Teen pregnancy isn’t an easy topic to discuss with kids, but it’s crucial to talk about it — early and often. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the teen birth rate in the United States is nine times higher than in other developed nations. Keeping the lines of communication open can prevent your child from having to make the difficult choice between parenting, abortion and giving a baby up for adoption.
Talk to your child when the time is right, to prevent embarrassment and encourage discussion. Look for teachable moments, such as watching a TV show in which a teenage character chooses to have sex.
Encourage your child to ask questions, and answer them honestly and thoughtfully. If she knows no question is off limits and you won’t make her feel ashamed, she’ll be more likely to ask.
Explain how different types of birth control work, how much they cost, how effective they are and where to get them. Tell your teen that condoms, barrier methods such as spermicides and the morning-after pill are available over the counter, while oral contraceptives, vaginal rings, diaphragms, implants and birth control shots require a doctor’s visit. Let your teen know about health clinics in the region, or offer to schedule an appointment for her with your gynecologist.
Discuss the options for teens facing unplanned pregnancy and the pros and cons of each. Talk about surgical versus medication abortion, parenting and adoption. Tell your teen your feelings about each, but stress that the decision is ultimately an individual choice.
Let your child know there’s often a difference between how girls and boys view sexual relationships, and that girls sometimes feel pressured into sex. Stress the importance of waiting to have sex until you’re certain your partner respects you and will support you and a potential child.
Talk about your own sexual experiences as a teenager. If you became pregnant or used birth control, tell your child about your experience. Have this conversation when your child is ready; it’s appropriate to tell a teenager, but can embarrass or overwhelm a young child.