Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention:The Role of Family (cont.)
Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month is an opportunity for community to come together and to offer programs throughout the community where parents and people involved can come together and talk about this issue. It's the month of May, because we know it's a time of proms and special events, and we know this is a time when many young people feel pressure to engage in sexual relationships. We know also that the month of May, being end of school year, is a time when a lot of relationships that may have grown over school year begin to get serious and it's no wonder that this is one of the highest months, May and December, when young people become pregnant. It's a time when all of us can talk about this issue, can explore with young people, "How do you feel about this? What would you do if you found yourself pregnant? If you were that close to someone, where would you go for family planning services? Who would have to know? Would I have the money? Would I feel comfortable going so that I'm protecting myself and my partner?" It's a time when churches can say, "Let's talk about values, not just on a superficial level, but a real opportunity." I worked with group of churches in NC that came together and offered a weekend seminar for teens and parents to explore sexuality. These families had the opportunity because it was collaboration between three denominations to learn about how other religions felt about sexuality.
I say to our businesses throughout the country, you have a role in prevention of teen pregnancy. You can sponsor community activities during this month. You could make sure that your insurance company covers contraception as well as Viagra. You can provide internships for young people. That's part of that motivation factor I talked about. You can offer release time to your employees and staff to do volunteer work on boards, to do mentoring with young people who perhaps may not live in an environment that produces a lot of assets in their life.
Moderator: Do you feel that talk shows, like "Love Line" hosted by Dr. Drew, give good advice and are healthy for adolescents?
Huberman: Absolutely. I think what's important is with programs like Dr. Drew's where there is humor and offbeat questions that are presented and you've got celebrity guests, what's important is that parents and family have time to talk about things they're learning on shows like that. It's a teachable moment, and that parents not be afraid for their children to get information. Ignorance does not promote responsible behavior. I think I would applaud the Dr. Drew for bringing accurate information and knowledge to young people, because so often what they hear are myths and a lack of good information.
Moderator: Do you feel that parents close their eyes to what their children are doing sexually?
Huberman: Yes. Very definitely. Many parents that I talk with, many workshops that I do around sexuality, say I don't want to know. I hope my child is getting information they need at school. I think many of the adult population, Congress especially, are burying their heads in the sand when it comes to the world in which many young people live. Most young people in this country do not grow up and live in a two parent middle class, Ozzie and Harriet or Cleaver family anymore, and there is not a societal change that's going to take us back to that place. We have the Internet today, we have pornography access on the Internet, we have TV. At the turn of the century, teenagers did not drive. In 1940, only 1 out of 500 teenagers had a car before they graduated from high school. The world has kept moving, and parents have to acknowledge that and help their children. Parents don't want to accept that it's really a Beavis and Butthead world. They can't do what their parents did for them. They've got to help their young people get information and the motivation to avoid risky behaviors.
Moderator: To what extent can we re-educate adolescents who have already formed erroneous or harmful conclusions about sexuality in their childhood?
Huberman: One way we could do that is by schools offering comprehensive, balanced, accurate sexuality education courses where young people would have opportunity to discuss things they've learned in the past and be able to understand that maybe what they learned wasn't true. Maybe what they learned was fine when they were six and seven, but they're now 15 and the world is very different. I've been working on a workplace program for parents on how to talk to their kids about sex. This would be offered at workplace settings during lunch hour, etc. By educating parents, we can hopefully help them to work with their children to help them feel positive about themselves as sexual beings.
Moderator: What do I do when my kids ask me questions about what I did (sexual behavior)?
Huberman: That's also a very prominent concern of parents. There's a couple of things. Number one, you have a right to some privacy in your life and if you want that right for yourself, you have to respect your young person's need for privacy too. One response for a parent might be, "I don't want to share that right now. I'd much rather you figure that out without knowing what I did." Other parents might feel comfortable in saying, "I had my first relationship when I was 17 or 18, and it was wonderful" or "it was yucky and I hope that doesn't' happen to you." The parent who is able to say honestly what their expectations are, they're going to produce children who will think carefully about their behaviors. I had a young person tell me their mother had said, "'I had sex before marriage. It was a rushed, uncomfortable experience for me and in my religion, I felt guilty because it's not permitted in my religion.' My mom said to me, 'You're going to make the same choice, and I don't want you to feel shameful, or to risk getting pregnant or an STD. In our religion, we believe you should wait for marriage but I know you're going to have to make that decision yourself. It's something you have to decide to do.'"
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