Expert: Sexual encounters among teens spikes during winter break


We spoke with one mother who wants other teenagers to learn from what happened to her.

"We definitely talked about actual things like condoms and birth control pills," mom Kim Lesniewicz said.

Kim didn't wait to give her daughter the sex talk. She's talked to Shaun about it for years.

"As importantly, we also talked about abstinence, and I think that that's something that kinda gets glossed over," she said.

"There definitely is a pressure, everybody's like, oh I did this, and it's like, so?" her daughter, Shaun said.

Shaun and her mother know firsthand the difficulties when sex is not discussed at home. Shaun was born when Kim was 17 and still in high school.

"Her dad and I did things out of order," Kim said.

Kim graduated from high school and college. When Shaun was 10 years, Kim married Shaun's father and they had two more children. But Kim has made it a point to be honest about the realities of being a teenaged mother.

"It was like you see what happens but not that I'm bad, but it was just like, here's an obvious example of the things that can happen," Shaun said.

And things often happen during the holidays. UTHealth researchers say there's a spike in teen sex during the winter break.

"Teens are more unsupervised, they're not in school. They have more opportunity during the holidays," UTHealth's Dr. Susan Tortolero said.

Dr. Tortolero says parents are shocked to learn:

"About 10 percent of sixth graders are sexually experienced, about a quarter of eighth graders. By senior year in high school, the majority of kids are sexually experienced about 70 percent," Dr. Tortolero said.

But she says when parents to their children about sex, it demystifies sex, and teens are actually more likely to resist pressure to have sex.

"Really, it's the adults are failing. We are not talking to our children about this issue," Dr. Tortolero said.

Some tips for "the talk," she says:

  • Talk about your values, your expectations, and boundaries
  • Talk in the car, when your child can't escape and you don't have to look at each other
  • Talk often and use examples from TV shows or the news
  • Teach teens how to get out of risky situations
"Kids can use excuses, 'I need to go to the bathroom,' 'My mom just texted me,' or 'I'm sick,'" Dr. Tortolero said.

Kim says talks like these would have helped her.

"I just always felt that nobody talked to me about sex when I was growing up," she said.

And Shaun, who is now a music major in college, says she appreciates her mother.

"It just helps that we talked about it," she said.

The UTHealth website has more advice for parents, as well as a fact sheet that includes stats on how many parents are actually talking to their kids about sexual health.

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