“It’s not all honey and roses. You have to give up all your free time, and you have to be the best mom you can be.” Markai Durham (Cast Member of Sixteen & Pregnant)
According to statistics (U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions: National and State Trends and Trends by Race and Ethnicity, 2010), each year, almost 750,000 women living in the United States between the ages of 15-19 become pregnant and a staggering two-thirds of all teen pregnancies occur between the ages of 18 and 19 years of age.
Let’s face it, the subject of teenage pregnancy has in the last 5 years has become a huge payoff for cable television with the likes of shows like Sixteen and Pregnant and with Bristol Palin’s acceptance of her advocacy position to the tune of over $200,000 a year, teen pregnancy can seem, to a young girl, a pretty lucrative business. However, although I personally feel that the above-mentioned examples have many positive effects with regard to showing teen moms exactly how life’s struggles with a baby can either make us or break us, at the same time, I am a little disenchanted with glorifying the same because the fact remains that there are a lot of young, impressionable teens whose immaturity may lead them down that superficial path too soon.
Speaking on this subject isn’t particularly hard for me as I was one of the statistics mentioned above. By 19, I myself was pregnant. By 21, I had 2 children who were 17 months apart and life for me was no longer a walk in the park. It was the biggest challenge I ever faced.
Albeit a teen moms usually end up with full responsibility for the baby, however, teen pregnancy also can be hard on teen fathers. Unfortunatley, more often than not, the pregnancy strains relationships not only with the teen mom, but also with parents on both sides of the fence. Teen fathers are more likely to quit school which leads to their employment skills wavering as well. The financial responsibility that lies on fathers is also a huge challenge to most teen dads and often is the deterrent that keeps them from being a completely involved father.
There is a young girl (18) in my neighborhood that is pregnant and whom has been my neighbor since she was 5. Her mother is drug addicted and lost custody of her. Her father has passed away. Her decision was to keep her child. I have shared my experiences with her in hopes that she will learn all she can and I am doing my best to help her, but in doing so, my thoughts have turned to how we can all pitch in to help prevent young girls like her from getting pregnant in the first place.
In my opinion one of the most important things parents and the community as a whole can do to prevent teen pregnancy is to be involved in their teen’s lives. Talk, talk, talk. Spend time with your teen every day. Talk to your teen and not only tell them that you are there for them, but show it in your actions. Get interested in what your teen is interested in and if they have no interests, help them find some. Be active as a family and show your unconditional love. Be an active participant in what they love to do. Involve yourself. Ask plenty of questions and make sure that your teen knows that you are the person they can come to and confide in. Make sure they know there is a safe zone in your home, free of judgments, but where they can talk to you about any and everything. I can’t tell you how important it is to a pregnant teen to have a safe zone for communication with a parent. I wish I had this when I went through my experience.
If your teen tells you she is pregnant, here are a few tips in order to help get both of you through a very emotional time.
First and foremost, set up a doctor appointment for your teen to not only verify their suspicion, but to get them the prenatal care they need.
Have a conversation about the choices your teen has in this situation. Be welcome to discuss your feelings, but don’t force your opinions on her. It won’t work and will only backfire on you in the long run. Allowing her to make her own decision affords her the opportunity to tale ownership in her choices and to take responsibility for her actions.
Support her and her decision after it has been made.
If you and your teen butt heads and you feel like you need help, ask for it. There is no shame in counseling or for asking for help.
Prepare your teen. Education is key. The more she learns ahead of the birth, the better off she will be. There is a wealth of information on the web, in the libraries, at your doctor’s offices and county pregnancy clinics.
In closing, let me just say that this very sensitive topic is not only emotionally draining but physically draining as well on both you and your teen. As parents, we tend to take on a lot of guilt and blame ourselves for the decisions our children make. All of us have been guilty of this from time to time. From a personal perspective, I knew perfectly well the risk of unprotected sex as do most teens. Most teens, unlike my neighbor, come from good homes and don’t have the additional challenges like drug addiction in their daily lives. Most have supportive parents. Most teens, like myself at the time, know right from wrong, they just happen to make a bad choice. Parents, be involved and give your teen an open door policy to communicate with you without fear of judgment, but with love, knowledge and open arms.
Peace & Blessings,