How to talk to your kids about early pregnancy

Frankness and supervision can save you and the child heartache later

In Summary

• Allowing your kids to talk and listening to them is halfway to solving the problem

Getting children to open up can be difficult, especially when they are in the adolescence stage.

They may not know how to explain themselves and how they feel about their body changes.

Parents should know best if their children understand how relationships work, and how they can avoid early pregnancy through understanding how their body parts work.

Dr Vanessa Jensen, a psychologist with Cleveland Clinics' Centre for Paediatric Behavioural Health, says, "My one recommendation to parents: Let them talk."

If at any point a child does not open up the first time, keep bringing it up. But be somewhat clever in your approach, she says. Talk about your own experience and what you have observed about your child's behaviour.

Start with what you see, and the most important thing is listening. Secondly, do not be afraid to ask even the tough questions; the ones you might not want to know the answer about.

Causes of teenage pregnancy include sexual violence, lack of education and school dropout, early and forced marriages, family, community and social pressure to marry.

Others are inadequate access to services tailored to young people, and lack of information about sexual and reproductive health rights.

Ask your children how their day went. It might get the conversation going. If they are falling in love or building some feelings for relationships while at school, parental advice can help.

Getting that conversation going could help parents and kids to agree on the way forward.

Below are 10 tips for parents to help their children avoid teenage pregnancy can be the answer.

1. Be clear about your own sexual values and attitude as a parent

As a parent, before talking to your child about teenage pregnancy, you must think about: how you feel about school-aged teens being sexually active or becoming parents, how you feel about being sexually active, who needs to set limits in a relationship and how it is done. As well as your feeling about encouraging teens to abstain from sex and your thinking about teens using contraceptives.

2. Talk with children early and often about sex and love

As a parent, you should be open and honest. Listen carefully to find out what your child already understands about sex and relationships. Make your conversation two-way.

3. Supervise and monitor your children's activities

Being a good parent by supervision here means you should know where your children are at all times. Are they safe? What are they doing? Are they involved in useful activities? This is because parents who care knows where their children are.

4. Know your children's friends and their families

Parents should help their children choose friends from families with similar values. Talk to them regularly together with parents about common rules, curfews and expectations. Since peers have strong influence on teens.

5. Discourage early, frequent and steady dating

Let your child know that one-on-one dating before 16 can lead to trouble even before they ask. Letting your children know ahead of time helps them see that you are not reacting to a particular person or invitation.

6. Take a strong stand against teens dating people who are significantly older or younger than they are

A good parent should should let the children know that the power differences can lead to risky situations, including unwanted and unprotected sex.

7. Help your kids have options for the future that are much more attractive than early pregnancies and early parenthood.

Every parent should help the child to set real, meaningful goals for their future and help them reach the goals. Again, help them see how becoming a parent can derail the best of plans.

8. Emphasise how much you value education as a parent.

Every parent should set high expectations for their 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.

9. Know what your kids are watching, reading and listening to

Messages about sex sent by the media (TV, radio, movies, music videos, magazines and the Internet) are almost certainly at odds with our values. Therefore, as a parent, teach your children to think critically; talk with them about what they are learning from the programmes they watch and the music they listen to.

10. Parents should strive for a relationship that is warm and affectionate, firm in discipline and rich in communication.

Parents should emphasise mutual trust and respect to their children. 

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