Sex Education In South Carolina: How It Changed Their City

Sex Education: How Sex Ed Will Lower Birth Rates

It's important that you're honest with your children.

NPR recently reported that thirty years ago, Denmark, SC, had one of the state’s highest teen pregnancy rates. Due to comprehensive sex education starting in middle school, students in Denmark, SC now have the lowest pregnancy rates in South Carolina. For the United States as a whole, it is a tiny step; yet a step in the right direction because the United States has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the industrialized world despite easier access to birth control and sex education

As I work with teens in a therapy practice in the Poncey-Highlands district of Atlanta, it is found that many teens do not talk to their parents about sex education. Many parents do not realize that their teens are sexually active or not using any ways of protecting themselves again pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. In addition, with the resurgence of abstinence only sex education, many teens are not getting taught about appropriate ways to prevent pregnancy. All teens, including young men, should be taught the consequences of sexual activity, including disease and unwanted pregnancy. Sex education as a family is a good way to do this so the families can come together. They can be part of the solution instead of staying awkwardly silent and therefore, contributing to the problem. 

Many parents ask how to talk to their children about sex.  Here are a few pointers: 

  1. Be honest with your children. Many children start asking questions at a young age. Give them the information they want in simple, but correct terms. If a 3-year-old son asked his Mommy where her penis is, she can respond by saying that boys have penises but girls do not. Older children might continue to have sex education questions, but telling them the right information in straight-forward way is the way to go. If you don't know the answer to a question, then take the opportunity to find out the information together.
  2. Be honest with yourself. Is abstinence the best method to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections? YES! Is it realistic to think that your kids won’t even think about having sex until marriage and monogamy? NO! Sex education and birth control discussions can keep your kids from being in the dark about how pregnancy and diseases can be prevented. And sex education can include an emphasis on abstinence without leaving out the facts about condoms and other methods to prevent pregnancy and protect against disease. Plus, you can increase the chances that your children will hear your value and moral system when it comes to sex instead of someone else’s if you are talking to them yourself.
  3. Start early. Be aware that the earlier you start sex education, the more comfortable your children will be coming to you for advice instead of their peers.  There are serious risks to unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancy and HIV are just two of them. Having a close relationship with a parent can prevent the worst if one of these occurs and increases the likelihood tremendously of either happening to begin with. 

Sex can be a touchy subject in communities, especially in the last couple of decades when sex education has been dominated with abstinence only discussion. But, in Denmark, South Carolina, the community decided that having great-grandmothers in their forties due to teen pregnancies coming generation after generation was enough. Sex education with an emphasis on honesty and that is realistic and informative with the goal of preventing pregnancies in adolescence has saved the futures of the young men and women in this community.