It is no surprise to learn that teen pregnancies could be reduced significantly by better communication within families about sensitive subjects. What is surprising is that such constructive dialogue does not occur more often.

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy recently noted that communicative parents are far more effective than government programs or condoms in reducing adolescent pregnancies. The campaign has a goal of reducing the teen-pregnancy rate by one-third in the next seven years.Recent good news indicates efforts on this and other fronts are paying off. New federal figures show an 8.5 percent decline in adolescent pregnancies between 1991 and 1995. That drop occurred in every state and among all racial groups. The birth rate of 56.8 per 1,000 remains higher then a decade ago, but this is the first reduction in recent years. That is an encouraging trend we hope will continue.

Significant moral, emotional and even spiritual considerations aside, children of teen mothers are much more likely to be born into poverty, fail in school, end up on welfare, turn to crime and live fatherless lives than are those born to adults.

Parents play more of a role than they realize in thwarting those unfortunate outcomes. Teens who are close to their parents are far less likely to be sexually active than those who are not. Though the subject is not always comfortable to discuss, parents who appropriately teach their children about sexuality and its serious consequences provide invaluable service to them and to society in general.

A guide for parents with teenagers, put out by the campaign, encourages not only open communication. It also discourages early and steady dating, and it tells parents to listen better to their teenagers and offer support for their interests in order to bolster their self-esteem.

Those are common-sense parenting principles that need to be put into practice with greater frequency.