Closeness between parents and kids are the best ways to avoid teen pregnancy and abusive relationships. Learn how to supervise, monitor and help your kids.
How can you reduce the risk of teen sex, dating violence and pregnancy in your child? Your presence in their lives with caring, concern and shared activities can be the most powerful tools.
Teens who are close to their parents and feel their support are more likely to:
- Abstain from sex
- Wait until they are older before having sex
- Have fewer sexual partners
- Use contraception more consistently
- Have lower risks for pregnancy
- Limit risky behaviors such as violence, substance and alcohol use, and school failure
You can also look for help from faith and community leaders. They can be powerful influences on teens.
Six ways to keep your child safe
Follow these tips to help protect your child:
1. Encourage group activities. Group activities are a better option for kids younger than 16 instead of one-on-one dating. Make your feelings about this known early so your teen won’t think you just don’t like his or her partner.
2. Don’t leave them alone all the time. Teens may have sex because there’s not much else to do. Make sure kids have something they really like to do after school, preferably with other adults and kids. If they attend parties, make sure there is an adult around. Have open family discussions to establish rules, curfews and standards.
3. Know your children’s friends and their families. Welcome your kids’ friends into your home and get to know them. Get to know their parents, too, and establish common rules and expectations. Enforcing a shared curfew is easier, but if your view doesn’t match other parents, stick with your beliefs. Talking to your kids about their friends, school, interests and the latest gossip also helps.
4. Be concerned about dating and very cautious about allowing dates with someone much older or younger. Young teens who feel sexual pressure may have trouble handling situations. Among 12- to 14-year olds in one study, 13 percent of relationships between kids of the same age included sexual intercourse. When the partner was two years older, 26 percent of relationships included sex. When the partner was three or more years older, 33 percent included sex.
5. Help your kids see there are more attractive options than early pregnancy and parenthood. Help them set goals and discuss what it takes to reach them. Let them know you value education. School failure may be a first sign of trouble that can lead to teenage parenthood. Monitor grades and discuss them together.
6. Know what your kids are watching, reading and listening to. Many messages about sex come via television, radio, movies, music, magazines and the Internet. Talk with your kids about what they see, what you think about it and whether it fits with your expectations and values.
Watch out for harassment and inappropriate material on technical devices and networking sites. This can include texting and cell phone calls. Many tweens have had:
- Rumors spread about them electronically
- Private and embarrassing pictures and video of them shared
- Verbal abuse aimed their way on social networking sites
You may need to arrange for open access to their computers and cell phones to avoid problems. Also, teach them to think about how they want to be seen on the Web. Anything they post can be misconstrued or used against them.
Being an important part of your child’s life is the best way to make sure they don’t end up as teenage parents or in an abusive situation.