Helping Teens Avoid Pregnancy
Parents and other adults can help teens act responsibly to reduce the chances of getting pregnant before being fully prepared for adulthood
Having a strong, close relationship with your child, setting clear expectations and limits, and communicating often and honestly about important issues makes a real difference.
Be clear about your own sexual values and attitudes. Research clearly shows that talking with your children about sex does not encourage them to become sexually active.
But just having "the talk" is not enough. Age-appropriate conversations about relationships and intimacy should begin early in a child's life and continue through adolescence. Communicate with your children about sex, love, and relationships. Let them know what your values and attitudes are when it comes to sex. Most importantly, set a good example with your own behaviors.
Talk to your children early and often about sex, and be specific. Kids have a lot of questions about sex. Most often, they want to talk to their parents, but may not feel comfortable beginning the conversation. You are the grown up, so start the conversation. Be sure to listen as well as talk. Don't make it a lecture. Be open, honest and respectful. Tell them what you believe and why. If you do not know the answer to a question, tell them you do not know. Ask them what they think and what they know so you can correct wrong information. Ask what, if anything, worries them. Respect their privacy and keep what they say confidential, unless they are in danger.
Some good ways to start the conversation:
- Start a conversation when driving in the car together.
- Take your teen out on a "date", whether it is a movie, a sports event, shopping, dinner or a museum. It makes them feel that they are special and important to you. It gives you a chance to find out what is going on with them, and gives them a chance to talk to you in private, away from other family members.
- Read a book or watch a movie together and talk about it. Look for opportunities to talk about sex and relationships.
- Have meals with the whole family when you can. Ask questions and listen.
- Take the time to touch base at the end of each day. Talk for a few minutes and find out what might be on your teen's mind.
Be a good listener. Sexual feelings can be confusing to young people. As a result, it is difficult for teens to talk about sex. You can make it easier for them by listening. Do not be judgmental. Just listen and be supportive.
Supervise and monitor your children and adolescents. Set rules, give curfews and be clear about how you expect your children to behave. Know where they are, when they go out with friends. If they are at a friend's house, make sure there are responsible, trustworthy adults there with them. Monitoring and supervising your kids does not make you a nag. It makes you a parent.
Know your children's friends and their families. Friends have a strong influence on each other. Encouraging your children to participate in wholesome activities like music, dance, sports, school clubs, community service, etc. will connect them with other kids who may share your family's values. If possible, have a party or some kind of get-together for other parents and discuss setting the same rules and expectations. It is easier to enforce a curfew if all of your children's friends' parents share the same expectations.
Discourage early, frequent and steady dating. Group activities are fine. But research shows that allowing your child to begin steady, one-on-one dating before age 16 can cause problems. Developmentally there is no need for teens to begin one-on-one dating before age 16. Let your children know about your strong feelings against dating before age 16, before they want to begin dating.
Take a strong stance against your son or daughter dating an older partner. The power and maturity differences between younger girls and older boys or men can lead girls into risky situations, including unwanted sex, sex with no protection, and even abuse. This can happen to boys as well.
Let your kids know that you value education. Children who value education are less likely to engage in risky behavior. Be involved in your children's education. Attend parent conferences, join the PTA or volunteer at your children's school. Get to know the principal, teachers, guidance counselors and coaches. Be sure your teens are doing their class work and homework assignments. Talk to them about the importance of education and how teen parenthood could prevent them from graduating or going to college.
Make sure your adolescent has a health care provider. Even though adolescents may seem healthy, they need a doctor or other health care provider to give them regular care. Abstinence from sexual intercourse is the best choice for teenagers, but some teens need reproductive health services to provide them with information and resources to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Support the recommendation to provide comprehensive sex education in schools. Recent research shows that sex education that discusses both abstinence and contraception delays teen sexual activity. Comprehensive sex education encourages teens to delay sexual activity and provides them with information about birth control and prevention of sexually transmitted infections, which can protect them if they are sexually active. It prepares them for responsible decision-making in adulthood.
The information in this tip is courtesy of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, www.teenpregnancy.org
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (Sponsored by the Campaign for America's Kids)
Talk With Kids (A national campaign sponsored by Children Now and the Kaiser Foundation)
Kids Health For Kids (Sponsored by the Nemours Foundation)
How to Talk to Your Kids About Really Important Things, 1994, by Charles E. Schaefer, Ph.D., and Theresa Foy DiGernonimo, M.Ed.
What Kids Need to Succeed: Proven, Practical Ways to Raise Good Kids, 1994 (revised 1998), by Peter L. Benson, PH.D., Judy Galbraith, M.A., and Pamela Espeland.
Ten Talks Parents Must Have with Their Children About Drugs & Choices, 2001, by Dominic Cappello and Xenia G. Becher, MSM, CSW.
Restoring the Teenage Soul: Nurturing Sound Hearts and Minds in a Confused Culture, 1999, by Margaret J. Meeker, M.D.
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