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Sexologist Minister: The Big Talk With Teen Children is Just the Start

May 7, 2009

Minneapolis - There's good news for parents, as teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases are lower than a decade ago. But that doesn't mean it's time for them to let their guard down. That's the message sex researcher and author Debra Haffner, an ordained minister and director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing, will bring this week to the 18th annual conference organized by the Minnesota Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Prevention and Parenting (MOAPPP).

Haffner speaks Friday at 8:45 a.m. at the Earle Brown Heritage Center, Brooklyn Center, MN. Her talk will draw from her new book, "What Every 21st-Century Parent Needs to Know."

Young people have access to more information about sex than any generation before, Haffner says, and parents are having a positive effect on their teens' important decisions.

"Parental involvement is paying off. Parents have a tremendous ability to affect their children's choices around sex and alcohol and drug use. The fact that today's teenagers feel closer to their parents than other generations did is really making a difference."

Today's teens access information through the Internet as well as more traditional sources like churches, schools and youth agencies. Haffner credits the increase in information with helping teens develop into sexually healthy adults.

The problem comes, she explains, when political decisions send mixed or incomplete messages. Haffner favors providing more information rather than limiting discussions to sexual abstinence. But either way, she advises, parents need to continually check in with their children concerning their expectations and values.

"I think our young people deserve complete and honest information. Parents are still not talking to their children early enough or consistently enough."

Although teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases are down over the past decade and a half, the recent annual report by MOAPP shows slight increases the past two years and wide disparities between youth of color and Caucasian teens.

More information is available at www.moappp.org and at www.religiousinstitute.org.

Art Hughes, Public News Service - MN