Please Talk To Your Teens About Birth Control, Even If It Makes You Uncomfortable

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how to talk to teenagers about birth control

Although I’m not a parent, I understand the awkwardness of discussing sex with children, because I was recently a child whose mother found a used pregnancy test in my bathroom (by recent, I mean, just shy of a decade ago). I know that despite your best intentions, sex is a fraught subject, even in the most sex positive, open households. But please. I implore you. Speak to your children about and provide access to birth control even if the idea of it makes you want to cringe. Even if you think they aren’t having sex. Even if you think they shouldn’t be having sex. There is absolutely no valid reason to deny your teens access to birth control.

We have a serious teen pregnancy problem in this country, and it’s a problem that has a solution. I didn’t realize the severity of the problem, so let me share some facts with you. 3 in 10 American teenage girls will get pregnant at least once before reaching age 20. The facts get more dismal when you start to look at the effects of unwanted teen pregnancies–more than 50% of teen mothers never graduate from high school, and parenthood is the leading reason that teen girls leave high school. Less than 2% of teen moms obtain a college degree by their 30th birthday. And finally, a teen who is sexually active without contraceptives has a 90% chance of becoming pregnant within a year. Talk to you children about birth control.

I don’t by any stretch mean to disparage teen mothers, who of course are more than capable of beating these odds and who parent beautifully despite the adversity. But the US has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy out of all industrialized nations, and most teen pregnancies are unplanned or unwanted. They are preventable. And in the face of dismal sex ed in our schools, this one falls to you, parents.

Sure, there are a lot of reasons to avoid this conversation, and the most common one I’ve heard (from my own parents and anecdotally) is that the parents in question thought that their children weren’t having sex. Let’s get one thing straight about your kids and their sex lives: you may think you know. You may think you have an open relationship with your children–one that fosters healthy communication and one in which your children would feel comfortable talking to you about sex (and if so, good job!). You might think that your child really only spends time at home and at school anyways, and if he or she is having sex in your house then you’d certainly know about it. But let’s be honest. Teenagers will always find a way to have sex. You don’t even want to know the places I practiced my fumbling in high school. And so having confirmation about that you teen is sexually active isn’t the point–it’s actually irrelevant. Explain contraceptives to your teen and offer to provide it anyway.

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