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"Parents tend to focus on pregnancy prevention in order to keep children on track to fulfill the hopes and dreams they have for them," says Vickie Mays, professor of psychology and health services at UCLA and an expert on race and sexual behavior."But if you want to prevent pregnancy, the conversations can't just be 'Don't, don't, don't.' We need to talk to children about what they're doing, how they're feeling, what they're thinking about." And we need to get up to speed.The bad news is, more than 60 percent of the 1,500 kids surveyed feel the conversations they've had with their parents aren't helpful.Experts say the challenge for many African-Americans isn't that we aren't talking, it's that many of us are having the wrong kinds of conversations.It's awkward." Of course, every generation has experienced the chasm of mis-communication that suddenly opens up around the time a child reaches adolescence.Children who previously turned to parents for comfort and advice now greet their counsel with groans and barely disguised eye rolling.
Children like Jasmine may shrug off their mothers' advice, but the fact is, parents have the potential for enormous influence.
"For the past decade and a half that we've been surveying teens," says Marisa Nightingale, senior adviser at the National Campaign, "they have consistently told us that parents are the number one influence on their decisions about sex." This year ESSENCE joined forces with the National Campaign for an unprecedented study, Under Pressure: What African-American Teens Aren't Telling You About Sex, Love and Relationships.
The good news is, Black teens do trust their parents as authorities on sex and love: Almost 50 percent wish their parents would talk to them more about how to have a good relationship.
But while this might be part of the natural ebb and flow of parent–child relationships, these days parents face more challenges than ever in connecting with their kids.
Many teens live a secret life, communicating in a cryptic language of acronyms and emoticons, using devices they shove in their pockets.