According to 2011 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 400,000 teen girls give birth in the United States each year. Becoming an informed and involved parent is essential when it comes reducing the risk of your teenager becoming part, or contributing to, this statistic. There are plenty of ways to extend your parental involvement in your teen's life without trying to enforce a "no dating until your in college" rule.
Teach sex education early on. Schools don't always teach all aspects of birth control. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you should talk to your teen about reasons to delay sex, birth control methods and how to avoid pregnancy. You should also discuss respectful relationships and dating violence while you’re on the topic.
Communicate openly, respectfully and honestly with your teen. While both you and your teen might find the subject of sex awkward, it is best to leave the door open for communication. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy suggests that you try being an “askable parent.” Let your teen know that he can come to you with any questions or concerns he may have about sex and pregnancy. Refrain from scolding, judging or lecturing, as these will only push him away and make him less likely to come to you in the future -- and more likely to turn to friends or the media when he has questions.
Allow your teen to have access to birth control and reproductive health services. You might not be able to stop your teen from becoming sexually active, but you can help prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases by letting her know her options -- and helping her obtain the appropriate protection. You could take her to a family planning clinic or drive her to her regular physical exams.
Research what services are available to you and your teen in your area. There are some federally funded programs available for birth control, family planning and sex education services specifically designed for teens. For example, Planned Parenthood has state and federally funded birth control and family planning services. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Population Affairs website, also provides several resources to connect you with services and education materials. You can also find other resources specifically created to educate and assist parents with this issue, such as books, pamphlets and videos.
Discuss and agree on some household rules, curfews and standards of behavior. Set some rewards and consequences to go with these rules. Be consistent with the follow-up on any rule breaking. Establishing standards shows your child what you expect.
Talk to your teen about her goals for the future. Ask her what she thinks she might want to pursue in college. Discuss any dream jobs or other goals she might have like traveling or owning a new car. Make the future look bright for your teen so she sets her sights on these goals.
Remember that you are a huge influence in your teen’s life – be an active and involved participant.