Parents invited to teen talk about sex


A story about a presentation for parents of teens on Page 1B Saturday should have titled the presentation "Talking to your Teen About Sex." Gloria Ferguson, director at HealthStart, will teach a curriculum called Parents Are Sexuality Educators. Following her presentation, a teen panel will present "What's it Like to be a Teen."


By Jeff Hansel


One time is all it took.

The transformation of the life of Rochester's Ashley Prins, 20, would not have happened had things been different.

"It was the first time that I had sex that I got pregnant," she says now, three years after giving birth to the first of two children.

Parents of teenagers have been invited to a panel discussion at 7 p.m. Tuesday night at Century High School. A panel of high school students will offer frank discussion of sex, sexually transmitted diseases, abstinence and pregnancy. The goal is to encourage parents to talk about sex -- and their own values about sex -- with their children. The discussion is the first in a three-part series called How to Talk to Your Teen About Tough Issues.

Bridget Berkland, public health educator with Olmsted County Public Health Services, said organizers hope to encourage parents to have a more-open dialogue with their children. Parents often feel unprepared for such a discussion.

Prins remembers her friends dropping away as her pregnancy progressed. She gave birth at 16.

"I think it was kind of awkward to be around a friend that was pregnant," she says now. Pregnancy early transformed her from teenager to adult.

"I kind of felt like I had to grow up overnight, and you really do. When you have children, you have to grow up overnight," Prins said.


According to Olmsted County Public Health Services, 82 percent of teens want more information about sexual-health issues. But they often learn about sex from peers, rather than parents. One in four sexually active adolescents will get an STD this year, Public Health says. Nearly half of all teens in grade 12 in Olmsted County are sexually active -- 49 percent of females and 46 percent of males.

Panel member Arpita Bhattacharyya, 16 and a junior at John Marshall High School, said she wants parents and teens to be able to talk about sex after the panel discussion.

"I'm hoping parents will just get out of it that they shouldn't be afraid to talk about this," she said.

Prins stayed in high school while pregnant -- both times -- and graduated.

Today she is 20, recently became married and gives talks to encourage teens to consider what happens after sex. Not having sex is the best option, she said.

Public Health has good reasons for teenagers to listen to her advice. In 2000, 68 people age 15 to 19 were diagnosed in Olmsted County with chlamydia and 158 teenage girls became pregnant.

Prins said she has talked with teenage boys and girls. The girls seem to respond quicker, but both listen. Parents should be open and talk about sex, Prins said, and they should make sure teens know it's all right to talk -- regardless of the topic.

"They do listen," she advises parents. "You just have to be persistent."


BOX; Time: 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Date: Oct. 12

Night: Tuesday

Where: Century High School

What: Public school Parent Teacher Student Associations, Olmsted County Public Health Services present "What's It Like to Be a Teen?"

Bright Futures (teen pregnancy and parenting support services): 285-8370.

Talking With Kids About Tough Issues:

Minnesota Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Prevention and Parenting: or (651) 644-1447.

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