Archive for January 2013

Monthly Archive

Teens and Sexual Assault, Part 2: Drinking and Drugs

Group Of Teenagers Drinking AlcoholIn this post, and posts to come, I’m going to talk about safety measures that teens can take to try and lower their risk of sexual assault. However, that comes with two important caveats. The first is that, unfortunately, there is nothing a teen can do to keep themselves 100% safe from sexual assault. The second is that if a sexual assault occurs, the blame is 100% on the perpetrator. It does not matter how the victim was acting, or what risks they took, or whether or not they showed good judgment in the situations leading up to the assault; a person who sexually assaults another person is the only one who bears responsibility for that assault.

The tips I am giving in the next few posts are ways to possibly lower risk, but someone who chooses to ignore all of them should never be blamed if they are attacked. Sometimes I wonder if we spend time teaching our teens to take safety measures and then forget to teach our teens to not sexually assault people. Like I mentioned in my last post, take the time to discuss with your teen, no matter what their gender, what is and is not acceptable. Again, I’m not implying your teen is the type of person to victimize someone, but they might be able to speak up to help someone else. If one teen had chosen to call the police when they saw what was happening during the Steubenville incident, the victim’s assaults- or at least some of them- might never have happened. Read full post »

Teens and Sexual Assault, Part 1: The Steubenville Incident


The small town of Steubenville, Ohio, has suddenly become reluctantly but internationally famous, and events there have made headlines around the world. The story of a teen girl, dragged unconscious from party to party, her repeated assaults known of and even witnessed by peers, is a nightmare. It chills any parent’s heart, for multiple reasons: the young woman’s vulnerability, the callous nature of the assault, the youth and former promise of the young men who committed it, and the small town politics that many allege obstructed the initial investigation (the mother of one of the accused is the town’s prosecuting attorney).

I want to go over how to talk to your teens about sexual assault and consent. I touch on this in item number three of “10 Tips For Talking to Your Teen About Sex“, but it deserves further discussion. It’s vital that you have a frank discussion with your teen about sexual assault, and the media coverage of the Steubenville incident gives parents a perfect opportunity to bring it up.

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Sexually Transmitted Infections: Part 5 HPV

couple kissingGenital human papilloma virus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). In fact, it’s spread through direct skin to skin contact, so most people have been exposed to it once they become sexually active. It’s the same virus that leads to a wart, but if it is spread through sexual contact, it’s also the virus that can lead to cervical cancer.  We now have a vaccine to protect against the strains of genital HPV that are most likely to cause cancer, but parents and teens should be aware of the impact HPV can have.

My co-author, Jen Brown, posted on the HPV vaccine a while back, so I won’t duplicate that information. This post can give a bit more background about the infection and tell why parents should be aware of it. Read full post »

Teen Pregnancy, Part 7: Preventing Teen Pregnancies


Despite our best efforts, there is no way to completely prevent unwanted teen pregnancies.

Many people paint a picture of pregnant teens as being somehow irresponsible, or rather, “deserving their fate.” Remember that in many cases they are no more or less responsible than teens who don’t get pregnant; it may be simply a deficit of resources, methods, or plain luck.  Some teens do not use birth control when they are sexually active. Others may see birth control fail, either through “operator error” or because even the most effective birth control isn’t 100% effective. A young woman who chooses to abstain from sex is still at risk for sexual assault. In the saddest cases, a teen may have experienced sexual abuse since childhood, and is now simply old enough to conceive.

This post will will draw from prior ones to discuss pregnancy, STDs, and talking about sex. Remember: many unwanted teen pregnancies can be prevented by good communication, planning ahead, and/ or access to birth control.

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Sexually Transmitted Infections: Part 4 HSV I and II

Closeup photo of a boy and girl holding handsWe have been discussing sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) in teens and young adults in this series. Throughout the series, we’ve talked about the importance of communication between parents and their teens to prevent STI’s.  I want to emphasize that parents are an invaluable resource for teens on both information about sexual health, and also a resource for healthy relationships. As the mother of a new baby, I still need to experience the toddler years and the terrible 2’s, but I’m planning to communicate and model normal romantic relationships as soon as she can understand them.

Let’s cover a topic that is associated with a lot of stigma, yet is very common: Genital herpes. Most people know someone who’s had a cold sore or “fever blister.” Believe it or not, that is a herpes infection. Given how common herpes is, most of us also know someone with genital herpes too. There are 2 different types of herpes that can affect the genital track: HSV 1 and HSV2. Read full post »

Teen Pregnancy, Part 6: Pregnancy Termination

 Reproductive health studies show that approximately one-quarter to one-third of pregnant adolescents choose to undergo pregnancy termination, also known as abortion (I will use the terms interchangeably.) Abortion is a highly emotional topic in the United States, and there is a wide range of opinions on its morality. This post is not intended to address the ethics of abortion, nor to be a recommendation to keep or end a pregnancy; only a person in that situation can know what is right for them. This post aims to help parents and teens have accurate information about the types of medical procedures and resources available to them. (I should note that Seattle Children’s Hospital does not provide any prenatal or pregnancy care, and that includes pregnancy terminations.)

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Sexually Transmitted Infections: Part 3 Chlamydia

We’ve been focusing on sexuality and sexually transmitted infections in teens in the this series of posts. Now, let’s talk about the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) that’s caused by a bacteria: Chlamydia.

Most people with chlamydia don’t know it. The most common symptom is nothing at all, so it is extremely important that any teen who is sexually active be screened. The CDC recommends all women younger than age 25 who are sexually active be screened for chlamydia each year (about 1 in 15 sexually active females age 14-19 has chlamydia). Men who have sex with men should also be screened every year. Why worry about an infection that doesn’t cause symptoms? Read full post »

Teen Pregnancy, Part 5: Teens Raising Children

It’s hard to write a brief post on something as complicated on teens having and raising children! Your story will be different than anyone else’s, and your experience unique. However, I think the following 8 points are good ones to consider when your teen tells you they are thinking about becoming a parent.

1. Your teen needs to make this decision. Let your teen know what you think about them having and raising the child, and why. Make a pro-con list. Discuss your experience in parenting and give them a realistic view of what to expect. But even if you disagree with their decision, it’s important to respect it. This isn’t a decision you can make for them without the possibility of major repercussions down the road.

2. This is going to be a hard adjustment. Many parents of teens are looking forward to a time when the house will be theirs again, when they can retire and take trips and generally relax. Now there is the prospect of a new infant in the home. It’s completely normal to feel disappointed or angry, even while you know you’ll love your grandchild. If the feelings persist or are interfering with your ability to cope, seek help from a counselor. Likewise, if you feel like your teen is having trouble adjusting, have them see a counselor as well.

3. Your teen needs your help. Remember how lost you felt, the first time you were caring for a newborn? Hopefully, you had wise friends and family to help you with taking on the role of a new parent. Your teen needs that wise advice, and your experience is invaluable. Any teen can learn to feed, change, and clothe a baby. But they will need your ongoing support to interact with their baby, learn to play with them, differentiate normal behavior from worrisome signs, and adjust to their rhythms. Read full post »