Baby Mamas Are Getting Younger
Whose fault is it?
Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol recently stated that she “obviously discourages teenage pregnancy.” The 18-year-old said about her new son, Tripp, born last month, “Teenagers need to prevent pregnancy to begin with–this isn’t ideal. But I’m fortunate to have a supportive family which is dealing with this together. Tripp is so perfectly precious; we love him with all our hearts. I can’t imagine life without him now.”
The CDC has reported that teen birth rates are up significantly in 26 states, with Mississippi bumping Texas and New Mexico out of the top spot. After 15 years of a decrease in teen births, they are on the upswing again. Why? And what does it mean for us?
There is plenty of blame to go around. The liberals are blaming the increase in funding to abstinence-only sex education, claiming that if kids aren’t taught about birth-control methods, pregnancy rates are destined to go up (coughBristolPalincough). Conservative groups have countered that there are still too many non-abstinence programs out there, and that’s why more kids are having kids (that sounds a little bit like “I know you are, but what am I?” to me, but what do I know?).
And lots of fingers are pointing at the media’s glamorization of teenage pregnancy, or, if they’re not glamorizing it, making it seem a little too … OK. Take, for example, the number of TV shows for teens that either dance around or hit head-on the baby issue: Secret Life of the American Teenager, One Tree Hill and Gossip Girl. Then there was Juno, the highly acclaimed film of 2007 whose sole premise was the decisions that had to be made by an accidentally pregnant teenager.
The overwhelming media coverage of Jamie Lynn Spears’ and Bristol Palin’s pregnancies has brought the topic front and center in many American homes and has forced families to have “the talk” with children at a much younger age than they normally would.
Regardless of who is really at fault, the end result is serious. Here are the cold, hard facts:
*Thirty-four percent of women become pregnant before they turn 20. THIRTY-FOUR PERCENT! Think of ten of your daughter’s friends: Statistically speaking, three of them will become pregnant as a teen!
*Roughly a third of teenage pregnancies end in abortion.
*Teens who view the most sexual content on TV are twice as likely to become involved in a teenage pregnancy than teens who watch the least amount.
So what can you do? Talk to your kids! Talk to them every day, even when it’s hard. Even when it seems like they don’t want to talk. Half of teenagers claim to believe information they get from Mom and Dad, as opposed to 12 percent who trust their friends more. Know where they are, whom they’re with and what they’re doing. Sixty percent of teenagers report losing their virginity at home while their parents are away.
Ask questions and listen to the answers. Set boundaries and enforce them. And be there as much as you possibly can. Kids with strong attachments to their parents are much less likely to have sex at a young age. Allow your kids to ask questions, and answer them as honestly as you can. Try not to judge.
I once read that when children are the most unlovable, that’s when they need love the most. I believe it’s also true that kids push their parents away just when they need them the most. Push back!