According to research conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, there are many steps parents and other adults can take to reduce the risk of children becoming pregnant before they've grown up. Below are 10 tips from the National Campaign to prevent teen pregnancy, influence teens to delay becoming sexually active and encourage those having sex to use contraception carefully:
1. Be Clear about Your Own Sexual Values
To help clarify your attitudes and values, ask yourself: What do you really think about teenagers being sexually active and becoming parents? Who is responsible for setting sexual limits in a relationship, and how is that done? Were you sexually active as a teenager, and how do you feel about that now? 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
Kids have many questions about sex, and they often say that the source they'd most like to go to for answers is their parents. Start the conversation, and make sure that it is honest, open and respectful. If you can't think of how to start the discussion, consider using situations shown on television or in movies as conversation starters. Tell kids candidly and confidently what you think and why you take these positions. If you're not sure about some issues, tell them that, too. Make sure it's a two-way conversation, not a one-way lecture. Ask them what they think and what they know so you can correct misconceptions. Tell them about love and sex, and what the difference is. And remember to talk about the reasons that kids find sex interesting and enticing; discussing only the "downside" of unplanned pregnancy and disease misses many of the issues on teenagers' minds.
Kids need a lot of communication, guidance, and information about these issues, even if they sometimes don't appear to be interested in what you have to say. And if you have regular conversations, you won't worry so much about making a mistake or saying something not quite right, because you'll always be able to talk again.
To learn the kinds of questions kids say they want to discuss, visit: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.
3. Supervise and Monitor Your Children and Adolescents
Have an open, respectful family discussion to establish rules, curfews and standards of expected behavior. Make sure you know what your kids are doing when they get home from school and when they go out with friends. Supervising and monitoring your kids' whereabouts doesn't make you a nag; it makes you a parent.
4. Know Your Children's Friends and Their Families
Friends have a strong influence on each other, so help your children become friends with kids whose families share your values. Some parents of teens even arrange to meet with the parents of their children's friends to establish common rules and expectations. Welcome your children's friends into your home and talk to them openly.
5. Discourage Early, Frequent and Steady Dating
Group activities among young people are acceptable, but allowing teens to begin steady, one-on-one dating much before age 16 can lead to trouble. Let your child know your strong feelings about this throughout childhood.
6. Take a Stand against Your Daughter Dating a Boy Significantly Older
And, don't allow your son to develop an intense relationship with a girl much younger. The power differences between younger girls and older boys or men can lead girls into risky situations, including unwanted sex and sex with no protection.
7. Help Your Teen Have More Attractive Options for the Future Than Early Pregnancy and Parenthood
The chances that your children will delay sex, pregnancy and parenthood are significantly increased if their futures appears bright. This means helping them set meaningful goals for the future, talking to them about what it takes to make future plans come true, and helping them reach their goals.
8. Let Your Kids Know that You Value Education Highly
Encourage your children to take school seriously and to set high expectations about their school performance. School failure is often the first sign of trouble that can end in teenage parenthood. Be very attentive to your children's progress in school, and intervene early if things aren't going well.
9. Know what Your Kids are Watching, Listening to and Reading
The media are full of material that sends the wrong messages. It is important to talk with your children about what the media portray and what you think about it. Encourage your kids to think critically: ask them what they think about the programs they watch and the music they listen to. You will probably not be able to fully control what your children see and hear, but you can certainly make your views known and control your own home environment.
10. These Tips Work Best as Part of Close Relationships with Your Children from an Early Age
Strive for a relationship that is warm in tone, firm in discipline, and rich in communication, and one that emphasizes mutual trust and respect. It's never too late to improve a relationship with a child or teenager. Don't underestimate the great need that children feel — at all ages — for a close relationship with their parents and for their parents' guidance, approval and support.
For more information on these tips and preventing teen sex, visit: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.