Teen Pregnancy Talking Tips

teentalk.jpgToday, PPLM Parent Education Program Manager Amy Cody shares tips for talking to kids about teen pregnancy:

“Unplanned pregnancy, especially teen pregnancy, has been high on the media radar in the last year, both locally via the increase in teen pregnancies in Gloucester, and through several media-hyped celebrity pregnancies, including Jamie Lynn Spears and Bristol Palin.
In fact, the rate at which teen girls became mothers rose 2.8 percent in 2006 from a year earlier, according to a report on children compiled by 22 US agencies. The increase ended a decline that began when the teen birth rate peaked at 38 per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 17 in 1991, the report's authors said. The 2006 reversal is a "red flag that something has gone wrong" and comes after government and health groups had crusaded against teen pregnancies in the 1990s, according to Duane Alexander, director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Many parents were reeling following the announcement of Jamie Lynn Spears’ pregnancy. The 16-year-old star of Zoey 101 had a large following of fans, most of whom were in middle school. But these events provide the opportunity to talk with kids about the real-life consequences of sex, in order to give them the tools and information to stay safe and healthy. Here are some tips for talking to kids about teen pregnancy.

  • Be age aware. According to the American Psychological Association, the group that will be most affected by this news will be middle-schoolers, especially those with low self-esteem and lower identity issues.

  • Raise the topic with your children. Don't assume that they're already working it out with their friends or that they don't know. Be involved and use this opportunity to have a heart-to-heart discussion with your young and probably impressionable child about teen sex.

  • Gauge their knowledge. If you're not sure how much your child knows about teen pregnancy news, ask your child what his/her friends are saying about the topic.

  • Fill the gaps. Once you have found out what your child knows about the news, clear up any information they might be missing. Ensure they have the facts straight and that they understand as much as they can.

  • It’s never too late to start. The way you address the news will be contingent on how much previous information you already have shared with your children about sex. If you haven't had the "talk," now might be a good time! Even teens can benefit from a frank discussion about sex and how to process this news.

  • Provide a reality check. It’s important that adolescents realize that while Hollywood, television, and magazines may glamorize teen pregnancy, reality paints a far bleaker picture. Help them understand the emotional, physical, and social challenges of being a teen parent, including: the higher risk of school drop-out and poverty rates for teen parents; less than one-third of teenagers who give birth before the age of eighteen will ever obtain a high school diploma; and, a high percentage of teen mothers remain unmarried. Also, babies born to teenage mothers are more likely to be premature, less healthy, and more often have health and behavior problems that may persist throughout their lives.

  • Convey vulnerability. With teenagers, the key to hit home is that they're not invulnerable; these things can and do happen, and pregnancy, and even STIs (sexually transmitted infections), can happen to anyone engaging in sex.

  • Don't forget the boys. Your sons are just as likely to be engaged in sexual activity and can benefit from the same conversations and insight that you provide your daughter!

  • Stick with it. Remember, children respect their parents who stay involved and connected in their lives. You, as a parent, are very influential as long as you stay on top of the situation. They may act like they don't want to hear you, but research has show that what you say does stick with them.

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    After you have addressed the news with your child, it’s a good idea to assess your involvement as a parent.

  • Where. The first place a child is likely to engage in sexual activity is in their own home, when they're not being supervised.

  • When. Sexual activity is most likely to occur between the hours of 3 and 6 in the afternoon, before many parents get home from work.

  • Who. Know your child's friends and boy/girlfriends and what they're doing when they're not with you.

  • Age differences. Pay attention to age ranges. Letting a young teenager date someone several years older can sometimes spell trouble. Relationships with older people can come with adult expectations that many teens just aren't ready for.

  • Rules. It's important to set parameters that your child can understand. Give them clear rules on who can come to the house when you're not there and who can't.

  • Trust. Giving your child your trust is also important; let them show you they can handle the rules you have set out. If they show they can't handle the rules though, make sure they understand the consequences and enforce them at all costs.”

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    Image credit: MADD

  • FamilyChristine KohComment