To distribute condom or not? It is the question that has been in the news lately after the Department of Health (DOH) revealed its initiative to distribute condoms to teenage students. Parent groups and Catholic priests are up in arms, arguing such a plan will only invite promiscuity among teenagers.
It is a neverending debate, and at the end of the day, it is a situation that parents and their kids will have to face on their own at home. That's why we agree at least with DOH's appeal for parents to have "the talk" as early as they can with their children. It will have more impact than any government-led initiative, as one recent study shows.
Researchers from The Netherlands surveyed nearly 3,000 boys and girls at age 12 and again when they turned 16 years old. They were asked questions about their sex life and their relationship with their parents. Some of the questions asked were how close they felt to each parent and how much they enjoyed spending time with their mom or dad.
Published in the journal Pediatrics, the recent study found that teenage girls who had a close relationship with their mothers tend to wait longer to have sex and were 44 percent less likely to lose their virginity during the study period.
"We found that a higher-quality relationship with mothers is a protective factor against early sexual initiation for girls, but not for boys," lead study author Dr. Raquel Nogueira Avelar e Silva, a public health researcher at Erasmus Medical Center, in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, told Reuters.
Even better, the study showed that teenagers who wait until their late adolescent years to have sex are often more careful and use contraception when they start to engage in sex, according to Guttmacher Institute's "2016 Policy Review on Teens' Sexual and Reproductive Health." And while the study reports no similar effect for boys, the researchers think fathers could be more influential to older teens than those involved in the study.
Of course, as Dr. Avelar points out, the results are observational. A "high-quality relationship" with your tween daughter does not guarantee she will abstain from sex. But previous research supports this study's findings that a strong parent and child relationship can affect the age at which an adolescent engages in sexual behavior.
At the end of the day, it's all about communication. You and your kids should never lose that line of honesty and openness. Admittedly, it gets harder as they get older. So what can you do?
1. Spend time together doing something you both like. It's just like arts and crafts when they were young, only this time it could be a day at the spa or the salon or playing a sport you both enjoy, and even just taking a drive to Tagaytay. If you can't find a hobby together, learn one so you can spend time with your tween.
2. Support your tween in her endeavors. It doesn't matter if you don't really like martial arts; if she wants it, then support her. Also, teenagers relish independence and need space. Monitor her from a distance.
3. Try to be a friend. Listen and let your tween know that you get where she is coming from. You've been there, anyway, right? But don't jump the gun. It's an instinct to be protective, but make sure you let your child make their own decisions. You're just there to steer them in the right direction.
4. Remember you're still the parent. Establish new or revise rules in the house, considering you need to give her more independence. Involve your child in making these new rules so she feels important -- it adds to her confidence. Also, she can't argue when she breaks said rules.
5. Respect begets respect. Your tween is her own person now, and she's entitled to her own likes and dislikes and even friends. Controlling them will only leave you to be shut out of their lives.
Laying down the foundation for a strong relationship with your kids as they grow up is a lot of work. But if there’s even a tiny bit chance that it could help you better educate your child about sexual health and proper protection, then it’s all worth it. Besides, no parent would say no to a great, open, and honest relationship with a tween, right?