Did you know May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month? May is also prom season and summer is right around the corner. How do you talk with teens about teen pregnancy prevention?
As I travel working with teenagers around the country, one aspect is consistent: The far majority of teens want to make the right choice given the opportunity to do so. When society only focuses on slogans such as, "just say no," without giving them the full plethora of options available to teens, teens feel like we are assuming they are incapable of making good choices -- and so we "lecture" instead of engaging in real conversations.
Teens often feel like they are being controlled verses empowered.
Making a great choice in what can feel like a difficult moment requires to two key facets: the "how to" skills and the "why."
The 'How-To' Skills
Does your teen have the precise words to use in the majority of sexual decision-making moments? Telling a teen "do the right thing" is NOT giving the teen any skills. Here are examples of actual "how-to" skills each teen should be taught:
1.) Give a teen the exact words for helping the teen talk to a partner about each other's boundaries and always honoring those boundaries. Agree to never to try to change a partner's choice to not engage in a particular sexual act (from kissing to all forms of sex). Respect the answer of your partner and know you deserve to always have your answer respected.
Do one of you believe in being abstinent until a certain point in life (for some people, an example can be waiting until marriage)? If so, will you both honor this choice or is one of you going to pressure the person choosing to be abstain until they change their mind? Your boundaries should always be respected.
2.) Speaking of boundaries, the absence of a "no" is not a "yes!" Use the standard of consent we use in the upcoming book "Can I Kiss You?" which is:
Consent is a freely given and mutually wanted enthusiastic agreement between partners of sound mind and legal age.
Talk and listen to each other about each of the following three elements:
1.) Are all partners of sound mind? Do you or does a partner feel any pressure to make this choice (from yourself, your friends, culture, and/or a partner)? Ideally wait to make the choice until no one feels pressure to do so.
2.) Do all partners (mutual) enthusiastically want to engage in this sexual intimacy?
3.)Are all partners both of legal age? Engaging in a sexual act with a person who cannot give consent is illegal. If you care about yourself and/or the other person, you don't want to jeopardize ever engaging in a sexual act that could result in one of you being sexually assaulted and/or one of you being convicted of a sexual crime.
Talk about the fact that both of you have the right to change your mind at any moment--I including during the middle of any sexual act.
What about pregnancy, disease, and infection? How are you going to best protect yourself from all three possibilities? While there is no form of sex that is 100 percent safe, you can do a lot to be tremendously SAFER with the choices you make.
What are the possible consequences of making this decision? Have you talked to each other about what this means to each of you and/or your relationship (including friendship)?
The "why" is your reason for making the choice you are making. Believe in your beliefs! If you are not sure what your standards are, write down what you think they are and ask yourself what would motivate you to either alter those standards and/or honor those standards. Now you are establishing your why.
Engaging in sexual activity can be a wonderful experience and can have lifelong consequences. Knowing why you want to make that choice will better empower you to know when you are ready to make those choices.
How do we best honor National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month? We give teens the tools to make the best choices in any given sexual situation.