Let's talk about sex, says minister sex says minister

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PARENTS COULD reduce the number of teenage pregnancies and abortions by talking openly with their children about sex, ministers said yesterday.

At the start of the Family Planning Association's Sexual Health Week, public health minister Tessa Jowell warned that teenage mothers were more common in families where sex and relationships were not talked about.

Britain currently has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in western Europe, with 1 per cent of girls under 16 becoming pregnant. Half of these girls have abortions.

"Openness in families about sex and relationships is a key factor in tackling teenage pregnancies," said Ms Jowell. "Research confirms that teenage births are more common among those who grew up in families where discussion about sex was difficult or did not take place. It is vital that we address this."

A survey of 11- and 16-year-olds revealed that most thought their parents should be the main source of sex education, followed by teachers. However, embarrassed parents shy away from the task, or others lack expertise because of their own poor sex education.

During the FPA week, entitled Get Sexwise!, 100 parents will have the chance to talk about their concerns at a seminar organised by the FPA. A free booklet - Talking to your child about sex - will also be available from Tesco pharmacies throughout August.

"Recent research concludes that young people feel their sex education is too little, too late and too biological and that the people they most want to talk to about sex and relationships are parents and carers," said Anne Weyman, chief executive of the FPA.

She added: "The FPA is now putting in place a strategy which, over the next three years, will actively support parents and carers and professionals working with them, with information, training and advice to make this part of parenting a little easier."