There has been a lot of media focus on teen pregnancy in the past five years. Television shows such as 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom are some reasons for this attention. Prior to this it appears that teen pregnancy has been a silent issue in homes and society. However, organizations such as the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (SCC) and grassroots organizations such as Teens Before Parents (TBP) have been bringing the issue of teen pregnancy to the forefront. Also, leading magazines such as Essence have partnered with the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy to share messages of teen pregnancy prevention with its audience. Despite a 47% decline in teen pregnancy over the past decade, teen birth rates are still alarmingly high. The United States still ranks first among industrialized nations for teen pregnancy. South Carolina, the home state for SCC and TBP, has the 11th highest teen birth rate in the U.S.
Teen pregnancy effects the teens involved as well as community members. Economically, in 2010 South Carolina taxpayers paid about $166 million on teen births. Teen pregnancy prevention is important and needs to stay at the forefront, even after the television shows’ popularity fade from the airwaves. Teens are part of the solution to teen pregnancy, however, parents also share part of this formula. Here are five ways parents can help prevent teen pregnancy:
1. Be involved in your teens’ life
Your parental involvement opens the door for communication an all areas of teens’ lives and makes it more comfortable to discuss dating, sexual relationships, abstinence and responsibility. Quality parent/child relationships are the gateway to open conversations.
2. Have open conversations
You should be the first educator of sexuality education. When you miss this opportunity, your teen may rely on their peers and the media to educate them. These mostly negative views on sex can lead to a pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s). Talk to your teen and listen to their concerns. Include a discussion about abstinence and safe sex. Abstinence is the only guarantee against pregnancy and STD’s. Remember: Communication = Conversation
3. Set dating guidelines
Avoid threating your teen. Instead, provide guidance on how to make healthy decisions regarding relationships and wise decisions regarding sexual engagement. Set time and location restrictions on dating and communicate with your teen the reason these restrictions are in place. You were once a teen too, so partner with your teen to create these guidelines. Keep in mind that placing extreme restriction on dating guidelines can cause your teen to defiantly engage in sexual activity.
4. Share your faith
Telling your teen to just say No is not effective communication. Discuss your faith-based beliefs and morals regarding sex and relationships. Explain why your teen should wait to have sex. The quality relationship that you developed by being involved, having open conversations, and setting dating guidelines for your teen will help make this communication process more comfortable and your teen will be more receptive to what you are sharing. Ultimately, your teen will have to make their own decision. However, an educated decision is far better than a threat against having a sexual relationship.
5. Don’t assume your child will be abstinent
Don’t use this attitude as an excuse not to discuss sex with your teen. Being blind to the subject of sexuality education with your teen will not make it go away. It will not prevent your teen from becoming pregnant or contracting an STD.
Teen males are not exempt from these methods to prevent teen pregnancy. Males also need involvement, conversation, guidelines, and faith-based talks regarding sex and relationships. “It takes two to prevent teen pregnancy, male + female.”
Having a conversation with your teen about sex including abstinence and safe sex does not encourage them to engage in sexual activity. Most teens agree that they would rather have “the talk” from their parents than any other source. If your teen does decide to have sex after you have worked through the above steps; they will then be informed to make informed decisions to avoid the risk of pregnancy and a sexually transmitted disease. By incorporating these five methods, your teen will be equipped to “think past the moment and make wise decisions regarding sex and relationships.”