A new study put out by North Carolina State University shows that most parents don’t think their teens are having sex–although they think that their kids’ friends are. The study, conducted by researcher Sinikka Elliott, an assistant professor of sociology at North Carolina State University, found that most parents interviewed say their children as immature or naive. The parents felt that if their children did engage in sex, it would be because someone had taken advantage of them or pressured them into it.
While I’m sure that all parents can identify with the urge to close their eyes and pretend their children aren’t growing up, this particular fantasy has devastating side effects. Parent who can’t come to terms with the fact that their adolescent children are most likely thinking about sex, talking about sex and possibly engaging in sex tend to neglect the responsibility to talk to their kids about the consequences of sex, and how to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection. Parents should—and can—be an integral part of their children’s sex education, by being open to questions, bringing up issues related to sex and relationships, and even taking on the job of teaching their kids about reproduction, abstinence and contraception.
There are a lot of great resources for parents who want to learn how to talk to their children about sex. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unintended Pregnancy offers many booklets, as does Advocates for Youth. We recommend that parents check out these resources, or that professionals who work with teens and parents look at ways to foster the involvement of parents in the sex education of their children. The link below is a good starting point.