By: Janae Webb, MS.Ed Therapist
How can teenage pregnancy be prevented?
Seeing teen moms and young girls who are pregnant is alarming to some when they consider how the young mothers’ and fathers’ lives have changed and will continue to change at a time when their main concern should be far less than taking care of another human being. It makes many people wonder what can be done to lower the risk of teenage pregnancy. Adolescents developmentally have a more difficult time thinking beyond their present moment because their brains are not fully developed yet; supportive, encouraging adults in their lives have a responsibility to help them think through their thoughts and emotions before they act on them.
Educate the teenager
Explain the factual truth that abstinence is the only birth control method that is 100% effective in teenage pregnancy prevention and STD prevention. Teenagers need to be aware of ALL of the consequences of having sex, not just pregnancy. Some birth control methods have more than a 90% pregnancy prevention rate but provide zero STD prevention. It should also be noted that not all STD’s have a cure. Herpes and HIV are just two examples of some life-long STD’s. So, one intimate moment could result in a life-long battle with an STD. During this discussion, it may also be useful to mention that many times people have STD’s and are not aware of it but could still spread the STD; one cannot rely on the exterior appearance of a person to identify whether or not they carry an STD. This may also be an appropriate time to share your attitudes and beliefs about sex.
Talk to them about how to respond to peers who pressure them into having sex
This is an important point in the prevention of teenage pregnancy. Discuss how the meanings of sex for males and females differ. Some teen girls are under the impression that having sex will discourage their boyfriends from breaking up with them, but that is not often the case. Role play some different responses so that the adolescent has some “go to” responses in peer pressure situations that they have already practiced and feel more comfortable and confident saying at a time when they don’t feel very comfortable or confident.
Nurture the relationship with the teen
Continue spending one on one time with the teen. Let him/her know you are there to listen and want to hear what they have to say. They will be more likely to honor and respect what you say when they know you respect their opinion.
Be available to answer questions
Some common questions teens have about sex include:
- How will I know when I’m in love?
- Will having sex bring me closer to my boyfriend/girlfriend?
- Can I get pregnant the first time?
Guide the teen in finding enjoyable activities that are useful
Guide the teen in finding activities that he or she is passionate about and feels most like themselves doing. This is helpful as they are trying to figure out who they are and what is important to them. This also gives them a buffer for stress as they navigate this phase of their lives when there are so many changes, including in their relationships.
Educating teens on the risks of having sex, being available to answer questions, guiding them in finding activities they enjoy that help them adjust to the continual changes in their lives, and helping them to identify and role play ways to respond if their boyfriend/girlfriend pressures them into having sex is an important part of the encouraging relationship that is vital in the prevention of teen pregnancy.