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12-Year-Olds Are Having Sex

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What can moms do to prevent our kids from taking the same path?

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A newly released study is completely freaking us out.

Middle school youth are engaging in sexual intercourse as early as age 12, according to the study by researchers at The University of Texas School of Public Health. According to their research, by age 12, 12 percent of students had already engaged in vaginal sex, 7.9 percent in oral sex, 6.5 percent in anal sex and 4 percent in all three types of intercourse.

Results from this study are published in the April issue of Journal of School Health.

The study found one-third of sexually active students reported engaging in vaginal or anal sex without a condom within the past three months, and one-fourth had four or more partners.

"We need to develop prevention programs that address the needs of students who are not yet sexually active in order to promote skills and attitudes to help them wait until they are older to have sex," Christine Markham, Ph.D., assistant professor of behavioral science at the UT School of Public Health said in a press release. "And we need to provide skills and knowledge related to condoms and contraception for youth who are already sexually active."

These findings clearly indicate the need for open discussion about sexual health at the middle school level, Markham said. "It is critical that health education teachers and school nurses feel comfortable addressing these issues with their students and that their efforts are supported by parents and the school administration," she added.

But of course some of the responsibility lies on us as parents, too. It's important to create an open dialogue, but talking to your teens about sex is never easy. But these five tips from psychologist Pamela Varady can help parents get the ball rolling.

Start early.
The earlier you talk to your kids about sex, the more informed your child will be and the more comfortable they will feel about coming to you with questions. Plus, future conversations will be much, much easier if you start young.

Let them know your values.
Teenagers want guidance from their parents, whether they admit it or not. Don't be afraid to tell them your own views on sex.

Teach teens about emotional intimacy, too.
Sex talks tend to focus on the physical. But you can also tell your child that you feel sex should occur in the context of an intimate relationship, and why.

Don't lecture.
A lecture instantly turns the conversation from two-way to one-way. Talking to your teen about sex effectively has to be a give-and-take. Remember to ask a lot of questions, and encourage your teen to do the same.

Relieve the pressure.
If your child has difficulty opening up, try initiating the conversation while you're doing something else, such as taking a walk or shooting hoops. Being involved in an activity while you talk will take a lot of the pressure off.

Parents of tweens and teens: What do you think about this study?




next: Note from School: Your Kid's Fat!
84 comments so far | Post a comment now
b April 9, 2009, 5:28 PM

I completely agree with the idea that schools need to facilitate the education process. However, as a Health Teacher in both middle and high school, I know that many school districts and states tie the hands of educators and forbid these topics in the curriculum.

That having been said, it is important to remember that while specifics about sex and sexuality are important to know, one of the most influential protective factors to prevent kids from having sex is not actually teaching them about sex. Rather, it involves teaching how to make healthy decisions, and most importantly goal setting. Studies have repeatedly shown that girls who have the goal of attending college delay sexual encounters longer than those who do not have that goal. It is important to have a reason “why” that you can own and not just, “i don’t want a disease or a child.” You must want something else as much or more than you don’t want the negative effects. Additionally, parents (who’s ultimate responsibility it is to teach their children) need to not only teach, but make declarative statements that such an activity is wrong. When the article states that children are looking for guidance, I believe that they are being soft. What children are looking for is boundaries. When an adult can say “this behavior is wrong” that sends a clear message to children and helps them to develop their own moral code more so than just giving an opinion about a behavior. Parents need not be afraid of making such statements.

Anne Collier April 9, 2009, 6:37 PM

Great post - thank you. I particularly appreciate the suggestion to balance all the discussion about physical consequences with emotional consequences. We’ve tried to strike that balance at our house.

Also MUCH appreciate the previous commenter’s points about 1) the importance of having positive reasons for making good choices, not just negatives ones, 2) the value of kids having and setting goals for themselves, and 3) the fact that children are looking for boundaries. I do think they (like all of us) need and deserve definition and clarity and shouldn’t have to get to those all by themselves. Providing boundaries is love.

The only thing I’d add is that media literacy - developing critical thinking about incoming messages from the media, peers, school, etc. (as well as about what they upload and how they themselves behave), including messages about sex and sexuality - is an essential part of helping children make good choices - develop the filter between their ears that’s with them when we’re not.



Kim April 9, 2009, 7:44 PM

Honestly I’m going to have my Anatomy and Pathophysiology book out when I have that talk with my son. If I’m going to be teaching him everything about sex then he’s going to know about EVERYTHING. All diseases that are sexually transmitted, causes, symptoms, long term affects. EVERYTHING. I’m going to explain to him that there are better choices for him and goals that need to be met before he makes any life decisions like having sex.

Rachel April 9, 2009, 9:43 PM

Honestly, we can only do so much. Schools do need to have better sex EDUCATION (as opposed to “Abstinence…the end”) but if kids are going to have sex, they’re going to have sex. There really is not too much we can do about it. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, no matter what you teach them and no matter how you parent them.

Anonymous April 10, 2009, 5:03 AM

Rachel, yes there is something you could do about it, you could raise your kids to be christian like everyone should be.

b April 10, 2009, 10:29 AM

Rachel, You’re right-where there’s a will, there’s a way. And so instead of preventing the way, you change the will. If they will to be abstinent, they will find a way to be. :) Give a reason for the “why not” and suddenly you’ve changed the will.

Jen@Balancing Beauty and Bedlam April 10, 2009, 12:22 PM

Wow - I do alot of speaking on parent/teen relationship and finding these stats for younger kids is always startling. I have way too much passion on this topic to address it in a blog comments. :) hee heee

scatteredmom April 10, 2009, 12:43 PM

What I observe in my job working with teens is that the ones who tend to engage in more risky behavior don’t have solid relationships with adults. I think that keeping the lines of communication open, standing your ground, and being open and honest with them goes a long way. They won’t acknowledge that they are listening, but they ARE. More then just saying what sex is, they need the TOOLS for how to deal with hormones, peer pressure, and saying no.

Anonymous, I was raised in a strictly Christian home. Religion had nothing to do with it-in fact, sex wasn’t discussed other then “you won’t do that until you’re married.” It didn’t work-and I’m lucky I didn’t end up a pregnant teen.

Abby April 10, 2009, 1:09 PM

Its nothing to do with being Christian or not. It is about building your childs positive self esteem so they respect themselves and are confident to say no and make informed choices without sucumbing to peer pressure.

Anonymous April 11, 2009, 2:27 AM

i was raised christian and started having sex at 12…not my parents fault at all. can’t wait til the “christians” on here have teens that start to rebel and have sex…might as well insert your foot right now!

Kristi April 11, 2009, 10:02 AM

Well, my fathers a minister so I was raised in a Christian home and still am a Christian. Teenagers are going to rebel but parents can set boundaries. I wasnt allowed to date until I was 16 so having sex at 12 really wasnt an issue. I think I was very sheltered though. I wasnt allowed to watch rated R movies until I was 17 and listen to secular music until I was 14 or 15. I really believe what goes in must come out because I ended up having sex before marriage once I went to college and had I still been living at home I dont think that would have happened. God forgives though! Parents need to realize that if their children learn to respect and listen to them early on it will continue later on in life. Allowing your children to do whatever watch whatever listen to whatever is your choice its just not mine, I dont need my lil boy thinking about that more than he will be. Thats just my thoughts….

Sabrina April 17, 2009, 9:38 PM

im 12 and i had sex it was really fun

Anonymous May 15, 2009, 12:44 AM

i say let them, if they get pregnant its their own damn fault

chloe May 16, 2009, 5:00 PM

i am 11 and i have had sex it was asume

Gszvgghn June 30, 2009, 12:02 PM

iCZBUE comment5 ,

Elizabeth July 12, 2009, 5:51 PM

Do you guys know a good way to help parents discipline their kids when they find out they have had sex? I.e. a teenager who isn’t told to have sex until she is married has sex, lies to her parents, and gets mad at them. The parents are never going to accept this behavior but I don’t know how to encourage them to lovingly set limits with the daughter so that while she is in their house, she doesn’t engage in such activity. I need some realistic rules that they can put in place so that they can lovingly set limits in a way that won’t drive her away but let her know that her decisions have consequences but she isn’t a “bad person”

bob November 4, 2009, 1:44 PM

i had have sex

me November 21, 2009, 6:14 PM

Im 11 and i had sex, mmm tastey vagina

taylor December 3, 2009, 2:37 PM

kids should not have sex under 16.its really bad for them!!!! none

stacy washington December 21, 2009, 8:59 AM

im 12 and having sex it fun and iv had sex with girls and boys but with girls i was durnk


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