Dads are an important influence on whether their teenagers become pregnant or cause a pregnancy. A dad’s behavior and his connectedness with his child at every stage of development can influence future decisions they make about sexual activity and contraception use. Parent Action for Healthy Kids suggests six ways dads can help delay the early onset of their teen’s sexual activity.
Look for teachable moments
When spending time with your teen, be aware of what is happening in the moment and make it teachable. When listening to the radio and a song with sexually explicit lyrics is played, that’s a door opener to talking about sex. Try to push through any embarrassment or fear and before you know it, those two inhibiting feelings will be gone.
Listen more than you speak
Nobody wants a lecture. Instead of getting on your soapbox, dads might ask their teens what they think about sexual situations they see in a video game or read about on Facebook. When listening to their answer without lecturing or judging you will build respect, trust, and have a better idea of the direction of your teens’ thinking.
Open-ended questions allow dads to better gauge what their teens are thinking. Instead of “how was your day?” try, “tell me one cool thing that happened to you today”.
Keep the conversation going
Having “The Talk” only one time is about as effective as giving one swimming lesson and then expecting your teen to swim the length of the pool. Frequent small talks spread over time (preschool through high school) are less embarrassing, make you a more askable parent, and build communication skills, which mean the talks are much more effective.
Know when opportunity knocks
Never miss an opportunity to learn more about your teen and their friends. For example, younger teens need someone to chauffeur them. When carting your children and their friends around, listen to what’s going on in the backseat. Especially with middle school age teens, it’s amazing the way they have conversations as if parents are not even in the car.
Stick to them like glue
The teen brain is a work in progress. They are working primarily off the emotional part of their brain with little assistance from the prefrontal cortex. This means they are on an emotional roller coaster without the benefit of a fully developed prefrontal cortex to help calm down, think rationally and make good decisions. Dads need to stick to them like a well-paid consultant. Who better than dad to help a teen practice skills such as assertiveness? The payoff will be enormous. When in their mid 20’s and that brain is fully developed, they will tell you what a great job you did and what an awesome dad you are!
I’m Barb Flis, parent advocate and Founder of Parent Action for Healthy Kids. I insist that every parent has the power to make a difference. I’m a published expert in advocating for children’s health, and most importantly, a mother of two daughters. My focus lies in connecting families, schools and communities on children’s social, emotional and physical health. Areas of work include asthma, diabetes, sex education, mental health, school wellness programs, physical activity and nutrition. I design and implement trainings and workshops for parents, teachers, school administrators, public health professionals and community-based organizations. I’m also motivational speaker throughout my home state of Michigan and across the United States. For more information visit http://www.parentactionforhealthykids.org.