Just last month, a statistic was released that should be a concern for fathers: For the first time since 1990, there was an increase in teen pregnancies in 2006 (by 3%).
For many, that leads to discussions about what approach works best to prevent teen pregnancy. From our perspective, there is compelling research showing the importance of a father’s role. For example:
- There is a direct correlation between fathers increasing their involvement and warmth of communications, and teen daughters decreasing risky sexual behaviors. (Child Development Journal, May/June 2009)
- Teen girls without fathers were found to be twice as likely to be involved in early sexual activity and seven times more likely to get pregnant as an adolescent. (Child Development Journal, May 2003)
- Girls who have good relationships with their fathers tend to delay their first sexual experience. (Journal of Family Issues, Feb. 2006)
Dad, whether your child is a teenager or much younger, this is an area in which he or she will benefit from your awareness and concern. Here are three key steps to make the most of your influence on your child’s ideas about sex:
1. Be an involved dad. As the above research studies show, building a good relationship will give your child security and confidence to make wise decisions–as well as opportunities for you to teach him about specific issues.
2. Be proactive. It might be awkward at first, but take the lead when it comes to teaching your kids about sex. Convey your expectations clearly and give them good reasons to wait. Do your research and be ready to counter some of the other messages they will hear in the culture. This is a very tangible way you can protect your child’s innocence.
3. Address it early and often instead of having “the talk” just once and hoping it does the trick. Establish the subject of sexuality as something you feel comfortable talking about. There are age-appropriate ways to address it even with young children. Then, if you do decide to have a more extended conversation with your 13-year-old over a weekend, you’ll both be prepared and have a good idea what to expect, and there will be much less nervousness. Remember, first messages are usually the most powerful. It’s better for you to present an accurate message that reinforces your values than to argue against what they may have already heard from others.
One final note: If your child falters in this area–which could include making a life-changing choice–be quick to forgive, express your love, and continue to demonstrate your support for him or her, even though you don’t approve of what has happened and there are difficult consequences and changes coming for your child.
- Make sure your child knows about the biological facts and risks related to sex, but also the moral, emotional, spiritual, and relationship-related issues that come with it. Here’s a resource to help you.
- Use teachable moments that arise to coach your child on all these “issues.” Sex-related topics come up all the time in our culture, and your kids are already wondering what you think about them.
- With your daughter: give her lots of affirmation. Build a close relationship, so you can be a positive influence and so she doesn’t have to go looking for approval from other young men.
- With your son: help him develop self-control. Give him ideas for how to have appropriate restraint in a culture that is obsessed with sex, and check in regularly to see how he’s doing.
- Get more about teaching your children about this important area of life. Here are more ideas from The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
– How & When to Tell Your Kids About Sex by Stanton & Brenna Jones
– The Story of Me by Brenna Jones (to be read with kids age 3-5)
– Before I Was Born by Carolyn Nystrom (to be read with kids age 5-8)
– What’s the Big Deal? by Brenna Jones (to be read with kids age 8-11)
– Facing the Facts by Brenna Jones (to be read with kids age 11-14)