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Printed in the Ventura County Star on May 12th, 2009

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Christine Lyon, VP of External Affairs


Published: 05.12.09| Updated: 05.29.09

May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month

At 23, it hasnít been that long since I was a teen. Since graduating from college in 2007, I have worked for Planned Parenthood of Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties alongside a fabulous team of dedicated staff. I began as a medical assistant in our Santa Barbara Health Center, serving the needs of teens and low-income people.

When I started college, I found myself completely unprepared for a sexual relationship. To put it bluntly, I was unprepared for sex. After all those years of watching episodes of ďWill & GraceĒ with my mom, I had to wonder why she hadnít taken at least one opportunity to talk to me about sex, sexual health or sexual identity. When I was in the sixth grade, a fellow student became pregnant, but even then my mother never discussed what happened.

Over the years, my mother and I missed many opportunities for honest and healthy conversations about sex and sexuality. We could have shared our values, experiences, hopes, dreams and even our fears. Looking back, even though I wasnít sexually active in high school, I wanted my parents to talk to me about sex. I wanted them to know where I stood on the issue; I wanted to know where they stood. Only since I began working for Planned Parenthood have I felt comfortable initiating conversations with my parents about sex and sexuality. Iíve realized itís never too late to start talking, even about sex.

Iíve learned why parent-teen communication matters and seen firsthand the consequences of its breakdown. In my experience, talking about sex must be an ongoing conversation between teens and parents or other trusted adults, a discussion that continues as children mature. As in my case, such conversations may even have to be initiated by the kids.

I consider myself lucky I didnít become pregnant or contract a sexually transmitted infection, lucky I had the courage to seek information and access to reproductive health services at my Student Health Center on my college campus and later at Planned Parenthood. What if I hadnít been so lucky?

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy states that in the U.S. each year, 745,000 teen girls become pregnant. Shocking, right? Even more shocking is that the U.S. has the highest teen pregnancy and birthrates of all the industrialized nations. To put this in perspective, our teen birthrate is one-and-a-half times the teen birthrate in the United Kingdom, which has the highest teen birthrate in Europe. So, this month, what will you do to initiate the conversation?

My mom and I still watch ďWill & GraceĒ reruns whenever I visit, but now, sometimes long after the episode has ended, my mom and I can be found just talking.

ó Erin Seaver has a bachelorís degree from UC Santa Barbara in womenís studies and is a public affairs associate for Planned Parenthood of Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties. She will be pursuing her masterís degree in public policy, with an emphasis in womenís studies, at George Washington University in the fall.

 

 


 

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