IT is time for the parents of teenage children to ‘wise up’ and stop deluding themselves: teenagers are thinking about sex and some of them are even discussing it with their friends. You may say to yourself, ‘I’m sure many teenagers do, but not ‘my child.’
However, are you 100 per cent sure about that? There really is nothing new or strange about teenagers being curious about sex, it can be considered a natural part of both their physical and psychological development, so don’t be alarmed.
What is strange however, is the fact that even though times have changed and there is so much information at our fingertips, parents are still failing to talk to their teenagers about contraception. But when you consider the fact that teenagers are not only thinking and talking about sex, many are also sexually active, it’s apparent that for some parents, a talk about contraception may be long overdue.
There are parents who feel that such a talk is tantamount to telling young people that it is alright to have sex once they use ‘protection.’ But surveys (carried out in the U.S.A.) disproves this myth. Any talk about contraception should always commence with the salient reasons why young people should abstain from early sexual activity (in particular unprotected sex).
Three good reasons are: One, early sexual activity has an emotional, psychological and mental impact on young people and this can take precedence over their childhood, their education and outlook on life. Two, early sexual activity could be a precursor to promiscuous behaviour: eventually branding the young person with an unsavoury reputation, and, Three, early sexual activity can lead to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, (STIs) such as HIV. Many young lives in Guyana have been devastated because a teenager fell foul to one, or more of, the above circumstances. Lack of parental guidance and support is a major factor in many cases.
Parents can speak to their teens not only about contraception, but about relationships on the whole. For instance, they can discuss the importance of building meaningful relationships and being faithful to one partner. Young people should be taught self-respect as well as how to respect others. Teenagers need time to develop and flourish, but many of them do not know this, and if parents do not take the time to teach these and other core values, there is a good chance that their children will miss out on many important factors of life. Alternatively, they may learn about them either too late, or from the wrong person in the wrong way.
The most effective way to prevent unwanted pregnancies or STIs, is for young people to abstain from sexual intercourse. If there was a way to ensure that all teenagers did this and remained focused on their education, life would be simple and straight forward. But the fact remains that while some are making a logical choice to delay, others are indulging.
Data from the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA) shows that a large percentage of young clients visit their facilities firstly for counselling and contraceptives and secondly, that the most used contraceptive is the condom.
Adults make mistakes; they also make bad choices and participate in reckless behaviour, so why should we expect anything more from young people who are still developing? They have yet to reach a stage of maturity and along with that hopefully, a sense of responsibility. The most any adult can do is speak openly to young people and arm them with relevant, sensible information that will help them understand that they have options: and while abstinence is the safest choice for teenagers, contraception (condoms) reduces the risks of unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Once they are given the facts, young people can expand on the information and learn more as they develop and grow, enabling them to make positive choices for their sense of well-being and their future.
One thing is for sure: parents cannot be there to hold their child’s hand everyday of their lives, neither can they monitor or control what young people do or how they think. It therefore pays to be realistic; nowadays, children are definitely learning more about the rudiments of life at a younger age. They are learning from their peers, they are learning from the television, the music on mini-buses and the never-ending array of images and paraphernalia they are exposed to online.
Unless they are receiving the necessary nurturing, care and attention from their parents/caregivers and communities, they can easily be influenced. Teaching teenagers about contraception is simply a precautionary measure to further protect our young people, and we need to keep protecting them and finding different ways to do so, by all means necessary.
If you are concerned about the welfare of a child call the Childcare and Protection Agency Hotline on 227 0797 or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
A Message from the Childcare and Protection Agency, Ministry of Social Protection