How to Talk to your Teen

All Articles in the Category ‘How to Talk to your Teen’

Preventing Teen Pregnancy

prego teen on floorTeen pregnancy rates have declined in the US over the past few years, however they continue to be higher than other industrialized nations. We’ve blogged about teen pregnancy before, and my co-author posted an entire series on the topic, but a journal article published online this week has prompted me to write about teen pregnancy today.  With the staggering statistic of nearly 1,000 teens giving birth each day in the US, I think it’s worth mentioning again. Read full post »

Teens and Sexual Assault, Part 5: Developmentally Delayed Teens


Developmentally delayed teens are at a much higher risk of sexual assault than their non-delayed peers; the numbers are both depressing and well-validated. Despite the high rates of sexual assault in the teenage population, developmentally delayed teens are at even greater risk. The reason is simple: they are seen as an easy target, and there are predators out there looking to take advantage of them.

“Developmental delay” is a vague term (and is starting to become replaced by the phrase “intellectually disability”), encompassing Down Syndrome, autism, and other conditions that may be genetic or acquired. The range of developmental delay spans from teens who cannot communicate in any fashion with their caregivers, to articulate teens who plan to graduate high school and seek higher education or employment. Obviously, discussion and education for a delayed teen is not a one-size-fits-all task.

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Teens and Sexual Assault, Part 4: Trusting Your Gut


When I was a freshman in college, a friend told me about something a professor had said to the class at one point. “She said that if you’re at a party and you’re the only girl left, and things are starting to feel weird, throw a lamp out the window! Then run while everyone’s wondering why you threw a lamp out the window.”

While I can’t give a broad recommendation to throw lamps out windows (you never know who is standing below), the message of this stayed with me: If your gut tells you something is wrong, go with it, even if it means looking foolish or crazy. By then, I’d had enough friends who had been sexually assaulted- one at a party where she was left as the only woman, no less- that it made perfect sense to me.

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Teens and Sexual Assault, Part 3: The Age of Consent

Couple EmbracingAt some point, most teens end up dating someone who is a little older or younger than them. But when that age gap widens, teens can be putting themselves or their partner in danger of legal (and emotional) consequences if the relationship involves sexual contact. This week we’re going to take a look at the legal implications of the age of consent and statutory rape.

In the United States, the most common age of consent is 16, although in some states, it is 17 or 18. This means that someone under the age of 16 cannot legally give consent to sexual contact with an adult, while once a teen turns 16 they can consent to sex with anyone they choose (with a few exceptions, such as teachers, foster parents, and supervisors.) Read full post »

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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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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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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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 »

Teaching Your Teen the True Meaning of __________

First, let me say that I will be continuing the series on teen pregnancy! I took a break to address the Sandy Hook tragedy last week, and since this is a holiday week, I thought I might do something more timely (and happier than unwanted pregnancies). For the rest of that series, stay tuned next year!

Given that many people will be celebrating, or have recently celebrated, a holiday, I wanted to talk about discussing the deeper meaning of the holiday season with your teen, and ways to help them develop their thinking around the topic, whether or not your family is religious.

Children often love holidays for the tangible benefits: food, family, and presents. Around this time of year, especially presents. Most children are materialistic at heart, savoring the prospect of a new toy or gadget. It’s age-appropriate, and we love them anyway. Teens (and adults) can also have strong desires for the latest electronics, tools, or fun experiences. However, teens are getting to the point where they can start thinking about the deeper meaning of the holidays, and if they feel like talking, try exploring it with them. Read full post »