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Home > Health > Article

Teen Pregnancy: Teaching Caution as a Form of Planned Parenthood

by Archie Wortham

Recently, the Ash Wednesday edition of the Express News reported that 46 percent of the Texas children under 5 whose mothers work spend 35 hours or more per week in day care. The survey conducted by the Urban Institute found that Texas children from higher income families spend more time in child care than those in lower-income families. Said another way, the Urban Institute found that children from higher income families spend less time with their families than children from lower income. The reason given? Poorer families cannot afford the more expensive child care option. Money can't buy everything! Some kids, I guess, are just lucky to be taught by someone other than their parents.

When I grew up, life seemed simpler. There are certain things that happened in one's life, and when I grew up--sex rarely happened before marriage. If I'm led to believe some of the things I heard, sex rarely happened in marriage. But I knew it happened, how else did I get here, right? Recently my wife and I went on a couples' retreat where we renewed our vows. It was there I heard one of the couples state that sex was a gift from God that you only opened after marriage. Rather than having day care, or our schools do our job, if we teach these things to our kids, perhaps they too will understand the beauty, solemnity, and responsibility of sex. Perhaps our teaching might help reduce the number of teen pregnancies, and the number of children in day care.

Last summer, I did a research project involving middle-income fathers. All the mothers in this particular group were stay-at-home moms. One of the wives of one of the fathers I interviewed told me that she and a friend of hers occasionally watched other kids. She indicated that there were a couple of the kids who were totally unreserved, and a tad less respectful. At first these mothers had some difficulty understanding why, since the kids' fathers basically did the same things. The kids were the same age. Even the moms were about the same age. Then it dawned on them. All the kids identified as a bit different had parents who both worked. Didn't take a rocket scientist to define that. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that our children are learning exactly what we teach them. And if we are not teaching them, then they'll learn from someone else. If fathers of boys are inspiring their sons to be cautious about who they get sexually involved with, then the fathers of girls can be more comfortable about the boys they are dating.

As an involved dad, I'm amazed that people wonder who's teaching morality to our children. Dads, if we are not doing it who should? But sometimes we dads need a bit of help, and here's something I think you ought to note, particularly if you are a father of girls. Ken Canfield of the National Center for Fathering related in one of his weekly e-mail messages that a recently published study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology discussed the benefits of close father/daughter relationships. The study of 173 girls and their families found that girls who have positive family relationships in their first five years of life--especially with their fathers--enter puberty later. The fathers of the girls who reached puberty later were fathers who were active in caring for their children. These fathers also had positive relationships with their wives. In contrast, the girls who entered puberty earlier commonly grew up in fatherless or dysfunctional homes.

What's significant about the onset of puberty? Girls don't typically experiment with sex until they've reached puberty, so the later, the better. It's a widely accepted fact that girls generally reach puberty earlier and engage in sex sooner than they should. Studies have shown that girls who grow up without fathers tend to become sexually active at earlier ages as they look for male approval in intimate relationships before they're emotionally ready. The important thing to remember here, is dad's presence is important! Besides being physically present, dads are emotionally present to tend to their little girls!

Additionally, Dr. Canfield reports that though boys are often lured in by visual stimulation, it's the relationship, intimacy and romance that attract girls. So fathers need to find ways to help meet their daughter's emotional need for intimacy. Dads need to pursue her heart. Take her on a date. Dr. Canfield emphasized that you'll strengthen your relationship, and help her avoid confusing sex with love. Shower her with attention and words of affection. If you don't, she could get the message that you don't care or that there's something wrong with her. Trying to prove herself, she may go to any lengths, including sex with young men who are unprepared to give her the intimacy and commitment she needs. Acknowledge her value as a bright young woman with a promising future. Dads, more than anyone else, can give her the confidence to say, "I'm waiting for my wedding night." Be proactive. Discuss with your son or daughter what to expect on a date, and talk through appropriate responses to certain situations



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