Recently in Teens Category
Oct 03 2013Candy Corn, Cold Weather, and Conversations...
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, according to our most recent Survey Says polling report, 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...
Aug 22 2013Complementary Not Contradictory
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...
Nothing says back to school quite like some bickering over sex education. It is usually about this time of year that words and phrases like sex education, opt-out and opt-in, abstinence-only, and condom demonstrations ring out about as much as...excuse me...school bells. The most unfortunate among us are even subjected to truly awful noun strings like sexual risk avoidance education and comprehensive sexuality education curriculum. Yikes.
Why all the angst?
Seven in 10 adults believe that teens should be provided more information about both delaying sex and contraception (careful readers will note three italicized words in the previous sentence, a new personal best). According to new survey results, fully 69% of adults 18 and older--including 82% of Hispanic and Black non-Hispanic adults and 65% of white adults--believe encouraging teens to delay sex and providing teens with information about contraception are complementary, not contradictory, strategies.
As you know, rates of teen pregnancy and childbearing have plummeted over the past two decades. Most smarty pants researchers who have noodled the question of why this has happened agree that it is a combination of less sex and more contraception that have driven the rates of too-early pregnancy and childbearing to record lows. Former Jimmy Carter budget director Bert Lance (who just recently departed this mortal coil) made famous the old phrase: Dance with the one who brung you. Given the extraordinary declines and given what we know about why the declines have happened, why would we not offer up a heaping helping of information to teens on the value of delaying sex and the importance of using contraception if you are sexually active?
One thing to note: Fully 75% of adults in the south wish that teens were getting more information about abstinence and contraception. That's three-quarters. That's also a higher percentage than any other region in the country. Thought you should know.
People, people, people. The operative sentiment is not either/or, it's both. Let's just stop. Amen.
Aug 19 2013Making it Harder for Teens to Be Responsible
$54? $54? This was my friend Suzanah, dumbstruck, at the pharmacy last week.
Our small, local Planned Parenthood closed its doors in June, having struggled valiantly to stay open despite year after year of budget cuts. Losing this Planned Parenthood leaves thousands of teens and adults with low incomes without a place to get contraception and STD testing and treatment. It is a huge, and inevitable, loss as state and federal funding are cut. The loss is most acute for teens because the Title X-funded Planned Parenthood that closed was the only place in our town where they could go to confidentially seek out birth control, save buying condoms at the grocery store. Adults with low enough incomes might be able to receive services at our community clinic (which is not funded by Title X), but a teen must have a parent or guardian along to apply at that clinic.
Suzanah was able to get the birth control patch at our Planned Parenthood for free. She also appreciated the kindness and professionalism with which she was always treated at Planned Parenthood. Suzanah went to the clinic during its last week, and was told that they would write a prescription for her to take to the pharmacy to get next month's patches. When she arrived at the pharmacy, she was charged a $54 co-pay for the item that she used to get for free, because Planned Parenthood is not a part of her health insurance network. For a teenager who goes to school full-time and works about 12 hours a week, this was a pricey leap.
Suzanah was lucky. She was able to schedule a visit to her mom's gynecologist and get a new prescription for the patch. Many of her friends aren't so lucky; either they are hesitant to talk to their parents about birth control* or their parents do not have health insurance coverage. With cuts to the Title X Family Planning Program, and the subsequent closure of our local Planned Parenthood, teens find themselves limited to condoms for birth control and without a place to get confidentially tested and treated for STDs.
As a society, we encourage teens to act responsibly, but we are cutting off avenues through which they can do so. We have seen a tremendous reduction in teen pregnancy rates during the last two decades, but I wonder if the political choices that are being made now will wipe out some of that progress?
*NOTE: For some young people on their parents' health insurance, it may be possible to call their insurance company to request that their health care expenditures be kept private.
"Closed" image by Khairil Zhafri.
Aug 16 2013Baby Crazy
I don't know if you've noticed, but this summer has been all about babies. The Royal Baby! Baby North West! I think even Jessica Simpson had another baby. And Buzzfeed has tons of pictures of babies, although my boyfriend prefers that I coo over the baby animals and not the tiny humans. The point is, I'm all about babies. But I'm sure glad I don't have one!
While on a big family vacation I saw first-hand that babies do not care if you'd rather sunbathe. And they don't care if you have one more chapter you really want to finish. They cry if you go too fast on the motorboat. Babies have no spot in my summer plans.
Speaking of plans, that's what kids are--a big, scary, and exciting plan that will heretofore change all your other plans. And for teens, making a plan for the future is important. The chances that teens will delay having sex, pregnancy, and parenthood are significantly increased when they have clear goals and dreams they plan to achieve. But 50% of teens say they've never thought about how a pregnancy would change their lives! It's time to start thinking about it.
Soon it will be September and back-to-school education time. It should also be sex education time. 49% of teens and 79% of parents says they wish young people were getting more information about both abstinence and contraception (instead of either/or). So finish that tan while you can and get ready to hit the books. Stayteen.org is a great place to start.
Jul 25 2013Check Out Our New Foster Care Resource!
When determining the best way to support youth to prevent pregnancy, one of the best starting points is to ask the youth themselves. Last year, the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power and Potential (GCAPP) commissioned Messages of Empowerment (TEAM-MOE) to lead an interview project of youth in foster care to hear their thoughts and ideas on teen pregnancy, sex ed, and prevention methods. One of the unique aspects of the effort is that TEAM-MOE trained current and former youth in foster care to interview their peers and essentially be the researchers in the field. Thirty-nine youth in care participated in the interviews and shared their opinions about life in foster care, risk factors they believe youth in care face when it comes to teen pregnancy, and the kinds of support and services they think would help them prevent a pregnancy at this point in their lives.
While GCAPP's findings are specific to youth in care in Georgia, the opinions and feedback from these youth mirror national findings. This is why The National Campaign and GCAPP partnered to create the new publication Help Me to Succeed: A Guide for Supporting Youth in Foster Care to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Throughout the resource are direct quotes from GCAPP's youth participants to provide further insight and guidance to adults on ways they can best support the youth in their lives to prevent pregnancy.
To order free copies of the publication, visit The National Campaign's store. And just to give you a little taste, I'll leave you with a quote from a youth in foster care.
"I would say it's going to take time. It's going to take more than one organization. I think it's got to be an effort where everybody has to be on the same page. And you have to want to help....Don't come as if you're going to get something out of it, because then it's not going to be right. Show that you're actually trying to help us."