Ruby Matenko is the author of Cheese Puffs: A Teenage Journey of Grief, Pregnancy, and Hope.
Being a teenager is difficult. All of a sudden, you are expected to figure a bunch of new things out while you are still really young — and a lot of the time, these “new things” can be very adult in nature, such as navigating the world of relationships and sex. That’s why teens should know about sex, pregnancy and STI prevention, and have an in-depth understanding of how their bodies work.
I have always been someone who wants to talk about topics that no one else really talks about, so that I can learn what to do and what not to do. It is so shocking to me when some people my age don’t even know the basic physiology of their own bodies, or when they are careless about their actions. But, I have realized that they are not the problem — the problem is the lack of education and discussion about these topics that they need to learn and hear more about.
Sometimes, teenagers don’t have trusted adults that they can turn to or figures in their life from whom they can ask advice. Or, in general, teenagers might hear mixed signals about certain topics, which confuses them and does not help to educate them. In order for adolescents to know what the right choices are, they—both males and females—need to be educated, informed, and aware before engaging in sexual activity.
Teenage pregnancy has always been a problem, but teenage girls will be better equipped to deal with a situation like this if they are informed about sex, their bodies, and how it all works.
That is why creative measures, such as a book from the point of view of an ordinary teen girl in high school who gets pregnant at fifteen — even with a good head on her shoulders — are crucial. The truth is, teenagers need people to relate to, or else they feel alone. Shoving information at teenagers isn’t going to lead them to make the right decisions. However, placing them in someone else’s shoes and showing them the risks and consequences in a more personal way could be a lot more effective.
4 Reasons why teens should know about sex and their bodies
1. The more informed you are about your body and your actions, the better.
It is a fact that health and sex education is lacking in many schools, and even where it is present, it is usually not sufficient enough for teenagers to know what they are doing as they begin to engage in more adult activities, including sexual behavior. Instead of learning from health professionals and school administrators, teenagers learn misconceptions from their peers or social media, which is not helpful and will only perpetuate the problem.
2. Being aware allows teenagers to feel more comfortable about this topic.
Accumulating more information and not being as afraid to discuss sex or teenage pregnancy lessens the feeling that teenagers have to hide things or not bring up things that embarrass them. Showing teenagers that open communication about these topics is a good thing will allow them to feel more comfortable and confident in making the right choices for themselves and their bodies. Or, for example, reading a book that gives a detailed, personal account from the point of view of someone who has to face the consequences of her actions could also be helpful to open up their minds.
3. Teenagers will feel better equipped to discuss these topics with their partners.
Another reason why teens should know about sex and their bodies is that the more teenagers learn and talk about these topics, the less embarrassed they will feel to actually discuss them with their partner when the time comes. This type of open communication between teenagers can really help to minimize the risk of something unexpected happening, like an unplanned pregnancy. Plus, communication is always vital for healthy relationships in general.
4. Confidence will result from knowing that you have the tools to handle certain situations.
Walking into any type of situation or period of your life is stressful and confusing if you do not have the facts, if you don’t know what other people’s experiences have been like, or if you simply don’t feel prepared. Learning the facts of teenage pregnancy, how it can happen, and what it entails, will empower teenagers, particularly female teenagers, to stand up for themselves and their bodies and make good choices. Teenagers are also very influenced by the media, so reading from the point of view of someone just like them can help to guide them.
The more comfortable we are discussing teenage pregnancy, the less there is a chance that a mistake will happen. Spreading awareness and instilling education into adolescents is so important, and not even just for the purpose of avoiding teenage pregnancy — it is also to ensure that these teenagers will have a solid foundation of knowing what choices to make to carry them throughout their whole lives. Teenagers should know about sex and all that comes with it—including knowledge about their bodies, how to express consent, and all forms of birth control and STI prevention. Only then are they fully prepared to move into adulthood with the knowledge of what healthy relationships look like.
For more info on why teens should know about sex, here are some important facts parents (and their teens) should know:
1. According to the National Library of Medicine, studies show that comprehensive sex education directly correlates with lower pregnancy risks, later ages for having sexual intercourse for the first time, and an increased probability of contraceptive use.
2. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that young people who talk to their parents about sex are more likely to wait until they are older to start having sex and are more likely to make safe choices like using condoms or other forms of contraception.
3. There are many ways to give and receive consent, ensuring that both partners feel safe, and comfortable and have their boundaries respected. Child Mind Institute emphasizes the importance of talking to our kids about verbal consent, including phrases like, “Are you still okay with this?” and “Are you comfortable with me touching you here?” as well as non-verbal consent, which includes paying attention to body language. (Is either person pulling away? Are both partners relaxed?) And finally, Child Mind Institute says we should talk to our teens about checking in with themselves and think about how they might be influenced by peer pressure. Far too often, kids feel pressured into doing something they aren’t ready for, so they should also ask themselves, “Am I ready for this? Is this something I truly want to do?”
Teenagers are often more willing to listen to their peers than adults, because adolescents their age know what they’re going through. That’s why we recommend Cheese Puffs: A Teenage Journey of Grief, Pregnancy, and Hope, a novel by Ruby Matenko, that tells the tale of an unexpected pregnancy. But this story comes from the teenage mother’s perspective, which is why it’s so impactful and important for kids this age to read.
Parenting teens and tweens is hard, but you don’t have to do it alone. These posts may help:
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