Teens want to know what adults think, even if they don’t act like it.

  • Adults are powerful figures in the lives of young people and hold the key to preventing teen pregnancy.
  • An MTV poll found teens ranked their parents as their #1 heroes.

Forget about “The Talk.” 

It is an 18-year conversation about love, relationships, values and sex. Start early and let your kids know that you are an “askable parent.”

  • Teens tell us their parents tend to give them information too late and in too vague a way.
  • They can get clinical information from school or books (and they already know more than you think), but what they really seek are parents who are comfortable talking with them about relationships, how to handle peer pressure to have sex, how to say “no” without hurting feelings, and other such issues.

Don’t let your daughter get involved with a much older guy.

  • Teen girls who date much older guys are more likely to report later that they didn’t really want to have sex in the first place and are less likely to use birth control/contraception.
  • Among mothers aged 15-17, about one in four has a partner who is at least five years older.
  • Older boys and men can lead younger girls into very risky situations and relationships.
  • Seventy percent of teenage pregnancies are caused by guys over the age of 20.

Sometimes, all it takes for teens not to have sex is not to have the opportunity.

  • Many teens say that if they had something to do after school that’s fun and interesting, they are less likely to experiment with sex, drinking, and other risky activities.
  • If parents can’t be home with kids after school, they need to make sure their kids are busy doing something constructive and engaging.

Parents need to make girls feel valued and important.

You can’t give a girl self-esteem, but you can give her the opportunity to develop it — encourage her involvement in sports, volunteering, drama classes or other activities that make her feel talented and confident.

  • Girls involved in sports are half as likely to get pregnant as non-athletes, regardless of how much sex education they have. They are more likely to delay sex until they are older, and to use protection when they do so.
  • Another study shows that girls who are active volunteers throughout their high school years have half the teen pregnancy rates of the average for their peers.
  • If you give a girl something positive to say “yes” to, she’ll be much more likely to say “no, not yet” to sex and pregnancy.
  • Remember, condoms do not protect the heart.

Talk to sons as well as daughters.

The nearly 1,000,000 teen girls who got pregnant each year don’t do it alone.

  • Boys need to know that teen pregnancy happens to them, too. We need to talk to boys – not just girls – about consequences, responsibility, sex, love and values. Surveys show that boys want to do the right thing.

Learn the facts yourself.

It is a scary world out there. Sexually transmitted diseases have multiplied at a frightening rate in the last 30 years.

  • We have gone from two to 38 identifiable Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD’s), and some of these – including AIDS, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), and Herpes – are incurable.
  • HPV causes more than 90 percent of all invasive cervical cancers, and condoms do not prevent HPV. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 45 million Americans have HPV.
  • In addition, chlamydia is rampant and is frequently symptomless. Chlamydia is a leading cause of infertility in later life.

Adapted from The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Tips for Parents

Image from

In the movie Spanglish, the mother, played by Tea Leoni, is clearly obsessed with exercise and her looks. Her daughter, played by Sarah Steele, is not overweight, but clearly not thin enough to meet her mom’s standards. Leoni tries to motivate her daughter to lose weight by going on shopping sprees and buying her beautiful, but too-small clothing. Steele is excited about the clothing, but her self-esteem tanks when none of the clothes fit.

“Between these types of movies, television shows and airbrushed photos in magazines showing women with ‘perfect bodies’, impressionable young girls get the idea that it just isn’t acceptable to be anything but a size 6 or smaller,” says Pamela Kelle, licensed nutritionist and registered dietician. “What many don’t realize is what they see on the screen isn’t real. Their body was never intended to be that size, yet they go on fad diets and do all kinds of obsessive workout routines to get themselves down to their dream weight. The only problem is, even when they get to the size they wanted to be there is still this small voice inside saying, ‘It’s not good enough.’”

Each new year, many people, including teenagers, resolve to lose weight so they will feel better about themselves. But, is it really about weight loss?

“In most instances I would have to say that losing weight is about a lot more than shedding pounds,” Kelle says. “At every turn, sometimes even in the home, teens are bombarded with negative messages about how they look. I strongly encourage parents to be aware of how they talk about food and weight. Many parents talk negatively about their own looks. Teen girls pick up on this and often internalize it. If mom doesn’t think she looks good, the daughter thinks she must not look good either. The goal for our kids should be overall health, not a certain weight.”

If you own a scale, Kelle says to get rid of it. None of us needs a scale to know when we have put on a few pounds. The way your clothes fit tells you all you need to know.

You can protect your kids from the dangerous lies in the culture.

If you want to teach your children about healthy living, Kelle’s tips can help you out in the new year:

  • Encourage and model healthy eating and exercise;
  • Provide healthy foods and nutritious meals consumed by the whole family;
  • Do not praise or glorify someone for being a certain body size or losing weight;
  • Don’t talk negatively about your own body; and
  • Don’t expect perfection.

Our bodies are the canvas upon which our internal conditions express themselves.

“Helping teens have healthy self-esteem and body image can be challenging in light of all the external messages they hear and see,” Kelle says. “Making your home a safe place where your teen can be real and talk about these issues will go a long way toward helping them fend off unhealthy habits. This is a gift that will last a lifetime.”