Sex in the Suburbs: Monitored teens are safer

Earlier this week, I gave a short presentation to a local high school parent group about overindulgence — the effects, the risks, how to know if you are doing it, etc.

Near the end, I spoke about how and why to monitor teens.

One of the statistics I shared is that teens who say they are closely monitored by their parents, as opposed to those who say they aren’t, are eight times less likely to have been sexually active. This research comes from Dr. Stephen Small at the University of Wisconsin. Clearly, supervision is important.

While monitoring teens is no guarantee that nothing unexpected will happen, it goes a long way toward providing a message of love and structure that all children and teens need. What does “monitor closely” mean? It means that, when you are negotiating outings with your teen:

• All your safety criteria are met.

• You, the adult, stay in charge and loving.

• If your child will be out, you know: Where s/he will be, whom s/he will be with, what s/he will be doing, when s/he will be home, how s/he will get home (Clarke, et al).

Many parents are not aware that they are overindulging their teens by giving them too much freedom or too few rules. The above criteria are reasonable to expect of any youth or young adult living in your home. Remember, young people often don’t know what they don’t know. Teen culture is rampant with myths and misinformation. Be the source of truth and values for your children.

Be sure to give your teen an "out" of any situation where you are not present. Role play what they can say (“I don’t feel well.” “I’ve got a stomach ache.” “I have a headache.”) Assure them they can call you to come get them at any time without your being angry — and be sure you stick to that if you are called.

Even teens with the best intentions can be subject to the impulsivity of a friend or their own incomplete brain development and make a huge, life-altering mistake. Knowing the above information as a matter of course for your child may earn you a few huffy breaths and rolled eyeballs — and a safer teen.

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