Since 2014, studies have shown that teen birth rates have been declining. Birth rates have fallen 11% for women between the ages of 15–17 years and 7% for women between the ages of 18–19 years, according to the CDC. To continue this steady decline of teen pregnancy, parents can maintain a open line of healthy communication with their children. Teenagers should also be educated on safe-sex practices. Continue reading for more helpful tips on this subject...
When Kids In The House interviewed Psychologist, Sheila Kamen, PsyD, about teenage pregnancy, we learned that teens in the United States are engaging in sexual activity at younger ages, with more partners, and with less likelihood of practicing safe-sex than ever before. In an effort to get to the bottom of this behavior, we interviewed experts to reveal the number one thing parents should do when raising a potentially sexually active teenager.
Step 1: Communicate by having the real “sex talk”
Teenage pregnancy has been a highly publicized topic for quite awhile now. MTV’s popular reality show, 16 and Pregnant, is returning this year with its fifth spinoff, Teen Mom: OG. The television show will chronicle the lives of the teen moms from season one and update viewers on where they are now. Some critics of the show challenge the program’s portrayal of reality, while some are thankful that mainstream media has brought the issue of teen pregnancy to the public’s attention in an effort, at least, to get a conversation started.
Kids In The House expert and former teen mom, Aaliyah Noble, shared her thoughts on teenage pregnancy reality shows like the one mentioned above, saying, “A lot of [teens] become parents because they don’t have enough information.” She continued, “TV shows that glamorize teenage pregnancy should take the time to step back and focus on the issues that [teens] face: not being able to go to the prom, not being able to hang out with their friends, and not being able to have enough money to take care of the needs of their child.” Between making paid appearances, covering magazines, and now being revered as “OGs” or “original gangsters,” many of the teen moms are now considered celebrities. As a result, one may question whether or not the show’s messaging promotes the idea that being a teenage mother can possibly lead to fame.
So what can parents do to create a balanced perception of teenage pregnancy for their child, both in spite of and in addition to mainstream media portrayal? Kids In The House experts say that the most important thing any parent can do is to have an honest conversation with their teen about what teenage pregnancy may be like. Neuropsychiatrist, Daniel Siegel, MD, says that parents should “talk openly with your child about what sexuality means,” which involves mapping out how your child is feeling and talking about the serious physical and emotional ramifications having sex too soon can pose.
Note: Talk to your teen about the hormonal changes he or she is facing. Puberty poses many physical changes in teens, and our experts say parents should make sure to acknowledge this and have the “sex talk” as early and often as possible.
Step 2: Communicate by stressing the importance of safety to a sexually active teen
One of the toughest things parents can experience is discovering their child is sexually active. Kids In The House experts say that, while parents do not want to believe their teen is “hooking up” or having sex, the reality is that many teens are.
When parents find out their teen is having sex, they are often angry. However, the first thing parents should do, according to relationship expert, Wendy Walsh, PhD, is keep a level head and talk to their teen. “The most important thing to happen is to find out if they have enough knowledge to keep themselves safe,” says Walsh, “Without being judgmental, you want to make sure they’re armed with all the adult information they need.” As a parent it is your job to provide your teen with as much information about STDs, safe-sex practices, and the physical and emotional consequences of having sex.
Note: As a parent, you cannot reverse your teen’s actions, but you can communicate with them in effort to influence their future decisions. Make sure you support your teen through the emotional and physical complexities that hooking up or having sex may have already caused.
Step 3: Communicate by supporting your pregnant teenager
Being a teenager is hard enough as it is, and it is even more difficult while pregnant. “They need different information,” says Aaliyah Noble, including guidance on medical issues such as immunizations and circumcision. They are also undergoing puberty, which poses its own physical and emotional insecurities. As a result, teens may need encouragement when dealing with issues like breastfeeding in public or accepting their body as it changes.
Pattie Mallette, who was a teen when she gave birth to now-pop star, Justin Bieber, says that what teen parents need the most is support and positive communication. “There are so many amazing programs. There’s even support groups you can join,” says Mallette. Parents need to keep the lines of communication open with their pregnant teen (and with a teen father-to-be) to make sure he or she feels supported and loved at every stage.
Note: Communicating your love for your pregnant teen will lead to his or her increased confidence as a parent. Your teen may be in a relationship or facing the pregnancy as a single parent or partner, so it is important for your relationship with your teen to remain strong.
Kids In The House experts encourage parents of all children and teenagers to stay well informed and start the conversation about sex as early as possible. Raising a maturing teen and finding out the best way to communicate about teen pregnancy is difficult, but we are here to help!