Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Teenaged and Pregnant

Everyone is talking about it. In my hometown of Gloucester, Massachusetts, 17 teenagers are pregnant. That’s more than four times the number of high school girls who got pregnant last year.

Educators and public health officials don’t know what’s behind the spike. What we do know is that when a girl gets pregnant – and a boy becomes a father – there are many contributing factors, whether the pregnancy is intentional or not.

Reading the Boston Globe article, I zeroed in on a quote from a 46-year-old woman, Lori Mitchell, whose daughter got pregnant at age 16 and dropped out of school. This mother infers that there are things a lot worse than a teen ending up pregnant.

"They could be junkies or prostitutes," she said. "You try to protect them as much as you can, but it's up to them to do the right thing."

Talk about setting low standards for a child. By the way Lori, a 16-year-old can be both a junkie and pregnant.

I don’t know Lori Mitchell, but I’d like to ask her whether she had ever talked with her daughter about sex as she was growing up. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that ongoing, open conversations about sexual health help kids postpone sex and use protection if they do have intercourse.

Under guidance from the Mayor’s office, Gloucester’s Department of Public Health and the School Committee are taking steps to address the teen pregnancy issue. Key will be helping engage adults and the kids in their lives in ongoing conversations about sexual health that may be uncomfortable, but can help kids make healthy choices. Or, as Lori Mitchell says, “…do the right thing.”

Resources
Raising Healthy Kids: Families Talk About Sexual Health
Words Can Work: When Talking With Kids About Sexual Health

Related Issues and Answers columns
Parents as educators
Postponing sex
Self-respect
Talking with kids

Related columns for young people

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