PARENTS should avoid trying to convince their teenage children of the difference between right and wrong when talking to them about sex, a new government leaflet is to advise. Instead, any discussion of values should be kept â€œlightâ€ to encourage teenagers to form their own views, according to the brochure, which one critic has called â€œamoralâ€.
Talking to Your Teenager About Sex and Relationships will be distributed in pharmacies from next month as part of an initiative led by Beverley Hughes, the childrenâ€™s minister.
The leaflet comes in the wake of the case of Alfie Patten, the 13-year-old boy from East Sussex who fathered a child with a 15-year-old girl and sparked a debate about how to cut rates of teenage parenthood.
It advises: â€œDiscussing your values with your teenagers will help them to form their own. Remember, though, that trying to convince them of whatâ€™s right and wrong may discourage them from being open.â€
The leaflet suggests that parents should start the â€œbig talkâ€ with children as young as possible, before they pick up â€œmisinformationâ€ from their peers in adolescence. The best way to raise the topic may be while performing mundane tasks such as â€œwashing the car . . . washing up, watching TV, etcâ€, it says.
The leaflet provides technical information on different forms of contraception, from condoms to implants, and will reignite the row over the governmentâ€™s â€œvalue-freeâ€ approach to sex education.
Simon Calvert, deputy director of the Christian Institute, attacked the leaflet, saying: â€œThe idea that the government is telling families not to pass on their values is outrageous.
â€œPreserving childrenâ€™s innocence is a worthy goal. We would like to see more of that kind of language rather than this amoral approach where parents are encouraged to present their children with a smorgasbord of sexual activities and leave them to make up their own minds.â€
Linda Blair, a clinical psychologist, said educating older children and teenagers about sex had to be a process of negotiation. â€œWe do not know what is right and wrong; right and wrong is relative, although your child does need clear guidelines,â€ she said.
Hughes said the government â€œdoesnâ€™t bring up children but . . . it does have a role to play in supporting parents and giving them access to advice and informationâ€.
Labourâ€™s attempts to cut the rate of teenage pregnancy through education are showing signs of faltering. From 1998 to 2006, the under-18 conception rate fell by 12.9% to its lowest level since the mid-1980s. But last year it began to edge up again. New figures will be announced this week.
Jack Grimston http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article5780725.ece