In some schools, the abstinence-only format prohibits discussion of sex education as it relates to birth control.  Therefore, there is a communication gap and disparity in the definition of what sex is to adolescents.

  • Adolescents don’t necessarily consider oral sex, anal sex, and masturbation of self or others as intercourse.  Adolescents often consider these other forms of sex as safe because they can’t cause pregnancy.  The abstinence-only format focuses on pregnancy.

The second confusion of the abstinence-only program is the question of virginity.

  • Adolescent girls feel that other forms of sexual activity other than intercourse allow them to remain virgins – an important part of the abstinence program.  This allows girls to engage in what they consider acceptable forms of sexual behavior.

In adolescents, there is peer pressure for sexual activity:

  • Girls feel that any sexual activity other than intercourse gives them a type of control in relationships.
  • Of course, boys feel pressure to lose their virginity.
  • In the abstinence program, girls are pressured to keep their virginity.
  • This confusion and misinformation has now led to less pregnancy but more sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Adolescents feel abstinent if they don’t engage in intercourse, and this explanation leads to a more casual attitude toward early experimentation.
  • There is the need to be loved; to belong; to be accepted – with sex having little or nothing to do with orgasm and everything to do with connecting.


The most successful parents are the ones that talk to their children about everything as intimately as possible.  The parents that fail to connect with their children on sexual matters are the ones that are saying, “just say no.”

  • Parents must guide their children empathically through conversations about sex and healthy lifestyles – and they must be what they want to see.
  • Speak to your children specifically about your moral and sexual values.  Be clear, speak often, intimately, and early with your children about sex – giving age-appropriate information.
  • Use the empathic process, which allows for a confluent exchange of information.  In this way, not only will your children learn about your morals and values, but you will get insight into theirs.  This will allow you to make misinformation adjustments.
  • In parenting, it is important to listen, communicate, and demonstrate mutual value and respect for one another.
  • Parents must parent.  That means knowing where your children are, what they are doing, and with whom.
  • Involve your children in establishing house rules and their consequences.  In that way, they will feel invested and validated and more likely to obey.  These house rules include curfews and expectations.
  • Pay attention to your child – know their friends.

Parenting is about influencing and positive regard:

  1. Influence against premature dating and dating older adolescents.
  2. Practice and rehearse your child as you prepare them to become young adults.
  3. Talk about patterns of risky behaviors and situations – then give alternatives – empowering substitutes.
  4. Monitor your child’s media exposure to both violence and sexually explicit entertainment.  Your TV is just an appliance, and parents have the power to turn it off – this applies to reading, music, and video games.

Parents do have the power to parent their children, guide them, influence them, and help them set goals for themselves.  If children have plans for a self-actualized future in which they are liked for their contribution rather than approval, they will be less vulnerable to peer pressure.

In the final analysis – be what you want to see.  Parents must model the authentic, healthy behavior they want for their children.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.