Teen pregnancy is on the decline in our nation, but there’s still plenty of girls having babies in our community. In fact, the United States continues to have one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the developed world.

BRIDGES is focusing on the issue of teen pregnancy during the month of May. It’s a complex issue, so let’s start by understanding the statistics on the many challenges facing young mothers. Here’s the data from dosomething.org:

  • Parenthood is the leading reason that teen girls drop out of school. …
  • About 25% of teen moms have a 2nd child within 24 months of their first baby…
  • Less than 2% of teen moms earn a college degree by age 30…
  • More than half of all mothers on welfare had their first child as a teenager. In fact, two-thirds of families begun by a young, unmarried mother are poor…
  • 8 out of 10 teen dads don’t marry the mother of their child…

The issue goes beyond just numbers.

As many experts explain it, teen pregnancies are ​problematic for many other reasons because they pose health risks for the baby and children, and teen mothers are more susceptible to having medical, social, and emotional problems, in comparison to adult mothers.

For teen mothers, there is also the issue of getting access to prenatal care, which is usually delayed because of pregnancy testing, denial or even fear of telling others about the pregnancy. Since the body of a teen is still growing, she will need more nutritional support to meet both her needs and that of her baby.

So what can parents and our community do to prevent teen pregnancy? A lot. Here are some tips from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy:

  • Be clear about your own sexual values and attitudes. It will be much easier for you to talk with your child if you have thought through these questions:
    • How do you feel about school aged teens being sexually active? Becoming parents?
    • Who needs to set the sexual limits in a relationship? How is this done?
    • Were you sexually active as a teen? How do you feel about that now? Were you sexually active before you were married? How do the answers to these questions affect what you will say to your children?
  • Talk with your children early and often about sex and love. Be specific. The most important thing you can do is to say the first few words. Be honest and open. Listen carefully to find out what your child already understands. Make your conversations back and forth — two ways.
  • Supervise and monitor your children’s activities. Know where your children are at all times. Are they safe? What are they doing? Are they involved in useful activities? If they aren’t with you, are responsible adults supervising them?
  • Discourage early, frequent and steady dating. Encourage group activities. Long before your child asks you if he or she can date a certain person, make it clear that one-on-one dating before 16 can lead to trouble.
  • Emphasize how much you value education. Set high expectations for your child’s school performance. If your child is not progressing well in school, intervene early. School failure is one of the key risk factors for teen parenthood.

Let’s all work together to address teen pregnancy in our community. Together, we can make a big difference.

(Photo credit: teenpregnancy.com)