Contributor By Michelle Vermillion Lawrence

How to Combat Teen Pregnancy

For many parents who become grandparents all too quickly, it seems like yesterday that they were teaching their children the ABCs. Labeled as "children who are having children," teen pregnancy numbers are climbing. The Guttmacher Institute, a large non-profit health organization focused on reproductive statistics, said in a recent report that there were 71.5 pregnancies for every 1,000 women under the age of 20 in 2006--a 3 percent increase in teen pregnancies from 2005. Despite this increase, the Obama administration is proposing to cut funding to federally back abstinenceonly education programs for lack of concrete effectiveness. But the reproductive health organization Planned Parenthood survived a budget cut threat in July 2009 when the bill to slash funding for many of its programs, including family planning, did not pass. But while schools, government groups and organizations quibble over how to address teen pregnancy and sex

education, it is the parents of today's youth that must remain steadfast in their approach to managing our adolescents’ future. As parents and caregivers of teens, a new set of ABCs needs to be taught: the ABCs of combating teen pregnancy. Instructions Step1 Advocate abstinence. Advocating abstinence can be a reverent religious belief or a strong moral value. A study conducted by Bradford Wilcox from the University of Virginia in 2008, "A Scientific Review of Abstinence and Abstinence Programs," found that abstinence is not merely about avoiding pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, but more significantly it is about helping teens prepare for a future marriage and family. The study also concludes that adolescents who abstain from sex before marriage are significantly less likely to become enmeshed in a "problem behavior syndrome," characterized by a range of antisocial behaviors from drinking to academic failure. Another reason cited in the Wilcox study to teach abstinence is that early sexual activity harms teenagers in that it tends to distance them from the influence of their parents and pushes teens towards the influence of their peers. Lastly, teaching abstinence offers health protection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year an estimated 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections occur, with almost half occurring in young people ages 15-24. Step2 Be a book. Be your child's source of information and education on all things sex related. Start explanations early and explain often. Teens who talk to their parents about sex are more likely to delay their first sexual encounter and to practice safe sex when they do become sexually active. And, ironically, despite their apparent dread, kids really want to learn about sex from their parents, according to study after study on the topic. Be their book about making a plan to get out of tricky sexual situations. Often, teens say they had no intention of having sex, but rather that is just happened, since they were at certain level of physical intimacy, they felt they couldn't stop or didn't know how to stop further sexual activity. Role play with your teen, giving them word suggestions and actions to use to get out of an unwanted or sexually charged situation. Developmentally, teens' hormones are raging, their sense of curiosity is heightened and the thought of having sex has an air of independence and maturity that is appealing. What teens cannot foresee is the aftermath of having sex. Yes, there is the pregnancy risk, but other risks can include sexually transmitted diseases or STDs and the social, emotional and psychological

consequences. Talk about the fallout of each of these with your teen. Step3 Cut the cinema. Movies such as Lifetime's "The Pregnancy Pact" or the previously popular "Juno" seem to trivialize teen pregnancy by continuing to put the teen pregnancy issue in the media spotlight. Researchers at the Rand Corporation have concluded that teens who are exposed to the most sexual content on TV are twice as likely as teens watching less of this material to become pregnant before they reach age 20. It may be unreasonable to think that your teen will not be exposed to any teen pregnancy or sexual content via the media, but as parents recognize its impact. Use this content as a springboard for discussion to minimize the tendency to think teen pregnancy is glamorous. A few more C's to consider in the ABC's of combating teen pregnancy: Cut the couple-dom. Encourage your teen to be involved in group activities such as youth groups, athletics or clubs. Let's be realistic here. Curbing serious dating does not eliminate the likelihood of teen sex -- after all, most of group activities are co-ed. But it does promote strong social skills and the sense of belonging to a larger whole. Some teens resort to having a boyfriend or girlfriend because of their boredom or lack of confidence or acceptance in group settings. Develop your teen's hobbies and interests.

Curfew, please! Yes, this makes every teen squirm-putting boundaries on their so much desired freedom. Cell phones have increased the latitude parents are willing to give their teens in that a simple phone call is interpreted as your teen is safe. But boundaries and curfews are instituted not to squash your teen's freedom, but to ensure his safety. Boundaries foster his growth within guided parameters while expressing your love and concern. Now for the remaining alphabet lessons: Step4 Dream big! Dreaming nourishes the soul. Tell your teen what your dreams are for him and ask what he dreams about for his future. What does it look like? Where will he go to college? What will his career be? Will he marry? At what age does he see himself having children? Chances are his future outlook does not include being a parent at age 16. Set the bar high, your children will rise to the occasion. Having goals and setting an action plan to meet them builds confidence, develops character and most importantly, involves you, their parent or caretaker, in their lives. Step5 Encourage education. If your teen is asking where he or she can get birth control or you suspect he or she is sexually active, encourage the appropriate use of preventative measures. This means a condom to safeguard against sexually transmitted disease and an oral or vaginal contraceptive. Simply pointing them in the right direction is not enough.

Offer explanation and direction as to use. Please do not set the pamphlet or book on the coffee table hoping he or she will pick it up. Engage them! If you're uncomfortable talking about or demonstrating contraceptive measures, talk with your child's physician for help. One in two teens trust a parent’s information about contraceptive more than a friend's. You can make a difference--rise to the occasion! They're listening, are you ready to talk?

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