Once upon a time, almost all new mothers were teenagers. People simply didn’t live long enough to have it any other way, but as industrialization grew, it became less and less desirable to have babies at an early age. More education was required to function in a modern world, childhood lasted significantly longer and motherhood was delayed.
Today, childhood is defined by the completion of one’s education and can last into the middle or late 20s. A huge gap between the earning power of under / uneducated teens and their counterparts who remain in school is very evident. It is an unfortunate fact that having a baby makes the probability of finishing school remote.
Modern birth control hasn’t helped…
One might think that with the birth control pill celebrating its 50th birthday, the specter of unwanted pregnancy would be gone. And now, not only do we have the pill, but we also have hormone therapy, improved condoms, better diaphragms and more comprehensive sex education, too. And yet, modern birth control has not helped all that much and there are several reasons for this.
Parents never really get over the feeling that their child is young and in need of protection. It’s hard for parents to think of their teen as a sexual being. Sex is an adult pleasure and reserved for adults and a teenager is not an adult. Well, that’s the opinion of most parents anyway.
This is both right and wrong. Physically, a teenager is an adult, but socially and financially they are still dependent children. It is a difficult dualism to deal with. The teen feels grown-up, the parents see her only as a baby. They are reluctant to have “the talk” with their children, relying on abstinence and telling their children not to do “it”.
Parents simply do not want to believe that their baby has grown into a sexually active adult and the logic here seems to be that if you don’t talk about it, it won’t happen. Parents of girls live in the happy belief that if they don’t equip their daughters with birth control their kids won’t need it.
Young people have a very firm belief that “it can’t happen to me.” This spans everything from car accidents to unprotected sex. When they become sexually active, little or no thought is given to either disease or pregnancy. Indeed, birth control is often rejected because if a girl is prepared for sex, she is a slut or a tramp but if it just happens, it’s true love.
The value of curfews
As far as preventing teen pregnancy goes, there is no value at all. Yes, there should be a curfew. Teens need rules just as young children do, but be aware that anything that might go on after nine o’clock can just as easily go on before nine o’clock, probably more easily as the parents won’t be suspicious at that time of night.
Teen sex can also take place without a bedroom or even a bed. Or much privacy, for that matter.
The value of talking
The value of talking to your teen depends on how you do it. If you storm around forbidding your child to do things or hang out with certain people, you are almost certainly buying yourself a big fat problem. You will be regarded as an evil monster who never listens. Storm and stomp all you like, but in private. It’s really hard to do, but try. A lot may be riding on it.
The time to start talking to your teen is when the child is 3 or 4 years of age and if you have a reputation of being reasonable early on it is much easier to control the kid during the teen years.
If you have daughters, they should be aware of what goes on in their own bodies in terms of menstruation, ovulation and birth control long before they actually begin to menstruate. It will make it easier to talk to your child when she needs to know about it. However, this dialogue is so loathsome to some parents that it makes giving birth look easy. But do it anyway, just like you have forced yourself to do disagreeable things to help your child all along
If, by some ghastly mischance she does get pregnant, it is imperative that she’ll be able to talk to you without you yelling at her.
If the worst happens and your daughter does get pregnant, you have a limited number of options, more specifically…
- giving the child up for adoption;
- or keeping the baby and raising it.
None of these options are appealing, but one of them has to happen.
If you opt for abortion, you are on a tight time budget. It is a dreadful decision to make but it has to be made quickly because the earlier the procedure is done the better your daughter’s chances of survival are.
Carrying to term has its own hazards and heartbreaks, and a doctor must be involved in the discussion, but the worst course of action you could take is to force your daughter and the father of her baby into a shotgun wedding. These kind of forced marriages are almost never successful, so beware of that!
The other thing you fear
A baby isn’t the only thing you can catch from unprotected sex. There are some truly dreadful diseases out there
Our reaction to venereal, or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is still archaic. While the disclosure of pregnancy is often met with sympathy, the disclosure of a STD will usually be met with horror.
This is wrong!
If your teenage daughter has contracted a STD she is not dirty; she is sick and needs medical treatment. Fast. So, act wisely instead of blaming and punishing her.
Today there are more recognized STDs out there than ever before. Medical science is having a hard time keeping up with newly mutated disease organisms. Some are variations of an old theme while others are brand new. But no matter what the diagnosis is, your child needs you to be in full-on parent mode like you were when she was little.
A disclosure of pregnancy is not the end of the world even though it may seem like it. Your ‘baby’ could be telling you she has AIDS, and that’s a more serious issue.