Kipp: Red Ribbon Project key in reducing teen pregnancies in Eagle County | VailDaily.com

Kipp: Red Ribbon Project key in reducing teen pregnancies in Eagle County

Denise Kipp
Valley Voices

Red Ribbon Project is celebrating a significant decrease in teen birth rates, and this is something we hope all of Eagle County is celebrating with us. Teen pregnancy is an awkward topic but Red Ribbon Project (RRP) does not shy away from these challenging conversations. Studies also prove that engaging young people in honest, age-appropriate conversation about safe sex proves beneficial. It allows youth to make an informed, fact-based decision.

Good news: RRP’s 20-plus years delivering sexual health education to children is paying off in Eagle County. Between 2008 and 2017, teen birth rates decreased a stunning 79 percent. While birth rates have hovered around 30 per year for the past six years, in 2017 only 15 teens aged 13-19 gave birth. This is a success we should celebrate as a community, for it is all of us working together that empowers young people to make smart choices.

While our in-school sexual health programs start the conversation, we rely on parents, caregivers and other trusted adults to continue the conversation at home. “Sexual education happens whether we know it or not. How much better, then, to take charge of the process?” writes Justin Richardson in The New York Times.

Sex education does not encourage teenagers to have sex. In fact, it does quite the opposite: Students who receive formal sex education in schools are shown to first have sexual intercourse later than students who have not had sex education. We know there is a fear about talking about sex with young people, that some people believe talking about it will encourage young people to engage. However, statistics show the opposite is true. In fact, not talking about sex and reproductive health doesn’t mean it’s not happening: pregnancy rates increase when there is a lack of communication and knowledge.

When it comes to prohibiting or limiting information about contraception, Michael McGee, vice president for education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America in New York City, said, “pregnancy and STDs are not something teens should be ignorant about preventing. I think it is morally irresponsible to deprive young people of information that can save their lives.”

Education itself is yet another reason to celebrate a decrease in teen pregnancy rates. One, in particular, is the fact that 40% of teen mothers complete high school, and less than 2% finish college before they are 30 years old. Teen births decrease opportunities for young mothers. They do not have the same opportunities as those who delay motherhood.

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Together, we can continue to make a difference in the lives of young people in Eagle County. If you’re not sure how to start the conversation, let us help.

Ways To Start the Conversation (adapted from The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy):

  1. Be clear about your own sexual values and attitudes. 
  2. Talk to your children early and often about sex, and be specific.  Young people tell us that the source they would most like to go for answers is their parents!
  3. Supervise and monitor your children; establish rules, curfews, and standards of expected behavior.
  4. Know your children’s friends and their families. Even if your views don’t match those of other parents, hold fast to your convictions.
  5. Discourage early, frequent, and steady dating. 
  6. Take a strong stand against your daughter dating a boy significantly older that she is.  And don’t allow your son to develop an intense relationship with a girl much younger than she is. 
  7. Help your teenagers to have options for the future that are more attractive than early pregnancy and parenthood. 
  8. Let your kids know that you value education.
  9. Know what your kids are watching, reading, and listening to.  
  10. Have a strong, close relationship with your child that is built from an early age.

Denise Kipp is the executive director of Red Ribbon Project. Visit http://www.redribbonproject.org or email her at denise@redribbonproject.org. The Red Ribbon Project mission is to “promote healthier lives by empowering the community to reduce teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and other STIs.”  Consider a donation to the Red Ribbon Project by visiting http://www.redribbonproject.org.