Talking about the facts of life with your children can be daunting. Research, however, shows that kids whose parents have talked to them are more likely to delay sexual activity. So, how do you present that information and pass along your families' expectations and values at the same time?
Purity rings are a doorway to starting the conversation. They have been popping up on the hands of teenage celebrities for the past several years. Stars such as the Jonas Brothers, Jordin Sparks, and even Tim Tebow talk openly about the benefits of waiting until they're married to have sex.
In Arkansas, thousands of teens are making similar pledges. Being blessed with three boys isn't a responsibility Peter Zipp and his wife take lightly. They are a close family and together they are making it a priority to keep the lines of communication open when it comes to the subjects of dating, love and sex.
Peter said that's something he didn't have growing up. "I didn't have a good, clear understanding of what a good relationship was, what was the purpose of dating. I didn't have a good understanding of sex and what was involved in a healthy perspective."
Peter found the perspective he wanted to pass along to his boys in a kit called the Passport 2 Purity. Family Life, a Christian, non-denominational ministry based in Little Rock, designed the program parents share with their kids using CDs, a book and a journal.
"It's a kit designed for a parent to be able to take their child away on a weekend retreat to talk to them and to prepare them for their teenage years," said Family Life spokesman John Majors. "So, they'll talk to them about dating, about purity of heart, about sex, about body-changing issues. Here's what's going to happen to your body and why, to help prepare them for what's coming, so they'll know how to handle it."
When the time was right for each of his sons, Peter took them away for a one-on-one weekend at Greers Ferry Lake. At the end of their getaway, he gave each boy a stainless steel ring as a reminder of their time together and the promise they made to stay pure.
15-year-old Benjamen Zipp said, "It gave me something to remember the weekend about. I turn it, so the cross is looking at me."
"He came to spend time with me," said 12-year-old Jacob Zipp.
"I just needed to go and make a line, where am I going to draw the line, where am I gonna stop and keep myself from most of this stuff," said 16-year-old Bryan Zipp.
At 16 and 15, Bryan and Benjamen already know it's a promise that isn't going to be easy to keep especially as they get older. Bryan said, "Just stick by my promise and not get near that."
"It's not going to be easy to keep," admitted Benjamen.
They say they'll rely on their faith and their family to keep them on track. "Because we've been through this, it has given me a point of reference as they start to talk to me about girls that they like or girls they're starting to have feelings about," said Peter.
Majors acknowledges that the rings aren't foolproof, but they do open the lines of communication for families and they set expectation levels for kids.
"It's not a magic formula. It's not a guarantee that no one stumbles. In fact, everybody's human and I think the beauty of this is it really helps augment the relationship between mom and dad and it says, look you can come and talk to me about this."
It's a journey worth taking for Peter Zipps and his boys. "I thank them for taking me through this and I love them," said Benjamen.
While talking to your kids about sex is certainly the first step, it's not always as simple as that. New research shows Arkansas is fourth in the nation for the teenage birth rate. For more on Joan Early's investigation into those numbers click here.