It's no longer 'The Talk.' In today's world of instant information and opinion about pretty much everything — and undifferentiated twaddle on all the same subjects — parents should be alert to any opportunity to talk to their tweens and teens about sex, according to Dr. Ashley Waddington.
Not so much the health class 101 version of "where do babies come from" and "how did they get there," but the big dialogues about life, love, what's “normal,” and how to handle the pressures. And it just happens, there's no better time to start that conversation than now. Waddington, an assistant professor in Queen's University's department of obstetrics and gynaecology, notes that a statistical study conducted by Queen's researchers and published in 2011 identified a peak in teen conceptions occurs in March.
The study, which examined 838 pregnancies that occurred among girls under 19 during the preceding five-year period, found the unique pattern held true in each of those years, with 10.5% of teen pregnancies tracking back to March conception dates.
By comparison, a random sampling of 838 local adult pregnancies during the same period found only 7.3% were the result of March conceptions. Why, is speculative, Waddington admitted — although an author of the study did suggest a possible correlation between increased conception rates and spring break, when there could be more opportunities for some kids to be sexually active.
Interestingly, however, Waddington said it was observed in 2012, after media attention had been focused on the phenomenon, that the teen conception rate for March "was roughly half the number we had seen in the previous five to six years."
Waddington said teen March conception rates have been monitored ever since the statistical blip was discovered. However, "right now what we're trying to do is get the word out in the community," she said, "get the word out that this is a higher risk time." Waddington, who takes referrals from her local health unit, mainly works with cases involving contraceptive failures.
But in all cases, she said: "We encourage (teens) to speak to their parents," and equally important, she would encourage parents to listen and watch for opportunities to talk to their kids.
"One of the problems parents have," Waddington said, "is they worry their information is out of date."
A little online research on a site such as sexualityandu.ca can take care of that, Waddington suggested. She also noted that teens have shown themselves receptive to talking about intimacy within their families "when we've done surveys," and that even when it isn't apparent "teens still get their attitudes from their parents."
"They do want to hear it from their parents," she said and consequently, "I think if parents have been thinking about having 'the talk' with their teen, now is the time."