A recent news story caught my eye. It described the findings of a research study that linked teen girls, boyfriends, and sex. The study found that teen girls who relied on their boyfriends as the main source of their spending money were 10% less likely to use a condom when sexually active with their boyfriend than teens who had another source of income (like parents, grandparents, or job).
This surprised and saddened me. It essentially links monogamous teen girls with having sex and receiving money. If the teen girl’s boyfriend had a car, she was 50% more likely to not use a condom. The girls in this study also reported being less likely to use other forms of birth control if their boyfriend was their main source of income. The risks that come along with not using a condom include sexually transmitted infections (chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, etc) and HIV/AIDS. There is also the big risk of unplanned pregnancy without the use of consistent, reliable birth control.
These findings, to me, emphasize the importance of parents communicating and showing their teens what healthy relationships look like as well as empowering teen girls to speak up for their health.
There is no dollar amount that can buy self worth and self esteem. We know that teens and young women with poor self esteem are less likely to communicate with partners about healthy behaviors such as using condoms. Parents can help nurture the feelings of self worth through activities that empower teen girls. There are programs like girls for change that focus on this. Girls can also be empowered by having positive role models. Hollywood tends to be a very poor role model. Shows like basketball wives, jersey shore, and the real housewives are entertaining but they all focus on women who are relying on the wealth of another person for status and lifestyle.
So what can parents do?
Know your teen and her boyfriend/partner.
Talk about healthy relationships. This communication isn’t a one time talk. Use media (like commercials and movies) to have conversations about healthy relationships. When talking with your teen, speak about your family values and your expectations of their behavior.
Build your teen’s self esteem. Emphasize the things they are good at doing and instill a sense of self -worth.
Teach them to take charge of their health. This can be as simple as having your teen schedule their next annual exam, but empowering your teen to be in charge of their health and speak up for that can encourage them to say no to sex or insist that a condom is used.
Have them earn an allowance or get a part time job (if they have the time). This not only gives them a source of spending money, it teaches work ethic and the value of spending time on an activity that can put some cash in their pocket.
Do you have other ideas? Please share them with us!
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