Ideally, finding out that you are pregnant is a joyful experience enjoyed by parents who are mature and ready to nurture a growing child. Unfortunately, many first time parents are still in their teenage years and are in no way prepared for the pressures and responsibilities of parenthood. Although it may be difficult to discuss sexuality issues with your teenager, it is important. Uninformed teens are at an increased risk of becoming parents before they are ready.
Start talking to your children about sex long before they become sexually active. Begin by giving them accurate information about their bodies so that it becomes comfortable for both of you to have these discussions throughout the years. Children will sense if certain topics are off limits and will stop asking questions. Try your best to put your own reservations aside and be sure that your kids know that they can come to you for honest answers.
Take it Easy
Teenagers tend to resent parental interference. It is often easier to approach difficult subjects like sexuality by using outside examples as starting points for conversations. When watching a movie that features a pregnant teenager, take the opportunity to discuss the difficulties that the character faces. If your family knows someone who was a teenage parent, talk about the choices that he/she had to make and the consequences they endured by becoming parents before they were grown. Since teenagers are unlikely to be comfortable discussing their own sexuality, it can be helpful to cite outside examples to get a conversation started.
Paint a Realistic Picture
Babies are cute, cuddly, and everyone loves them. Too often, teenagers harbour starry-eyed fantasies about caring for a beautiful, smiling baby. They need to be aware that babies require constant care, are very expensive, cry often, and can be exhausting. Be sure to paint a realistic picture of both the joys and difficulties of parenthood for your teenager. Teens who have accurate ideas about the responsibilities that face parents will be more likely to avoid becoming pregnant before they are ready.
It is important that your teenager understands your moral values, but they may not share your perspective. It is certainly advisable to advocate abstinence, but your teen may not agree. Don’t let differences of opinion close the doors to communication. Be sure that your teenager knows that they always have your support.
Discuss risks with your teen, give advice on safer sex, and if you are comfortable doing so, offer to help your teenager to secure birth control. You may not be able to control their behaviour, but you can try to keep them safe.
Healthy babies: Teenage mothers are more likely to deliver premature babies than mothers over 20. Additionally, even when born full-term, teenage mothers give birth to low birth-weight babies more often than their older counterparts. Both premature and low birth-weight babies are at higher risk for health problems. Be sure that your teenager is aware that by waiting, her chances of having healthy children increases.
Healthy Moms: Teenage mothers are at an increased risk of experiencing pregnancy complications such as anemia and high blood pressure. Additionally, according to TeenPregnancy.org, “Later in life, adolescent mothers tend to be at greater risk for obesity and hypertension than women who were not teenagers when they had their first child.”
Seek advice from your family doctor. Doctors who treat teenagers are well versed in talking to them about the risks of unprotected sex, from STDs to unplanned pregnancies. Ask the doctor to bring up the subject of sexuality and teenage pregnancy with your teenager when they go in for a check up.
When a pregnancy is unplanned, parents are faced with some very difficult decisions. Will they continue the pregnancy? If they choose to continue, will they keep the baby or give it up for adoption? If they hope to keep the baby, how will they manage to support themselves? It is important for teenagers to consider these things before they become sexually active. Be sure to open up conversations about the difficult decisions that face young parents with your son or daughter. Be honest with your teen about how much and what type of help you would be willing to offer if they were to become teenage a parent. Be sure that they know that their child would ultimately be their responsibility.
Teenagers who become pregnant are less likely to complete their education than those who do not. This lack of schooling has a detrimental effect on earning potential, setting the teenage parents on a path of lifelong poverty. Stress to your teens the importance of delaying parenthood until they have a sound education.
Despite your best efforts, you may still find yourself in the position of facing your teenager’s unplanned pregnancy. If so, try to offer emotional support and guidance, but encourage your teen to make the important decisions on their own. No matter what is decided, your teenager will be going through an emotional and difficult time–assure her that your love for her remains as strong as ever.