Brittney Spears' sister, 16-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears, is pregnant. I know. Shocking, isn't it? How in the world could such a thing happen when ones own sister is such a fine role-model, says you. But alas, it is true. While I fear for this child's well-being for other reasons, (play time with Aunt Brittney, brain damage and seizures induced by the flashes of Paparatzi cameras) it's the teen pregnancy that has the world in an uproar.
You see, Jamie stars in a children's show whose general audience is tweens; 7-12-year-olds for the un-hip. It appears that once again, a Spears has not lived up to parents expectations as a proper role-model. (Hey, at least Jamies not making out with Madonna on national TV...yet).
As can be expected, the innocence police have emerged full force-mouth's agape in shock at the thought of having to talk about that S-E-X word with their kids. Sex: that basic fact of life that kids aren't supposed to know about. Babies come from storks and mommie and daddy were just wrestling-little white lies lest they know about, you know...life.
While the 'sexual ignorance=innocence' myth is a popular excuse for avoiding discussions that may be uncomfortable, reality is that children aren't clueless. In actuality, it's quite normal for children to display sexual behavior or engage in sexual play. The fact is that childhood masturbation is common, and all children display curiosity about sex related issues. The fact is that even kindergardeners gossip about it on the playground, or tell dirty jokes behind their parents backs. (Any teacher could fill your ear with story after story of sexual discussions or acting out among their students). The reality is that kids are immersed with sexuality whether you like it or not; it's around them in nature, it's part of their nature, and it's lurking around every corner throughout society. Yet despite these realities of life, some parents still honestly believe that they are doing their children a favor by pretending sex doesn't exist, at least until the child is older. (Mid-forties, perhaps)
Shielding children from knowledge of sexuality isn't preserving their innocence, it's shirking your parental duties. Like drugs, sex should be openly talked about from early on, not postponed until waging hormones and teen rebellion sets in, when your parental influence will have lost much of its power. While alarmists fear that the knowledge of anything sexual will spoil children, the exact opposite is true. In fact, Sigmund Freud, the Godfather of psychology, even went so far as to declare that the suppression of sexual instinct in childhood was the root of all adult neurosis.
Instead of blasting Jamie, parents should be thanking her for the wonderful discussion opportunity. It's times like this which make ideal chances to bridge the gap with your children in talking about sex. Embrace it! Open the discussion, and talk about things like...
-Do you think Jamie has made a good decision?
-How do you think having a baby will change her life?
-Now that she has a child to take care of, what kinds of things won't she be able to do with her friends?
-What kinds of sacrifices and responsibilities are involved in raising a child? Do you think Jamies considered the full-scope of motherhood?
As always, answer their questions honestly and openly. There is nothing about life that kids "can't know about." While it may be a little uncomfortable at first, there is no logical reason you can't talk about sex as openly as you would any other subject in life. Millions of other parents do, and their children are better off because of it. You just need to slowly work through the decades of conditioning that has trained you to feel embarrassed about the subject.
If you'd rather they learn about sex from their peers, or obtain their views on sexuality through the media, then by all means, continue avoiding the subject. Cuss-out Jamie for her assault against your child's innocence. Otherwise, talk openly with your kids about sex every chance you get. Don't look at this whole teen pregnancy episode as a bad thing, but as a valuable learning opportunity.
1) The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud, translated and edited by Dr. A.A. Brill,(1995) Random House: New York
2) Straight Talk, THe pueblo chief tan, (3-25-07) p. E1
3) Normative Sexual Behavior In Children; Friedrich, W.N., Grambush, P., Broughton, D., Kuiper, J., & Beilke, R.L. (1991) Pediatrics, 88, 456-464
4) Gunderson, B.H., Melas, P.S., and Skar, J.E. (1981) Sexual Behavior of Preschool Children: Teachers' Observations. In L.L. Constantine and F.M. Martinson (Eds.), Children and Sex, New Findings, New Perspectives, pp. 45-61, Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Company
5) Roberts, E.J., Kline, D., Gagnon, J. (1978) Family Life and Sexual Learning. A Study of the Role of Parents in the Sexual Learning of Children, Cambridge, Mass.: Population Education, Inc.