The news of 16-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears’ pregnancy has sent shock waves across America.
Access Hollywood talked to psychiatrist and renowned author, Dr. Gail Saltz, about what you should tell your children who may be asking those difficult questions.
“We should see this as an opportunity to talk to our kids about our morals, our values and about sex — that having sex changes you,” Saltz said. “It’s emotionally powerful and frankly, there are risks involved. There are sexually transmitted diseases and there is pregnancy.”
So at what age should parents bring this kind of issue up?
“You should really have conversations about body and sexuality at a very young age, introducing parts [and] the names of parts,” Saltz said. “The reason for this is when you start a dialogue you make yourself a source of information… When you move on to ages of 10 and 11 you want to be talking about what is sexual intercourse, when should you be having sexual intercourse — what do we believe as a family.”
Saltz also noted that because of the way the brain develops, parents need to help children out with using judgment.
“The other issue is that the frontal lobe is not fully developed until you are in your early to mid 20s,” she said. “This is the part of the brain that houses judgment [and] consequence, so teens are less prepared to think about, ‘If I do this today, what will happen to me tomorrow?‘ You as a parent need to be that alter ego to them — be that frontal lobe. Talk to them about the consequences that may face them emotionally and of course physically.”
So what would Saltz do if she was advising Spears?
“Unfortunately, 16 is really too young to be a responsible, careful, active, thoughtful parent. I can only say that one hopes her mother steps in and really takes a big leadership position here, because she needs to have an older parent involved who will be able to be responsible.”