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Teen pregnancy declining

Parenting is challenging for those who believe they are prepared and ready for it. But sometimes things happen. Sometimes things happen to teens who still are children themselves.

“I didn’t think it would happen to me,” said a teen mom. The baby’s father assured her that she could trust him, both before and after he persuaded her to have sex. She trusted him. She was just 13. She was so young she didn’t know what was going on until her mother, prompted by her grandmother, took her to the doctor. She was afraid of how people would react when they knew. She wouldn’t be able to hide her condition for long.

She wasn’t old enough to get a job and take care of her child and herself. What was she going to do if her family didn’t help her? There was nothing her mother could have told her. She made a bad decision, a bad mistake. And her best friend’s mother said they couldn’t be friends anymore because she was a bad influence.

But the life of the baby’s father went on uninterrupted. The boy who had said she should trust him didn’t take on any of the responsibilities.

“When you have a baby you can’t just dump the baby off somewhere so you can go out. You have to arrange for someone to take care of the baby,” the girl said. Her mother watched the child sometimes so she could go and have fun with her friends, but the burdens of responsibility were on her. She shared some of the wisdoms she gained:

¯ Know the person. Really know them. Don’t go out and look for someone at random.

¯ When you’re at a party, have friends around who will make sure you’re OK.

¯ Protection doesn’t always work.

¯ Prescribed medications like antibiotics and over-the-counter medications like cough syrups can affect the effectiveness of birth control pills.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that teen pregnancy has been declining for several years. In 2017 teen pregnancy was a record low and was attributed to abstaining from having sex and more teens knowing about birth control. However, the “U.S. teen pregnancy rate is substantially higher than in other western industrialized nations.” Low education levels and low income levels in the teen’s family are cited as reasons for the higher teen birth rates.

The CDC advises that evidence-based prevention programs, access to youth friendly contraceptives and reproductive services and support from parents and other trusted adults help teens make healthy choices about relationships, sex and birth control.

Also, community efforts that address social and economic factors associated with teen pregnancy play a critical role in addressing racial/ethnic and geographical disparities observed in teen births in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Adolescent Health, reports that, “Adolescents in wealthier neighborhoods with strong levels of employment are less likely to have a baby than those in neighborhoods in which income and employment opportunities are more limited.” Among drop-outs, they say, 30 percent of girls cite pregnancy or parenthood as a key reason for leaving school.

According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, only 51 percent of teen moms earn a high school diploma compared to 89 percent of female students who did not give birth as a teen.

May is Teen Pregnancy Awareness and Prevention Month. Parents, talk to your sons and daughters about changes in puberty, expectations for dating, how to avoid pregnancy, STDs and HIV/AIDS, and how to have healthy relationships. Be clear and specific about family values and rules, emphasizing your strong views and why you feel so strongly about these things. You may think they aren’t listening, but many are adult children who have gone back to talk to their parents years later and said, “I know you thought I wasn’t listening to what you said, but I was.”

Be there. Establish rules, curfews and what your expectations are for your children’s behaviors. And enforce your rules. Get to know your children’s friends and their parents. Keep an eye on what your children are reading, watching and listening to. Teach them about consequences for what they do and say, and what they may be exposed to in social media.

Discourage early dating that can lead to risky behaviors and unsafe activities, such as substance abuse.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded in part by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.

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