This guest post was written by Chris Piper who authors “Oops, I Knocked up my Girlfriend“, a teen’s 1st resource for information on teenage pregnancy and family law issues.
There is no question that MTV’s reality show series, “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” have captured America’s attention. These self-proclaimed reality shows have made quite the lasting impression on youth culture and have shined a spotlight on teenage pregnancy. The show “16 and Pregnant” features teenagers who are pregnant in high school and follows the moms through their child’s birth. “Teen Mom” and “Teen Mom 2” continue to pursue some of the same mothers and their newborns through the first few years of motherhood, highlighting their melodramatic lives, domestic troubles, and parenting woes.
With these shows toppling the cable ratings, odds are your teen consumes Teen Mom’s latest episode like a tween and skinny jeans. Maybe you have watched them too. It’s the events when MTV’s cameras are off that your teenager doesn’t see and those moments are what truly matters when it comes to fully understanding the issues surrounding teenage pregnancy. It is important to encourage parents to have conversations with their teenagers about these shows and how it has impacted their views on teenage pregnancy issues.
What shows like “Teen Mom” can’t capture is the deprivation of life these teens suffer from when having a child at such a young age. Nothing on television can depict how difficult the choice to either keep or give up your child is to make, and how incredibly complex it is to accomplish even the simple things in life; like finishing school, getting a job above minimum wage or maintaining a social life.
For your teenage girl, she won’t ever see the complications that can occur during pregnancy, the substantial hospital bill handed to her after birthing her child, post-partum depression, or even how getting a full night’s sleep is now a memory of the past. For a real teen mom, it is not glitz and glamour, it is tough work. Forget about becoming a “copycat mom” in hopes of getting pregnant and making it on MTV or the front page of the tabloids, it won’t happen. Three friends of “Teen Mom” star Jenelle Evans became pregnant and not one of them has been featured on the show. One of her friends, 18-year old Keeley Sanders stated, “My pregnancy wasn’t influenced by nobody but the wrong decisions.”
Also, make it clear that having a child as a teen does not lower the barrier of entry to becoming a woman, and introducing a child to the world should not be a strategic tactic for keeping a boyfriend around. The aforementioned does not make your daughter a woman but only a statistic she doesn’t want to be and the latter doesn’t work – studies show that teen boys will not stick around for the girl or the child in many cases. Lastly, make sure your daughter knows she can still get pregnant while on birth control. Teen Mom’s Leah Messer became pregnant while using Mirena, which is proven to be more than 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. Accidents do happen.
Teenage guys may think they don’t have to worry about teenage pregnancy issues since they can’t get pregnant, but what happens after the pregnancy will impact them the most. Most parents stop the “sex talk” after telling their son to wear a condom, but it should continue to include a discussion about the real world issues surrounding pregnancy and what problems they will face if they accidently impregnate a girl.
Will they marry or even stay in a relationship with the girl? Are they ready for the responsibilities of being a dad? Do they understand the life-long financial struggles most men face with being forced to pay child support to their kid’s mom until their child is an adult? Every boyfriend of the “Teen Mom” stars is no longer in a relationship with his baby’s mama.
Many men struggle with assuming the role of a part-time dad. Add in juggling child custody and child support issues while fighting depression and you are left with an uphill battle to find motivation and joy in life. It’s a serious problem many men face and chances are your son doesn’t have a clue about any of these potential dilemmas.
There is a lot more to teenage pregnancy than what can be shown on MTV or what can be taught in schools. It is your responsibility as parents to ensure your teenagers understand what exactly they are engaging in when they decide to have sex. You have the ability to empower your kids to make responsible decisions, and you have the power to influence them beyond what the producers over at MTV write in their scripts.
Flikr Image from Polina Sergeeva