As any parent knows there is a LOT to worry about when it comes to raising your kids. Everything from sleep training and potty training to dealing with bullies and boyfriends, kids take a lot of work from the second they enter this world. And if you thought the work ended when your child learns to wipe her own butt or enters her teen years, time for a rude awakening—teenagers are tough. Also, they don’t always make the best decisions. And they have sex. Let the parental fun begin!
We’ve all heard scary statistics and terrifying stories about teenage pregnancy. Luckily there’s plenty of advice out there to help our kids avoid the teenage pregnancy trap. The good news is that rates of teenage pregnancy have been declining in recent years. Yes, you read that correctly, we said DECLINE. And let us all say, phew. According to Sarah Brown, CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, “The decline has been fueled by three factors: more teens are waiting to have sex; they also report fewer sexual partners and better use of contraception.” If you want your family to be a part of the decline and help with preventing teen pregnancy, here are 15 tips to get you started.
1. Open Lines of Communication Early
Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt. If you hope teen pregnancy doesn’t happen, you’re not really doing anything to prevent it. Be open and honest with your daughter from a young age, talk about the consequences of unprotected sex, explain the very real possibility of unplanned pregnancy or STDs, and listen to what she has to say as well.
2. Offer Stability & Control
Sometimes teenagers want to be independent but they still need your guidance. Remind your daughter about your family’s values and what is expected of her as an adult. And while you can’t control your kid’s actions 24 hours a day, it’s important to remind her about the consequences of her decisions so that she will be more likely to make smart choices on her own.
3. Share the Good, the Bad & the Ugly
It might not be pretty, but sometimes a little scare tactic works. Teenage sex can often be glorified by the media and by her peers. While teens will always be curious and tempted to become sexually active, it’s crucial that you make sure your daughter also knows the scary stuff. Educate her on the difficulties of being a teen mom and the potential diseases she could contract if she’s not careful.
4. Keep Your Daughter Occupied
Yes, teenage girls can get a little boy crazy. It’s the way of the world, and most of us have probably been there. But there’s more to growing up than just dating. Encourage your daughter to get involved with hobbies, clubs, sports and extracurricular activities. There will be plenty of time of dating later in life.
5. Instill a Sense of Self-Worth
Insecurity is not uncommon with teens, but it’s up to you as a parent to make sure your daughter knows how important she is to you and to others in her life. Someone who values her own worth and potential is more likely to spend time with people who respect her as well. And if you are around people who respect you, then they will also support your decisions, even if you decide you’re not ready to have sex.
6. Have Your Daughter Establish Goals
Creating goals gives your life more purpose and your daily activities more direction. You’re not just killing time with people who don’t care about you; you’re working to achieve something that is important to you. When you have more to work for, you have more to lose and you’re less likely to risk a negative outcome.
7. Make Sure your Daughter Knows she Can Tell You Anything
In an ideal world this conversation would happen long before your daughter decides to have sex, not when she tells you she is pregnant or in trouble. But regardless of when or how you address this point, it’s important for your daughter to know she can open up to you about anything, and you’ll be there (without judgment) to support and love her.
8. Know Who Your Daughter Hangs Out With
Whether you like it or not, at a certain point a teenager’s friends tend to be her main confidants. Sorry mom, you’ve been temporarily replaced. So make sure you know her friends, and make sure they know you. Complete honesty about how your daughter spends her time, and who she spends it with, is key to teenage pregnancy prevention.
9. Make Sure YOU are Your Daughter’s Main Source of Advice
Yes, we know that teenage girls stick together, and a friend’s opinion starts to seem more important than a mom’s. But whether she wants to hear it or not, make sure that YOU are giving your daughter as much, if not more, advice than her friends. When she considers her actions, it should be your words of wisdom that are ringing in her ear. She’ll thank you later.
10. Don’t Go the Demanding Route
“Because I said so!” is just not going to cut it here. You cannot demand behavior without explaining your motives. If you don’t offer tangible advice with real facts or experiences to support your opinion, you’ll not only lose your daughter’s attention, you’ll also lose credibility.
11. Avoid the Phrase, Do as I say, not as I do
We’ve all made mistakes. Ignoring them or being dishonest will not help. If you were a teenage mom or you have experiences that you regret or that you have learned from, be honest about it and help your daughter learn from your past. And always remember, if you are honest with her, she’s more likely to be honest with you.
12. Make Sure she Knows Your Values
You can’t expect your daughter to just do what you say if she doesn’t understand why it’s important and why she should care. She’s not a baby anymore, she deserves to understand why certain behavior is expected of her so she can support her own choices, not just go along with yours.
13. Keep Talking
When it comes to preventing teen pregnancy, talking about sex and all that comes with it shouldn’t be a one-time conversation. You have to continue to communicate on a regular basis and always remind your daughter that you are there to talk, so that she can also initiate conversation and ask questions when she needs advice.
14. Encourage Your Daughter to Value Education
Explain the importance of a good education as a way to open doors for the future. Teens tend to get wrapped up in the moment—make sure your daughter understands that she has a great future ahead of her so that she will start to work hard now to achieve success. Plus, when she is focused on her studies she will have less time to focus on boys.
15. Know What your Kids are Doing Online
We’re not suggesting snooping, per se, but you have to be aware of how your kids are using technology. If you want to be involved in preventing teen pregnancy, know what they are doing online when you’re not watching, and with whom they are texting when they are glued to their phones. And then be sure to communicate your values so that they aren’t relying on what they see in the media to make smart decisions.
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