Today one in three girls is expected to get pregnant at least once before she's 20 years old. This ratio is an improvement from previous years, but because the consequences of teen pregnancy are so large the current ratio is still too high.
Getting pregnant decreases the chances of the mother and father from graduating from high school, going to college, and being able to get a good job.
To protect your child from experiencing teen pregnancy make sure you speak to them about sex. Here is a list of ten things that the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy (NCPTUP) created to assist parents in speaking to their kids about sex:
1. Be clear about your own sexual values and attitudes.
Before you speak to your children about sex, make sure you have a clear, formed opinion on the various topics of sex. Here are some things the NCPTUP has suggested you think about:
- What do you really think about school-aged teenagers being sexually active - and perhaps even becoming parents?
- Who is responsible for setting sexual limits in a relationship and how is that done, realistically?
- Were you sexually active as a teenager and how do you feel about that now? Were you sexually active before you were married? What do such reflections lead you to say to your own children about these issues?
- What do you think about encouraging teenagers to abstain from sex?
- What do you think about teenagers using contraception?
2. Talk with your children early and often about sex, and be specific.
Your children are going to have a lot of questions about sex, and they are most likely to see you as being the one with the answers. At the same time, they may be shy about approaching you, so take the initiative to sit them down. Tell them your opinions on why people have sex, when it's appropriate to have sex, the importance of safe sex, as well as other topics. Ask them questions to find out what they think so that you may correct any misconceptions your child may have. Make sure that this conversation doesn't turn into a lecture. Keep an open flow of communication and make that you are hearing from and listening to your child.
Conversations about sex shouldn't occur only once. As your child is growing and maturing they are going to be introduced to new things and thus have new questions. As your child enters new stages in their life have new discussions with them. There are plenty of books, videos, and websites that can help you determine what you topics you may want to cover with your child depending on their age.
3. Supervise and monitor your children and adolescents.
Establish a clear set of rules early in your child's life and be consistent with the rules you set. Know where your child is and what they are up to. This just makes it easier for you to be an effective parent and lets your child know that you care.
4. Know your children's friends and their families.
Friends and peers have a huge influence in your child's interests and development. Get to know the kids your son or daughter hangs out with and get to know their parents. Meeting other parents gives you an opportunity to see their values and what your child is being exposed to.
5. Discourage early, frequent, and steady dating.
It has been suggested that one-on-one dating shouldn't occur too much earlier than the 16 years old. Decide on an age in which you think your child is mature enough to start dating in enforce it throughout their life. In explaining the rule make sure you are presenting reasons as to why you view this as an appropriate age for them.
6. Take a strong stand against your daughter dating a boy significantly older than she is. And don't allow your son to develop an intense relationship with a girl much younger than he is.
Don't allow your daughter or son to date someone more than 2 or 3 years older than them. The age difference is important during adolescence due to a potential gap in maturity and experience. You want to protect your sons and daughters from being taken advantage of or hurt.
7. Help your teenagers have options for the future that are more attractive than early pregnancy and parenthood.
Helping your child to build a bright and confident future delays their chances of having sex or getting pregnant. Sit down with them and help them set meaningful goals. Find out what their interests and aspirations are and help them to devise a plan to get to where they want to go.
In addition to explaining to them what steps they need to take to accomplish their goals include information on how having sex and/or getting pregnant can get in the way of their future accomplishments.
8. Let your kids know that you value education highly.
Stress the importance of a good education and set high expectations for them early in their childhood. Be an active participant in your child's education. Go to parent teacher meetings, ask them what they learned today, and offer to help them with their homework. Keep an eye on their grades and standardized test scores. Reward them for doing well, and when they aren't doing well figure out why and help them get on the right track. Place school as a top priority over part-time jobs and other leisure activities.
9. Know what your kids are watching, reading, and listening to.
The media has a tendency to romanticize sex, frequently on display the positive affects and rarely showing the downside of teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease. Make sure that the things your child is reading, watching, and listening to falls in line with the values you've been raising them by. If you find that it doesn't then talk with them about why you feel your child shouldn't be watching a particular. It is important to provide logical reasoning, beyond "Because I say so" in order for your son or daughter to truly receive the message.
10. These first nine tips for helping your children avoid teen pregnancy work best when they occur as part of strong, close relationships with your children that are built from an early age.
Build a strong, healthy relationship with your child. Aim for one that is supportive and friendly yet disciplined. Be consistent, honest, and trust worthy. The stronger your relationship is with your child, the more willing they may be to openly come to you with questions.