Articles for Parents

Everything listed under: teen childbearing

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    14 and Pregnant

    Latisha Simmons was 14 and pregnant. She actually kept her pregnancy a secret until the morning she went into labor when she told her mother her stomach hurt and she needed to go to the hospital.

    “I was 15 when my daughter was born,” says Simmons. "My world was turned upside down. I was going to be a freshman at Howard High School. It was difficult going to school pregnant. Nobody knew what was going on. At that time it was not cool to be 14 and pregnant.”

    Simmons knows the odds were stacked against her. People talked about girls getting pregnant, dropping out of high school and living in poverty.

    “Teen pregnancy went back generations in my family,” Simmons says. “I was determined that I would graduate from high school and find a way to raise my child. I woke up every morning and got myself and my daughter ready. There were many days I went to school having had very little sleep.”

    Simmons says she doesn’t know anything that has been harder in her life than being pregnant as a teen and raising a child.

    “I was a child having a child,” Simmons asserts. “I was clueless about what it meant to be a mother. My world was turned upside down when my daughter arrived. My mom was very supportive of me, but she told me it was my responsibility to raise my child. She would not babysit so that I could go to a party or basketball game.”

    Simmons started working at 16 and hasn’t quit. She graduated from high school and worked at Wheland Foundry.

    “My main goal was to take care of my daughter,” Simmons says. “The foundry work was backbreaking. I knew I needed to find something different. Eventually I started going to college part-time.”

    Today, Simmons has a Master’s degree in social work and her daughter is a college graduate. 

    “My goal was for my daughter not to walk the same road as me,” Simmons says. “She would probably tell you I talked with her too much about sex. Today I can tell you, she broke the cycle.”

    Simmons is thankful that her mom made her take responsibility for her child. The sleepless nights and endless work to raise a child taught her that she did not want to parent another child alone.

    While the nation's teen pregnancy and birth rates are at historic lows, progress has been uneven. According the the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, it is still the case that nearly 1 in 4 girls in the U.S. get pregnant by age 20. Interestingly, four in 10 teens (39%) say they have never thought about what their life would be like if they were to get pregnant or cause a pregnancy.

    While Hamilton County has experienced a significant decrease in teen pregnancies since 1997, there were still 94 teen pregnancies (age 10-17) in 2013. Believe it or not, parents play a huge role in preventing teen pregnancy. The best way to prevent teen pregnancy is for parents to talk with and educate their children. Share your values and expectations when it comes to relationships, dating and sex. Your teens are listening. 

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    What Parents Need to Know About Preventing Teen Pregnancy

    Teens want to know what adults think, even if they don't act like it.

    • Adults are powerful figures in the lives of young people and hold the key to preventing teen pregnancy.

    • An MTV poll found teens ranked their parents as their #1 heroes.

    Forget about "The Talk." It is an 18-year conversation about love, relationships, values and sex. Start early and let your kids know that you are an "askable parent."

    • Teens tell us their parents tend to give them information too late and in too vague a way.

    • They can get clinical information from school or books (and they already know more than you think), but what they really seek are parents who are comfortable talking with them about relationships, how to handle peer pressure to have sex, how to say "no" without hurting feelings, and other such issues.

    Don't let your daughter get involved with a much older guy.

    • Teen girls who date much older guys are more likely to report later that they didn't really want to have sex in the first place and are less likely to use birth control/contraception.

    • Among mothers aged 15-17, about one in four has a partner who is at least five years older.

    • Older boys and men can lead younger girls into very risky situations and relationships.

    • Seventy percent of teenage pregnancies are caused by guys over the age of 20.

    Sometimes, all it takes for teens not to have sex is not to have the opportunity.

    • Many teens say that if they had something to do after school that's fun and interesting, they are less likely to experiment with sex, drinking, and other risky activities.

    • If parents can't be home with kids after school, they need to make sure their kids are busy doing something constructive and engaging.

    Parents need to make girls feel valued and important. You can't give a girl self-esteem, but you can give her the opportunity to develop it -- encourage her involvement in sports, volunteering, drama classes or other activities that make her feel talented and confident.

    • Girls involved in sports are half as likely to get pregnant as non-athletes, regardless of how much sex education they have. They are more likely to delay sex until they are older, and to use protection when they do so.

    • Another study shows that girls who are active volunteers throughout their high school years have half the teen pregnancy rates of the average for their peers.

    • If you give a girl something positive to say "yes" to, she'll be much more likely to say "no, not yet" to sex and pregnancy.

    • Remember, condoms do not protect the heart.

    Talk to sons as well as daughters. The nearly 1,000,000 teen girls who got pregnant each year don't do it alone.

    • Boys need to know that teen pregnancy happens to them, too. We need to talk to boys - not just girls - about consequences, responsibility, sex, love and values. Surveys show that boys want to do the right thing.

    Learn the facts yourself. It is a scary world out there. Sexually transmitted diseases have multiplied at a frightening rate in the last 30 years.

    • We have gone from two to 38 identifiable Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD’s), and some of these – including AIDS, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), and Herpes – are incurable.

    • HPV causes more than 90 percent of all invasive cervical cancers, and condoms do not prevent HPV. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 45 million Americans have HPV.

    • In addition, chlamydia is rampant and is frequently symptomless. Chlamydia is a leading cause of infertility in later life.

    Adapted from The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Tips for Parents

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    The Impact of Teen Childbearing

    In 1999 in Hamilton County, there were 240 teens between the age of 10 and 17 who became pregnant.

    Compare that to 98 teens in the same age range in 2013, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. It's a 59 percent decrease in unwed teen pregnancies. Even in the 18-to 19-year-old age group, pregnancies have dropped from 470 in 1999 to 244 in 2013, a stunning 48 percent decrease.

    This is good news... sort of.

    The people of Hamilton County are definitely doing some things right in order to see this kind of decrease. However, we cannot forget the 321 children who were born to teen moms in 2013. The breakdown is: 227 18-19-year-olds, 88 15-17-year-olds and six 10-14 year olds.

    Research from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies indicates that teen childbearing in the U.S. costs taxpayers — federal, state and local — at least $9.4 billion annually.

    Consider these statistics:

    • 66 percent of pregnant teens report histories of dating abuse.

    • Only 30 percent of teen fathers pay child support.

    • Teen mothers are nearly twice as likely to forego prenatal care during the first trimester.

    • Only 38 percent of teen girls who have a child before the age of 18 graduate from high school.

    • Daughters of teen mothers are three times more likely to become teen mothers themselves.

    • One in three teens becomes pregnant by age 20.

    If a teen mother does not earn a high school diploma or GED, the child will likely spend 64 percent of his or her life in poverty. In fact, a child born to a teen mother who has not finished high school and is not married is nine times more likely to be poor than a child born to a married adult who has finished high school.

    Research consistently shows that teen pregnancy is closely linked to a host of critical social issues — poverty and income, overall child well-being, responsible fatherhood, health issues, education, child welfare and risky behaviors. As previously noted, there are substantial public costs associated with adolescent childbearing. If more children in this country were born to parents who are ready and able to care for them, we would see a significant reduction in a host of social problems afflicting children in the United States.

    So what can parents do to help prevent teen pregnancy?

    First, talk about the facts of life. Communicate your values and convictions about love, sex, commitment and marriage.

    If you are having trouble deciding what to talk about, here are some questions teens have said they want to discuss.

    • "How do I know if I'm in love?"

    • "Will sex bring me closer to my girlfriend/boyfriend?"

    • "How will I know when I'm ready to have sex? Should I wait until marriage?"

    • "Will having sex make me popular? Will it make me more grown-up and open up more adult activities to me?"

    • "How do I tell my boyfriend that I don't want to have sex without losing him or hurting his feelings?"

    • "How do I manage pressure from my girlfriend to have sex?"

    • "Can you get pregnant the first time?"

    The good news is more parents are boldly talking about sex and healthy relationships with their teens. As a community, it is critical that we support them in their efforts to raise young people who are well on their way to achieving a successful future and marriage.