Bristol Palin: “Abstinence is Not Realistic”

Posted February 20, 2009 by

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Bristol Palin announced this week that she wants to set the record straight on some of the media stories about her pregnancy. She has a healthy baby boy and is engaged to the baby’s father. The best option is abstinence, the teen said, but added that she didn’t think that was “realistic.”

So what is a realistic expectation when it concerns teenagers and sex? In her interview Bristol mentions that being a mother is not glamorous. Don’t we know it, parents! How quickly images fade of cuddling a newborn in that crook between shoulder and ear. Soon a teen parent, heck any age parent, is faced with endless diapering and poop-filled hours. If Bristol Palin knew that motherhood would not be glamorous, would that have prevented her from having had sex? What if her fiancé thought she would not be glamorous as a mom, would that have stopped them?

Personally, I am not a fan of restricting sex education for teens. I believe knowledge is power and that even with that power, it is still hard for teens to make the right choices.

In my group of friends, there are mothers with teenagers, grown children, some with young kids who are just getting the first “talk” about sex from the school.  Some of us had sex education in school, some of us didn’t. While some in the group were very frank about discussing the actual sex act with their own kids, some only focused on contraception and some used the “the talk”  to introduce formal names for body parts. Others told stories about other people’s kids “in trouble.” It seemed that sex-ed meant different things to each of us.

We readily admitted that despite our age — many of us are in our 40’s — we still made huge parenting blunders and didn’t think we were perfect mothers,  but didn’t necessarily want our kids to know that we struggled. Confident parenting carries a lot of weight in the eyes of a child and  does wonders to encourage compliance when we ask for cooperation from our children. Is it this fear of admitting how hard it is to be a parent, even at our age, that prevents us from sharing realistic expectations with teens about sex?

By the way, I don’t agree with Bristol’s mom on sex ed, but I believe in Sarah Palin’s mothering spirit. She and her husband are helping with childcare, finances, encouraging school and providing emotional support. Parents of teens who are pregnant are forced to face the consequences of their child’s behaviors and those that respond well should be applauded.

Should the purpose of preventing teenage pregnancies focus less on the prevention of having sex, and more on helping teens preventing themselves from becoming mothers and fathers?


Annita Wozniak grew up in a large, imperfect family in the Midwest. "As adults we have the power to build children up or tear them down," she says about the challenges of being a responsible parent, "and we never know when what we say is going to be a defining moment in a child's life." Woz is a writer and child-grower living in the Midwest with her husband and their three inspirational children. She is always learning. You can visit her website at

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