Ten Tips for Parents: Abstinence-program pointers

Rather than fighting about school education, we prefer to try to find where we can work together.  In that spirit, these tips for parents are vital to our shared desire for a healthier community.  They are here not as a position statement on our part for advocacy, but merely for information. 

Ten Tips for Parents(From Project Reality, an Abstinence Program in Glenview,IL)

According to recent studies, most parents and teens overwhelmingly agree that sexual issues should be taught in the home. However, more than one third of adolescents recently surveyed say they have never had a helpful conversation about sex with their parents. Many parents feel unprepared or even unqualified to discuss sexual issues. The following are some pointers to help make the discussion easier.

1. Clearly communicate your values and expectations about sex and intimacy.
Explain your values in a caring, yet firm way and look for opportunities to repeat the message. Setting high standards based on your personal values and those of your faith community will make an impression that facts and figures along cannot make. Tell your children what you believe they are capable of; their actions will often rise to meet your expectations.

2. Make sure your actions match your words.
It is important to model positive relationships and healthy habits, not just talk about them. Your child will respect your opinions and advice the most if you are a good role model.

3. Encourage open communication about sex at a young age.
Talking about sex, puberty and relationships will be easier if you begin early and continue communicating as your child matures. Start using the correct names for body parts and answering basic questions such as "Where do babies come from?" as simply and honestly as possible at a young age. Keep communications open by initiating conversations about sex and relationships as the topics arise in the media, or with friends and family.

4. Be accessible, approachable and willing to listen.
Showing respect for your child by listening is a good way to open up communication. If you make a habit of listening to your child and inquiring about the "little things" like school, friends and activities, your child will be more likely to come to you with questions and concerns about sex and other tough issues. Honest answers build a foundation for your child to see you as the resource for sexual information in the future.

5. Make information available.
Have adolescent-friendly books, videos, and pamphlets around the house for your children to review when they choose. Remember, the less you push, the more likely they are to seek out answers to their questions.

6. Be involved in your child's school.
Do you know what your children are learning about sex in school? Find out when presentations on sex and related topics will be given at your child's school and ask for information about the presentation; or to review the materials that will be used. If you don't feel this information is appropriate, find a healthy, positive alternative curriculum and encourage the instructor and administration to use it. Remember, you are the authority in your child's life, especially concerning values, including sexuality.

7. Remember that sex is good and hormones are real.
Curiosity about sex will not go away if it is never discussed. In fact, avoiding the subject can make sex seem even more mysterious and exciting. Be sure to balance discussions by talking about the positive aspects of sex within marriage as well as the responsibilities that come with it.

8. Point out the positive.
There is a direct link between low self-esteem and high-risk behaviors such as drug use, early sexual involvement, and other self-destructive behaviors. Compliment your children when they are doing what is right and help them set positive goals for the future. Help your children build self-esteem based on character, unique talents and positive accomplishments. Make sure to show your appreciation and pride for all they do right before offering constructive criticism about what to avoid. When they make mistakes, talk about how to earn back your trust. Never leave them feeling hopeless.

9. Give your child good reasons for making positive, healthy choices.
Adolescents tend to make decisions based on feelings instead of logic and experience. Often, they believe they know everything and can be hurt by nothing. Their attitude is, "I need it now!" If we want adolescents to make good decisions about their futures, we must give them practical reasons they can relate to for making choices that will lead to health and happiness. For example, it's hard to run track if you're six months pregnant. If your children have made poor decisions, encourage them to start over and move in a more positive direction.

10. Know the facts and share them in a positive way.
Attempting to influence your child's behavior by focusing on guilt and fear may have the opposite effect – rebellion. Instead, know the facts about teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and puberty, and share them with your child in a non-threatening way. Parents who set high standards are offering their child the best protection against high-risk behaviors.
 
For more information, go to www.projectreality.org
 

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