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MN Proclaims “Let’s Talk Month" to Keep Kids Healthy

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October 21, 2009

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota used to have the fourth lowest rate in the nation for numbers of babies born to girls ages 15 to 19, but that has jumped to tenth in recent years. The rising teen pregnancy trend makes "Let's Talk Month" more significant than ever. In proclamations by the state, as well as the City of St. Paul, parents are being encouraged in October to improve their efforts to connect with their kids, openly and honestly, about relationships and sexuality.

Brigid Riley, executive director of the Minnesota Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Prevention and Parenting (MOAPP), sees "Let's Talk Month" as a partnership between the community and the family, to help kids develop responsible attitudes about sexuality.

"Young people are not hearing good quality information. There's an awful lot of noise out there, and parents have an obligation to provide some context."

The key to prompting these conversations is to be what Riley calls "an ask-able parent" -- one who initiates the dialogue and makes a sincere effort to listen. She acknowledges that many parents feel uncomfortable about the topic, at least partly because they don't want to have to use themselves as examples.

"It's okay for parents to draw some boundaries and say, 'You know, that's not what I want to talk with you about. Today, I want to talk about what I'm hoping for, for you.'"

A student survey reports 53 percent of Minnesota teenagers say parents, values, and religious beliefs influence their decisions about sex -- more than friends, the media, or teachers. In the same survey, more than two-thirds of the students said it would be easier for them to postpone sexual activity and avoid pregnancy if they were able to have more open, honest conversations about these topics with their parents.

The research, along with more information about how to talk with teens about sex, is available online at www.moapp.org.

Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MN