Teen Pregnancy: What Can Parents Do?

Be clear about your own sexual attitudes and values.

  • What do you really think about teens being sexually active?
  • Who is responsible for setting sexual limits in a relationship, and how is that done?
  • Were you sexually active as a teen and how do you feel about that now?

Talk with your children early and often, and be specific.

  • Make it an 18-year conversation.
  • Help young people understand the context and meaning of sex, not just how body parts work.
  • Ask teens what they think and what worries them.

Be a parent with opinions. Such as:

  • Sex should be associated with commitment, so I think you are too young to have sex.
  • If you do have sex, always use contraception until you are ready to have a child.
  • Our family’s values say that sex should be an expression of love within marriage. I expect you to wait.

Supervise and monitor your children.

  • Establish rules, curfews, and standards of expected behavior through open family discussions.

Know your children’s friends and their families.

  • Meet the parents of your children’s friends.
  • Try to establish common rules and expectations.

Discourage early, frequent, steady dating.

  • One-on-one dating before age 16 can lead to trouble.
  • Make your strong feelings known about this early so it doesn’t appear as though you don’t like the particular person or invitation.

Take a strong stand against your child dating someone older.

  • Try setting a limit of a no more than two or three year age difference.
  • The power differences created by these age disparities can lead to risky situations.

Help your teen have more attractive options for the future than early pregnancy.

  • Help them set meaningful goals for the future.
  • Talk to them about what it takes to reach their goals.
  • Explain how teen pregnancy can derail the best of plans.

Let your children know you value education highly.

  • Set high expectations about school performance—school failure is often a sign of other trouble.
  • Know homework assignments and support your child in getting them done.
  • Volunteer at school, if possible.

Talk to your sons as well as your daughters.

  • The 820,000 teen girls who get pregnant each year in the U.S. don’t do it alone!
  • Boys need to know that teen pregnancy has serious consequences for them too.
  • Having sex doesn’t make you a man; waiting until you are responsible and ready does.

Know what your children are watching, reading, and listening to.

  • Encourage your children to think critically about the media they use.
  • Watch their favorite shows with them and use the opportunity as a discussion-starter. 1