When we were teaching high school, we heard the same argument from parents allowing underage drinking parties in their homes: “We'd rather them not drink, but if they're gonna do it anyway, we want them to be safe and not drink and drive.”
From two people who have devoted their lives to teenagers for the past seven years as teachers, believe us when we say that that line of reasoning completely undermines one's credibility. Teenagers are smarter than that!
By saying, “Don't, but here's a condom if you do,” we are actually giving them the license and our blessing to have sex. It's like saying, “We don't want you to drive our car until you have your driver's license, but if you're going to steal it anyway, wear your seat belt and drive responsibly.” What's more, we're giving them the message that we don't think they have the self-discipline and maturity to live chastely. “We know you can't do it, so here's some birth control.”
We've found that teens respond well to being challenged with the Truth. Tell them all the sound reasons why the Church teaches that sex is for marriage. It will make sense to them. Do they sometimes fall short? Of course. So do we. But at least they'll know for what they ought to strive. They'll know what the Truth is.
God provides a parenting model for us in Genesis when he seeds a clear message to his first children, Adam and Eve. He tells them very simply to eat from any tree except this one. He does not add, “But if you're gonna eat the forbidden tree anyway… .” Rather, it's a simple matter of cause and effect. If you're obedient, there will be a good consequences; if you're disobedient, there will be bad consequences.
Like Adam and Eve we are free to choose virtue or vice. If we strip the consequences from the sinful act, we do a do it disservice to our children. Not to mention the fact that this whole idea of “Safe Sex” is a myth anyway. No artificial method of birth control is 100% effective. Condoms break. The Pill must be taken every day for it to work. (A few of the teenagers we know can barely remember to bring their book to class everyday, much less take a pill.)
The only answer to the problem of teenage promiscuity is to promote chastity, not a pill. Abstinence is the only 100% effective birth control. Which brings us to a final point for all you moms and dads. We cannot ask our children to do what we ourselves are not willing to do. If we resort to a pill or other contraceptive device instead of living out marital chastity using Natural Family Planning) when we are postponing pregnancy, how can we tell our teens not to do the same thing? We need to lead the way. We must be able to say, “We know it's hard to abstain; Mom and Dad sometimes have to abstain for a while every month! But we do it because that's what the Lord asks of us, and His will ultimately brings us fulfillment. If we can do it, you, can too.”