If you have watched the news lately, you may have heard that the latest report from the CDC indicates the birth rate for teen mothers hit a record low in 2010. This is great news! However, even with the lower rate, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy says that more than 2,000 teenage girls will get pregnant today. By the time they are 20, 3 out of every 10 girls will have been pregnant at least once but few of them will have considered the consequences of becoming a teen mother or understand how having a baby will change their life.
When it comes to preventing teen pregnancy, parents can have a big impact. The CDC says that parents who talk to their teens about sex are more likely to be older when they start having sex and will use birth control more consistently. Here are 4 ways parents can play a part in preventing teen pregnancy.
1. Set Boundaries
Establishing boundaries about what behavior is acceptable and what behavior is important when you are raising children of any age, but when it comes to teenagers, clear expectations are crucial. You want them to spread their wings and learn to make good decisions on their own but you need to provide a relatively safe space where they can do that. This is where boundaries come in. Setting boundaries like curfews, financial responsibilities, and expectations about sexual behavior are the key to letting your teenager test their wings while minimizing the risk.
2. Talk About Sex
If sex is a taboo topic in your house, your teens won’t feel comfortable coming to you if they have questions or concerns and most importantly, when they need help. Establishing an open, honest dialogue with your adolescent allows you to answer their questions with accurate information and cuts down on amount of misinformation they take as truth. In order to guide your teen and be a source of support and wisdom, you all need to feel comfortable discussing sensitive subjects.
3. Build a Good Relationship
This goes hand in hand with #2. Having a good relationship with your adolescent means you can act as their guide, their mentor, and their conscience, rather than their warden or adversary. Don’t mistake a good relationship that is built on trust, discipline, boundaries, and respect as permission to be your teenager’s friend or to abdicate your parental responsibilities in order to keep the ties close.
4. Take a Stand
When it comes to teenagers and sex, you need to take a stand and tell them straight-up what expectations you have. Before you can do this, you need to be very clear about where it is that you stand. How do you feel about teenagers having sex? What age would be “old enough” in your eyes? How do you feel about birth control? Why do you feel the way you do? If you believe that teenagers shouldn’t have sex until they are 16 or 18, be ready to explain why as this can anchor your values more firmly in your teenagers mind. They are more likely to adopt your views and live by the values you find important if they understand why you feel the way you do.
On May 2nd, which is the 11th annual National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, schedule in some family time and talk to your teen about sex, teen pregnancy, boundaries, and where you stand on the issues. Make sure one of the voices they hear when they are faced with the tough decisions ahead of them is yours.