7 Steps Every Parent Should Take to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Take steps to prevent teen pregnancy.
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When it comes to thinking about teenage pregnancy, most parents think, "my teen would never do that." But denying that the possibility exists increases the risk that a teenage pregnancy could happen in your family.

Though the teen birth rate in the U.S. has dropped significantly over the past decade—it hovers around 24.2 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19 years old—it’s still much higher than any parents want to imagine possible.

The rate isn’t equal across cultures, either; it’s much higher for black and Hispanic teens than for Caucasian females.

As a parent, there’s only so much you can do to dissuade your teenager from making decisions that lead to teen pregnancy. However, an open line of communication is the first place to start.

Share the Responsibility

Although a young woman ultimately is more affected by becoming pregnant, it’s not only her responsibility to ensure this doesn’t happen. A parent must target messages to teen boys and girls and help a young man understand that he is also responsible for a pregnancy. If you have a son, regularly talk to him about his role in preventing pregnancy.

Talk about everything from legal issues that occur when young, unwed people have a baby together to the financial burden it places on families. Make sure your teen knows that the choice to be sexually active could change a lot of people's lives forever.

 

Explain the Birds and the Bees

This seems like the most obvious tactic to take, but a surprising number of parents neglect to give their teen the specifics on how a pregnancy actually occurs. When you start the conversation about sex, your kid’s first reaction will be probably be something along the lines of, “Aw, mom!

I don’t want to talk about this.”

But it’s a vital conversation to have. If you’re not sure how to bring it up, use a situation on TV, in the news or in a movie to get the discussion started.

To make the conversation as open and honest as possible, be respectful of your teen’s questions and opinions. Take care to correct misinformation.

Even if you have religious beliefs to back up your personal opinions, try to also give scientific validation to the facts that you share with your teens. Allow for a two-way conversation rather than a one-way lecture; at some point, a teen will tune it out.

You want your teen to feel welcome to asking you about sex, whether she has questions about the emotional aspects or the physical aspects.

The biggest question a parent often has is, "What age is it appropriate to start talking about sex?" You know your teenager better than anyone else, but the best answer is to starting talking early and to talk often.

The more often you discuss sex in your household, the more comfortable your teen will be in asking you questions and coming to you with problems.

Be Clear About Family Values

Your perspective on sexual matters likely matters more to your teenager than you think. If you’ve never told your teen that you expect him to stay abstinent, why would he expect for you to be disappointed if you found out he was sexually active?

Be open and honest about what you believe is appropriate physical behavior for teenagers—including where they can and can’t be alone in your house—as well as your belief on premarital sex and teen pregnancy. Talking about these issues often will help teach your teen your values.

Of course, to be clear to your teenager on these beliefs, you have to be certain in your own mind what you think. If you’re still figuring that out your personal values, take some time to think about what message you want to share.

Talk About Safety

Some parents might not be willing to provide contraception for their teenagers, but being willing to do so goes a long way in preventing teenage pregnancy. Talk about how to access contraceptives and discuss why it’s essential to use protection.

Be willing to do some research on contraceptive options as many new products have become available in recent years. And it's important that you're able to give your teen the facts about contraceptives. 

If you have a daughter, consider taking her to the doctor to discuss birth control options. She may feel more comfortable asking the doctor questions if you're not in the room.

It might feel like, by providing your child with contraception, that you’re giving her the OK to have sex. However, the question comes down to this: Would you rather be sure your teen is practicing safe sex, or would you prefer to potentially be a young grandparent?           

It’s not enough to just talk tell your teen to use protection. You have to discuss what safe sex means, as well. Don’t expect your teen to learn all of this stuff in health class at school. It’s important that you provide the information and give your teen an opportunity to ask questions.

Don’t forget to go through the details on sexually transmitted diseases, so teens relying on oral contraceptives understand that it doesn’t prevent these harmful conditions.

Discuss Respect

Again, this applies to young men and young women. In a time in their lives where insecurity runs rampant, teach your daughter that she’s worthy of being respected and your son that the women in his life should also be respected.

Along those same lines, a young man should be respected by his partner, as well. If one person says no, then the answer is no. If one person wants to use protection, then the pair should use the protection. Teach your child to understand and respect the decisions of others, particularly those with whom you have an intimate relationship.

Sign Up for Babysitting

Not only is babysitting a good way for a teen to make money, but it also prevents any disillusion that babies are simply cute accessories that can be toted around for fun. If a new parent is comfortable with it, allow your teen to babysit a very young child (with you around for support, if necessary).

Showing a teen what it takes to feed, soothe and put a baby to sleep can do a world of good in convincing her that she doesn’t want to embark on motherhood for a long time to come. Even if you can’t get a babysitting gig with a newborn, taking care of multiple toddlers or young children can play a part in helping a teen understand that it’s not all fun and games.

Stay Up-To-Date on Your Teen's Activities

Stay involved in your teen's life. Know who your teen is spending time with and know where he is going. 

Also, monitor your teen's online activities. That doesn't mean you have to read all of her emails, but make sure you keep a watchful eye on what she's doing. 

Some teens are living secret online lives their parents know nothing about. They're chatting with older adults and placing themselves at a much higher risk of becoming sexually active. 

You can’t make decisions for your teenager. You can only educate and encourage him to make good decisions, as well as keep the lines of communication open.

Do what you can to show your teen that it’s best to wait until after marriage to have a baby, and hopefully, your teen will grow up to graduate high school, attend college, and start a career before embarking on parenthood. 

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