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Parent to Parent.

Byline: By Maureen Pearson

Teenagers may be getting excited as the festive party season is upon us ( but for their parents who worry about what their kids might get up to, it can be an anxious time.

To help ease the tensions, national charity Parentline Plus is urging parents to talk to their teens about sex and relationships as part of its Time to Talk campaign. By doing this, parents could help delay their teen's sexual activity and reduce unintended teenage pregnancies and STIs (sexually-transmitted infections).

"Some people will remember their own teenage antics during Christmas and New Year's past and swear not to let their kids do the same," said Maureen Pearson, of Parentline Plus' Newcastle branch.

The charity knows the festive period can be a time when festive spirit, combined with alcohol, can change people's behaviour. In fact, when asked why they had sex for the first time, 20% of men and 13% of women aged 15 to 19 said alcohol was the main reason. Research also shows that 40% of sexually active 13 to 14-year-olds were drunk or stoned when they first had sex, and they are much more likely to regret it.

Too much Christmas spirit can result in teenage girls forgetting to take their pill, condoms not being put in bags or pockets before a night out, while relationships can break up and just as quickly make up, all increasing the risks of unintended pregnancies and STIs.

Parentline Plus, which receives thousands of calls a year to its 24-hour free Parentline from parents expressing worries about their children having underage sex, is keen to promote its Time to Talk leaflet, aimed at parents and carers who would like a head start with tips on how to break the sex taboo.

"We know that parents want to talk to their children but are often unsure of how and when to do it," said Maureen. "If the lines of communication around sex are opened up at an early age, then it becomes much easier to talk about sex and relationships and to give easy to understand messages on contraception and the importance of safe sex."

Evidence suggests that when teenagers talk to their parents about sex, they are more likely to delay sexual activity, have fewer partners and use contraception. But even though 86% of parents feel strongly there would be fewer teenage pregnancies if more parents talked to their children about sex, relationships and contraception, there is still a reluctance to start those conversations. Tips and hints include;

N Use everyday media to start conversations ( soaps, adverts, TV programmes, magazines ( then you can talk about other people, which is sometimes easier to start with.

N Talk about the importance of considering feelings in relationships, not just the biology.

N Ask them what they think about waiting to have sex with someone they care about and who will share responsibility for contraception.

N Talk when you are doing everyday things together so it feels more natural ( washing up, walking somewhere, watching TV, so it's a normal part of family life.

N Talk to other parents about how they answer difficult questions and discuss difficult issues.

N Keep talking about responsibility and choice. Let them know you understand that drinking, trying drugs or having sex may be a part of teenage life but, if they experiment, they must be responsible and avoid taking undue risks.

N Talk about the risks of pregnancy, catching an STI, overdose, a bad 'trip', accidents, a fight or unwanted sex while under the influence.

N Keep on about condoms. Condoms protect against pregnancy and against STIs.

N Help them resist pressure. Point out that their friends may be "showing off". They may not really be doing what they say they are. Help them to see they can have a mind of their own.
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Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 21, 2006
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