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Tell us what to say, teens, in your own words

May 01, 2008|By BOB MAGINNIS

What do teens want to hear from their parents about sex?

That's the question Washington County's Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition is asking the area's young men and women to answer.

Why ask? Because research shows that parents are the most influential people in their children's lives when it comes to major decisions, such as whether or not to have sex.

But although our society is bombarded with images of sex in the movies and on television, parents still have a tough time talking to their children about it.

We know that's true, at least locally, because in September 2005, a report was done based on responses from a large number of teens and parents.

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Done by Shattuck & Associates of Mount Airy, Md., over several days at the Valley Mall, the survey asked 288 teens and 151 parents questions about sex and their families.

Shattuck found that parents don't want their children engaging in behavior that could lead to pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease, but are uncomfortable having detailed discussions about sex.

Only 8 percent of the parents interviewed by Shattuck said they "rarely" had a conversation about sex. Teens interviewed put that "rarely" figure at 47 percent.

Why the difference? Because, as Shattuck's interviews showed, many parents believe that they've had a conversation if they say, "Don't get pregnant. Sex is bad."

Teens want more than slogans. They want someone they trust, such as their parents, to tell them why it makes sense to wait until they're older or married to have sex.

But how do parents get that conversation started? We're asking teens to tell us, in 100 words or less.

To maintain confidentiality, we'll allow teens who write in to be identified only by their age and first name.

Send comments in by Monday, May 21, to Teen Advice, c/o Editorial Page, The Herald-Mail, 100 Summit Ave., Hagerstown, MD 21740. Or e-mail them to opinion@herald-mail.com and put "Teen Advice" in the subject line.

There are no prizes for the best letter, but those who write will know they might have helped another teen avoid a mistake that could affect them and/or their child for many years to come.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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