Teen Pregnancy Prevention Tips for Parents

Unplanned teen pregnancy

Today’s teens face an abundance of choices and discoveries as they approach the threshold of adulthood. While most teens may face these years with great enthusiasm and excitement, the majority have resounding fear and doubts within their growing minds as influence bombards them from many directions from the interactions they have in their daily lives with their peers, social media platforms, societal and cultural messages, plus expectations from parents and community.

While many positive influences surround teens, unfortunately there are just as many negative influences, if not more, that draw teens in, leading them to make unhealthy choices.

Such obstacles that diminish teens’ chances to reach their full potential as successful young adults include:

  • experimenting with drugs
  • participating in crime
  • getting poor grades or having poor school attendance
  • and participating in sexually risky behaviors, including heightened risk of HIV, HPV, and sexually transmitted diseases and infections (STDs and STIs); experiencing dating/relationship violence; and becoming pregnant.

May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month and your Capital Women’s Care team wants to share important tips to encourage dialogue and conversation about sexuality, guiding you and your teens through this important stage of their lives.

Teen Pregnancy Statistics

Teen childbearing has negative consequences on the physical, psychological, and economic well-being of teen mothers and their children.

Some short- and long-term social and economic effects include:

  • Pregnancy and birth are significant contributors to high school dropout rates among girls. Only about 50% of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by 22 years of age, whereas almost 90% of women who don’t give birth during adolescence graduate high school.
  • Children of teenage mothers are more likely to face several disadvantages within their own lives as they grow toward adulthood, including:
  • lower school achievement and performance
  • dropping out of high school
  • having more health problems
  • welfare dependency
  • insufficient health care
  • being incarcerated at some time during adolescence
  • growing up without a father
  • giving birth themselves as a teenager
  • and facing unemployment as a young adult.

Teen pregnancy can also inflict negative economic and social consequences on the families of teen parents, through unexpected expenses, care giving responsibilities and fractured relationships. Additionally, both physical and mental stresses combined with the emotional and potential financial burdens placed on teen girls without a partner or support from parents or friends inflict unhealthy consequences on teen mothers and their unborn babies.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2017, a total of 194,377 babies were born to women aged 15–19 years, for a birth rate of 18.8 per 1,000 women within this age group. While this is an additional record low for U.S. teens, the U.S. pregnancy rate remains substantially higher in the U.S. than in other Western industrialized nations, with continuing persistence of ethnic and geographical disparities. Groups in the U.S. greatly affected by teen pregnancy include Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black teen girls plus those teens residing in poor socio-economic and/or sparsely populated, isolated areas.

Additional concerning statistics about U.S. teen pregnancy:

  • Each hour, nearly 100 teen girls become pregnant.
  • Every 60 minutes, 55 teen girls give birth.
  • 40% of teen girls, or 4 out of 10, become pregnant at least once before their 20th birthday.
  • 40% of pregnant teen girls are 17 years old or younger.
  • 79% of teen mothers who give birth aren’t married.
  • Only 35% of young women who become pregnant as a teen graduate with a traditional high school diploma.

Research indicates parents play powerful, significant roles in helping teens make healthy decisions about sex, sexuality, and relationships. Parental discussions are especially key in today’s world, as teen access to additional trusted resources like sex education taught via school classrooms and well exams with healthcare professionals have declined due to the coronavirus pandemic.

These parental conversations play an integral role in how teens acquire and hone their personal decision-making skills as they transition toward independent young adulthood.

Teen Pregnancy Prevention Tips

It’s important your teens feel they can have open dialogue and discussion with you when it comes to talking about sensitive topics like sex, sexuality, and relationships. Teens are more apt to be open and share their questions, thoughts, and concerns with parents and caregivers who have a calm, receptive demeanor. Approaching you is quite a big step, as doing so demonstrates your child trusts and respects you.

Research tells us kids and teens who have regular conversations with their parents and caregivers about sex and relationships are less likely to take risks with their sexual health, and more likely to be healthy and safe. The key is to have age-appropriate discussion and answers to questions at all stages of their growth and development. You can also turn to some conversation starters as teachable moments.

Talking with your kid about sex, relationships, and their health is a lifelong conversation. Doing a little at a time instead of having “the talk” takes pressure off you and helps your child process information over time. Having regular conversations also sends the message these topics are important enough to keep bringing up and are a normal part of life.

Stay involved in your teen’s life. Ask open-ended questions about their day at school like “What was your most memorable part of your day?” or “How do you feel about your new teacher/class/school?”

Get to know and ask about your teens’ friends and their parents and parents of anyone your teen dates. Encourage your kids to spend more time with kids who you think are a good influence. Always know which responsible adults are around when your teen is out or at friends’ houses. Encourage discussion about your teen’s time they spend online and on social media.

Encourage and applaud your teen’s hobbies and interests. Studies show teens involved in extracurricular activities (after-school clubs and sports with responsible adult supervision) are less likely to be enticed into risky behaviors. Show your support of their efforts by attending games, recitals, scrimmages, etc. as often as is possible.

Set some boundaries. As kids grow into preteens and teens and start becoming more independent, establishing some reasonable boundaries will make them less likely to engage in risky behavior like drinking, smoking, having unprotected sex, or engaging in sex before they’re ready.

Always be open to their questions. Maintaining approachability with your teen indicates you prioritize their well-being and safety, as well as demonstrates your care and respect. Don’t jump to conclusions about why they’re asking you about something. Keep your answers simple and if you don’t know something, offer to look it up together. Check their understanding and keep the conversation door open if they need clarifications or want to ask further questions. Let your teens know they can always come to you to talk things through, get advice, find good information or get access to appropriate health care. Make it clear to your teen they can ask you questions or come to you for support without fear of shame or judgment.

Establish clear expectations (like curfews, dating, rules about drugs/alcohol, etc.) and check in regularly to be sure those expectations are met. You can make this a conversation with your teen, too. By listening to them and allowing them to negotiate, it shows you respect them and understand they are becoming more responsible for themselves.

Know their whereabouts. Know where your teen is going and who they are with. Don’t allow preteens or teens to spend a lot of time alone without responsible adults present. Have them check in with you via text message if their plans happen to change.

Help your child avoid situations they can’t manage. Make sure social activities have responsible adult supervision. When preteens and teens are invited to each other’s houses or to parties, make sure responsible adults are present. That means being there when your teen hosts to make sure there are no drugs or alcohol. If your teen is going somewhere, call the hosting teen’s parents to make sure a supervising adult is there. Discourage preteens and teens from going out on school nights and dating or hanging out with older teens or young adults, who may lead them into risky behaviors.

Talk (and more importantly, listen) to your kids.  Know what your teen is really asking of you. Discuss sex and contraception and explain to them the differences between love and sex. Respect your teens’ abilities to make their own decisions, even if you disagree.

Be a healthy, positive role model. Be sure to discuss responsibility, self-control (plus consent), self-respect, and respect for others. Actively talk about and model these values within your home and community to plant the seed that these values become ingrained within your teens as they grow into responsible young adults.

Your Capital Women’s Care team is here for you and your family regarding all aspects of women’s reproductive health. Our trustworthy family of professionals offers quality, comprehensive care, from establishing initial well-woman visits to offering family planning and pregnancy healthcare, support, and guidance.

Additional resources for parents and teens regarding teen sexuality:

Dept. of Health & Human Services: Teen Health

https://opa.hhs.gov/adolescent-health?resources-and-publications/info/pa...
https://opa.hhs.gov/adolescent-health?resources-and-publications/info/pa...

Planned Parenthood: Information for Teens on Sex and Sexuality

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/teens

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/teenpregnancy/about/index.htm
https://www.cdc.gov/teenpregnancy/teens/index.htm
https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/sexualbehaviors/index.htm
https://www.cdc.gov/VitalSigns/larc/index.html
https://www.aafp.org/afp/2004/1015/p1517.html
https://www.plannedparenthood.org/files/6813/9611/7632/Reducing_Teen_Pre...
https://aspe.hhs.gov/system/files/pdf/174176/pch1.pdf
https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdch/Parent_Power_-_What_Parents_Need...
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9103780/
https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/01/06/teen-dating-covid/?f...
https://powertodecide.org/what-we-do/information/why-it-matters
https://powertodecide.org/what-we-do/information/national-state-data/nat...
https://www.womenshealth.gov/blog/start-conversation

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