is truly lived. Proverbs 22:6, quoted by Countering the Silence, says: "start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it." Like the parable of the wise and foolish builders, a choice made upon vague ideas and threats is like a house built on sand that is easily toppled. A choice made out of numerous conversations about sex, love, and dating with faith leaders, parents, and other teens is like a house built on a rock--one that will stand firm even in the face of outside pressures. Please help faith leaders create that rock, engage their communities, and prevent teen pregnancy by spreading the word about Countering the Silence.
Helen Zhang is an intern with The National Campaign's Public Policy department for the summer. She is currently a junior at Smith College, where she is studying government and economics. She enjoys frozen yogurt, comedy shows, and thinking about how people are influenced by their beliefs.
Jun 21 2013Countering the Silence With Esperanza
This week, during the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference, Esperanza, one of the largest Latino faith-based organizations in the U.S., released a new toolkit designed to help faith leaders address teen-pregnancy-related issues from a Biblical perspective. The Countering the Silence toolkit provides pastors, ministers, and youth leaders with several resources--including over a dozen Bible studies and suggested activities--to inspire thoughtful discussions with teens and parents on the importance of preventing teen pregnancies.
With The National Campaign's most recent poll indicating that most adults (52%) and teens (57%) believe that religious leaders and groups should be doing more to help prevent teen pregnancy, it is critical to introduce Countering the Silence to as many faith leaders as possible in hopes of garnering their support and having them play a role in reducing teen pregnancies. The preliminary feedback I received from faith leaders attending the NHPBC was positive. Several stated that they felt the toolkit was going to be tremendously useful, simple to implement, and easy to customize and tailor to their liking.
Get additional information on Countering the Silence, as well as downloadable PDFs of the toolkit in both English and Spanish, here. And, any assistance you are able to provide by making faith leaders in your community aware of the toolkit's existence and availability would be tremendously appreciated.
May 28 2013The PPSAE Act: Important Legislation--and a Great Reminder About Prevention
Ahh Spring. Birds chirping, flowers blooming, and people sneezing and complaining about allergies. It's also that time of year when high school students are busy studying for exams and dreaming of moving up a grade and inching that much closer to being seniors. Seniors are reveling in the prospect of finally graduating from high school and spending a care-free summer with friends before going off to college and being on their own, more or less. At least that's how it's supposed to work.
But what about pregnant and parenting students? What's in store for them and their children? How will they juggle schoolwork with parenting responsibilities? What education and job prospects will they have?
Providing support for pregnant and parenting students can go a long way toward improving their chances of graduating from high school. The Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education (PPSAE) Act of 2013--S. 870 introduced by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) along with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI); and H.R. 1845 introduced by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA)--is a bold step forward in this direction. This legislation would provide grants to state education agencies and competitive sub-grants from states to local educational agencies to provide academic and support services. It would remove some of the barriers pregnant and parenting students encounter when trying to continue their education by providing services, such as academic counseling, child care, and transportation assistance. It would also provide referrals for health and social services, including family planning services that will help teens prevent a subsequent unplanned pregnancy and improve the lives of their children.
The PPSAE is important and much needed legislation--and it's a reminder that, given the close association between teen pregnancy and educational attainment, we also need to be thinking about how we can help teens avoid too-early pregnancy/parenthood in the first place. As noted in PPSAE, fully 30 percent of teen girls who have dropped out of school cite pregnancy or parenthood as a key reason. Only about half (51 percent) of teen mothers earned a high school diploma by age 22 compared to 89 percent who did not have a teen birth. Less than two percent of young teen mothers attain a college degree by age 30. Public opinion research shows that eighty-six percent of teens and 83 percent of adults agree that reducing teen pregnancy is a very effective way to reduce the high school dropout rate and improve academic achievement.
May 10 2013Happy Mother's Day
I had planned to write a much longer post about my experience transitioning back to work after having my son, but it seems as though working motherhood is the topic du jour--and mostly I just want to get my work done and get home--so I'll keep this short. I've been thinking a bit about Mother's Day this week since it's coming up in a couple of days and my junk mail is full of adverts for what to get mom. As everyone takes some time this weekend to remember their mothers, I also want to celebrate the fact that as women, thanks to birth control, we have more options than ever to decide if and when we want to become mothers. Motherhood is awesome, but really hard (and I have a supportive partner and family--I can't imagine what it would be like to do it solo. Hats off to the women who make it work).
I realize that not everything can be planned perfectly (trust me) and often there's not a perfect time for anything in your life--but I believe that we value motherhood and as a nation can probably give a bit more thought to when it might begin. So, if you're not quite ready to become a mom, along with remembering to tell your mom you love her on Sunday, remember to use some kind of birth control if you're having sex (hopefully you won't have to get notarized permission to do so). I'll be celebrating on Sunday with my 8-month old son and his dad. We'll be remembering our Abigail too. How will you be celebrating?