Sooner or later, I know that I’ll have to start talking to my children about responsible sexual behavior.

I was young once too, and I know how it is to be so caught up in the first blush of love. For some, this first brush with romance is so intense that they’re willing to do anything and everything for love. Unfortunately, this attitude sometimes leads to unplanned pregnancies among adolescent girls, a phenomenon that’s definitely far from romantic.

Here’s something that’s got me all worried. In 2004, the National Statistics Office revealed that almost eight percent of the 1.7 million Filipino babies born that year had mothers who were 15 to 19 years of age.

And here’s another. More than four million Filipinos from 15 to 19 years have already had sexual intercourse, according to a study by the Population Institute of the University of the Philippines.

I have two adolescent boys and two girls in their tweens, so you can just imagine my apprehension. It is at this stage that they are starting to see the opposite sex in a different light. And before they have their first encounter with romance, I hope to give them enough knowledge and guidance to enable them to act responsibly, not hastily.

Straight Talk

Talking to children about responsible sexual behavior is definitely going to be more difficult than talking to them about the birds and the bees. And so for the past few weeks, I’ve asked fellow parents how they approached this situation. I’ve also gone through all sorts of books and reference materials. Thus far, here’s what I know.

Talk to your children about love and relationships. When my children were younger, one of the things they liked asking me was how their father and I met, and how we eventually fell in love. They like hearing this story over and over again because it’s part of our family history.

But aside from talking about our relationship with our spouses, it might be a good idea to tell our children about our past crushes and relationships as well. This shows them that a person doesn’t necessarily marry his first love. We must also explain to them the difference between real love and mere infatuation.

It’s okay to talk about sex with your children. As a matter of fact, it is better that children get sexual information from their parents than from other sources. Filipino families are still predominantly conservative. Parents aren’t too keen on talking about sex with their children. If at all, they give very perfunctory information.

Keep in mind that our school system doesn’t have a concrete sexual education program. That’s why it falls on the parents’ shoulders to talk about sex with their children. This is our chance to demystify this highly intriguing subject to our children. It is better that our children learn about proper sexual behavior from us than from the movies or from his friends.

Let your opinions be known. Once you start talking about sex, your kids are bound to throw you all sorts of questions. Be open about your views, but respect their opinions at the same time. If you do not believe in premarital sex, then tell them why. State your reasons. If you think that teenagers are too young to have sex, then tell them why. Give them solid information. Explain, for example, that people who engage in sexual activities early in life are more likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases. If your children are already in a relationship, tell them that sex is not the only way to express their love for each other. They do not have to engage in sexual relations to prove their love.

Set house rules on dating. Before your children reach the dating age, set the rules. Don’t allow your children to make up their own rules. For example, don’t allow dating until your child is 16 years or older.  Set a curfew time. If you have a daughter, do not allow her to date someone who is so much older than she is. This will put your daughter into a precarious situation.

Discuss with them the realities of teen pregnancies. There are a number of health risks associated with teen pregnancies. For starters, teen mothers may not get adequate prenatal care. Because most of these pregnancies happened by accident, they may not exactly be met with warm greetings. And so, most teen moms delay telling their folks about the pregnancy. They also tend to delay consulting with the doctor about proper prenatal care, thinking that they are in the pink of health. Because of this lack of proper health information, teen mothers may end up not eating right for their babies. They may also continue to indulge in unhealthy habits like smoking or drinking.

Last but not least, tell your children that teen pregnancy is not okay. Motherhood is an all-consuming task that requires time, effort, patience, and knowledge. And fortunate are teen moms blessed with a solid support system. With the help of their partners, parents, relatives, and friends, they can go on with their studies while raising their children. They can still continue pursuing their dreams.

Getting pregnant at an early age is not the end of the world. I know of many teen moms who go on to lead happy, productive, and successful lives. However, adolescence is not the right time for pregnancy. Adolescence is a time for self-discovery, something that’s already a difficult task to begin with.

Have a great week ahead!