Unplanned pregnancy, especially teen
pregnancy, seems to be high on Hollywood's
and television's radar screen these days.
Recent reports include the sudden increase in
teen pregnancies in Gloucester, Massachusetts
and several media-hyped celebrity
pregnancies, including Jamie Lynn Spears, the
teenage sister of singer Britney Spears.
In fact, the rate at which teen girls became
mothers rose 2.8 percent in 2006 from a year
earlier, according to a report on children
compiled by 22 US agencies. The increase
ended a decline that began when the teen
birth rate peaked at 38 per 1,000 girls ages
15 to 17 in 1991, the report's authors said.
The 2006 reversal is a, "red flag that
something has gone wrong," and comes after
government and health groups had crusaded
against teen pregnancies in the 1990s,
according to Duane Alexander, director of the
National Institute of Child Health and Human
It's understandable that many parents were
reeling with the announcement that Jamie Lynn
Spears, 17, recently has delivered a baby.
Jamie Lynn, the past star of a very popular
'tween (a current term used to describe
children between the approximate ages of 8
and 15) show, Zoey 101, had a large following
of fans, most of whom are in middle school.
The question a lot of parents grapple with is
how to talk to their children about such
news. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen
and Unplanned Pregnancy issued the following
statement, "The media frenzy that has erupted
regarding the birth provides every parent,
teacher, media outlet and more a chance to
state the truth: babies need and deserve
adult parents who are committed to each other
and to decades of being the best parents
possible. Hundreds of thousands of teens and
unmarried young adults get pregnant and
become parents every single year, and few of
them have Hollywood beginnings or endings.
Getting pregnant and bearing children is one
of the most important steps that any person
ever takes, and it deserves careful planning,
thought and consideration."
We must continue to talk with our young
people about the real-life consequences of
sex, in order to give them the tools and
information to stay safe and healthy.
- The first thing to do is to make sure you
bring the topic up with your children. Don't
assume that they're already working it out
with their friends or that they don't know.
Be involved and use this opportunity to have
a heart-to-heart discussion with your young
child about teen sex.
- The typical age range of Jamie Lynn fans
is 8-15 years of age. If your child is
younger or you're not sure how much they know
about the news, ask them what their friends
are saying about Jamie Lynn and the birth of
- The group that will be
most affected by this news will be middle-
schoolers, according to the American
Psychological Association, especially those
with low self-esteem and lower identity
- Once you have found out what your child
knows about the news, you should clear up any
information they might be missing. This is
not the time to let them wonder about random
speculation or other rumors, ensure they have
the facts straight and that they understand
as much as they can.
- The way you address the news will be
contingent on how much previous information
you have already shared with your children
about sex. If you haven't had the "talk," now
might be a good time! Even teens can benefit
from a frank discussion about sex and how to
process this news.
- It's important that adolescents realize
that while Hollywood, television and
magazines may glamorize teen pregnancy,
reality paints a far bleaker picture. Help
them understand the emotional, physical and
social challenges of being a teen parent
including: the higher risk of school drop-out
and poverty rates for teen parents; less than
one-third of teenagers who give birth before
the age of eighteen will ever obtain a high
school diploma; and, a high percentage of
teen mothers remain unmarried.
- Babies born to teenage mothers are more
likely to be premature, less healthy and
more often have health and behavior problems
that may persist throughout their lives.
- With teenagers, the key point to hit home is
that they're not invulnerable, these things
can and do happen and pregnancy, and even
STIs (sexually transmitted infections), can
happen to anyone engaging in sex.
- Don't forget the boys. Your sons are just
as likely to be engaged in sexual activity
and can benefit from the same conversations
and insight that you might provide your
- Remember, children respect their parents
who stay involved and connected in their
lives. You, as a parent, are very influential
as long as you stay on top of the situation.
They may act like they don't want to hear
you, but research has show that what you say
does stick with them.
After you've addressed the news with your
child, it's a good idea to assess your
involvement as a parent.
- The first place a child is likely to
engage in sexual activity is in their own
home, when they're not being supervised.
- Know your child's friends and
boy/girlfriends and what they're doing when
they're not with you.
- Pay attention to age ranges. Letting a
young teenager date someone several years
older can sometimes increase the potential
for sexual activity. Relationships with
older people can come with
adult expectations that many teens just
aren't ready for.
- Sexual activity is most likely to occur
between the hours of 3 and 6 in the
afternoon, before many parents get home from
- It's important to set parameters that
your child can understand. Give them clear
rules on who can come to the house when
you're not there and who can't.
- Giving your child your trust is also
important, let them show you they can handle
the rules you have set out. If they show they
can't handle the rules though, make sure they
understand the consequences and enforce them
at all costs.