Most parents and teenagers agree that the #1 risk of having sex is getting pregnant. The truth? Pregnancy is not the greatest danger. Yet teens and parents alike are told, “Just be on birth control.” “Just be sure you’re using protection.” Epic parents, don’t buy into the thinking that your teenager will have sex, so the main concern is just to be sure the girl doesn’t get pregnant.
Birth control doesn’t address STIs (more about that tomorrow) or emotional, physical and spiritual ripple effects of sex (tune in on Thursday!). It doesn’t even offer 100% protection against pregnancy. Only abstinence offers complete protection in every way. Teens can be committed to abstinence. Affirm your confidence in your teen’s honor, and encourage him/her to value sexual integrity. Ask them often how they’re doing with their commitment. Openly discuss the risk of a teen pregnancy and the ramifications.
What if she does get pregnant? That will be hard, but it doesn’t need to be a catastrophic event for your family. While life will be different than what it may have been otherwise, carrying to term is not the end of the world. What can you do?
- Your child needs you more than ever. He or she needs to hear:
- “I’ll always love you no matter what.”
- “We’re here for you and will help you in whatever way we can.”
- “It’s not what we planned, but it will be okay.”
- “We will get through this together.”
- Avoid blaming or shaming.
- Every pregnant teenager has three legal options: parenting, abortion, adoption. None of these options is an eraser. It can be tempting to think that an abortion is an easy out. It’s not.
- Give your teen time to process information. Don’t ask him/her to rush. In most cases, making a plan within a week or a month will not change the options. Everyone deserves whatever time they need to get information, calm down enough to think clearly, and make careful decisions.
- Affirming God’s view that every life is beautiful and has value will never be more challenging than when it’s your own teen facing a pregnancy, but I’ve seen beautiful outcomes when parents are willing to do the brave work of remaining true to their values. Don’t let your shame or your fears determine your child’s future.
- Carrying to term requires an incredible amount of strength. Let your teens hear that you respect girls who do and guys who support them. If it’s your own teen, make sure he/she hears you telling him/her that you will help and that you are proud of her decision to carry to term.
- Legal issues related to teens and pregnancy vary by state. Be sure you know your state’s laws.
- You and your child will need all the help you can get to work through a teen pregnancy in a healthy way. If you have a Pregnancy Help Center in your area, find out what resources they offer.
Having sex means facing the possibility of a pregnancy. Help teens weigh the cost of having sex against the risk of a teen pregnancy. At the same time, make sure they know that you’re in their corner no matter what.
What is your view of teen pregnancy? Do you think it’s the greatest danger for sexually active teens?