The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has reviewed research about parental influences on children’s sexual behavior and talked to many experts in the field, as well as to teens and parents themselves. From these sources, it is clear that there is much parents and adults can do to reduce the risk of teen pregnancy
Here are some tips that can increase the ability of parents to help their children pass safely into adulthood pregnancy-free.
- Be clear about your own sexual values and attitudes.
Communicating with your children about sex, love, and relationships is often more successful when you are clear in your own mind about these issues.
- Talk with your children early and often about sex, and be specific.
Young people have lots of questions about sex, love, and relationships. Be sure to have a two-way conversation, not a one-way lecture. Ask them what they think and what they know so you can correct misconceptions. Ask what, if anything, worries them.
- Supervise and monitor your children and adolescents.
Establish rules, curfews, and standards of expected behavior, preferably through an open process of family discussion and respectful communication. Supervising and monitoring your kids’ whereabouts doesn’t make you a nag; it makes you a parent.
- Know your children’s friends and their families.
Friends have a strong influence on each other, so help your children and teenagers become friends with kids whose families share your values. Welcome your children’s friends into your home and talk to them warmly and openly.
- Discourage early, frequent, and steady dating.
Group activities among young people are fine and often fun, but allowing teens to begin one-on-one dating much before age 16 can lead to trouble.
- Take a strong stand against your daughter dating a boy significantly older than she is.
And don’t allow your son to develop an intense relationship with a girl much younger than he is. Older guys can seem glamorous to a young girl. The power differences between older boys or men and younger girls can lead girls into risky situations, including unwanted sex and sex with no protection.
- Help your teenagers to have options for the future that are more attractive than early pregnancy and parenthood.
The chances that your son or daughter will delay having sex, pregnancy, and parenthood are significantly increased if their future appears bright. This means helping them set meaningful goals for the future, talking to them about what it takes to make future plans come true, and helping them reach their goals.
- Let your kids know that you value education highly.
Encourage your child to take school seriously and set high expectations about their school performance. School failure is often the first sign of trouble and can end in teenage parenthood. Be very attentive to your child’s progress in school and intervene early if things aren’t going well.
- Know what your kids are watching, reading, and listening to.
The media (television, radio, movies, music videos, magazines, the Internet) are chock full of material sending the wrong messages. Encourage your kids to think critically: ask them what they think about the programs they watch and the music they listen to.
- These first nine tips for helping your children avoid teen pregnancy work best when they occur as part of a strong, close relationship with your children, that is built from an early age.
Strive for a relationship that is warm in tone, firm in discipline, and rich in communication and one that emphasizes mutual trust and respect. There is no single way to create such relationships, but habits coming from the the heart can help.
A final note: it’s never too late to improve a relationship with a child or teenager. Don’t underestimate the great need that children feel — at all ages — for a warm relationship with their parents and for their parents’ guidance, approval, and support.
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