A Florida teen was just charged with child neglect after giving birth at home and hiding her baby in the closet for more than two weeks. A North Carolina teen was recently arrested for burying her newborn in the backyard after a failed home birth post hidden pregnancy. So how can you keep your teen from the same fate if she accidentally becomes pregnant? While I’d like to think I’m years away from having to consider the answers, these tips on how to keep your teen from hiding a pregnancy could help your family avoid potential tragedy.
First of all, let’s acknowledge that talking to my kids about sex is not at the top of my list of favorite things to do. But, starting sex talk early can help prevent tragedy in the long run. Now, you won’t have to bust out the birds and the bees, but Dr. Gail Saltz recommends you start sex information talks early so you are your child’s source for the correct information about her body, sexuality and protection — not her buddies. It will help pave the path for comfortable communication should your teen face pregnancy.
Next, while this rule applies to parenting teens in general, make sure your kids know that you expect mistakes, not a perfect teen. One of the hardest parts of parenting is remembering how you felt to be a teen dating. For Margaret Senate, mother of two in New York, making it clear to her teen that she expects her kids to be human made it easier for her daughter to come to her with news of her teen pregnancy. “All teens are going to make mistakes and do careless things; the way we, as parents, react to even those small, seemingly insignificant things will play an important role in the trust and safety our children have in us,” shares Senate.
And when they do come to you, Kim Blackham, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, emphasizes the importance of praising teens for how difficult it must be and how grateful you are that they felt comfortable coming to you.
Then make sure your kids know that they are loved unconditionally. For Cindy K., mother of eight in California, ingraining the message that the truth comes with consequences, but forgiveness and understanding are always part of the package went a long way in her household. “We let our kids know that as parents we were more apt to deal with a problem if we were informed, and that disappointment is not to be confused with not being loved,” shares Cindy. This was enough to make her teen comfortable to come to her instead of hiding a pregnancy and she was able to guide and support her.
Finally, make time for consistent communication. It’s true that most of the time the last thing your teenager wants to do is chat with Mom and Dad. But, when it comes to parenting teens, scheduling time to communicate with your child is the key to letting your teen know there is always time to share things with a parent, advises Dr. David Simonsen.
Parenting teens is one of the toughest jobs you’ll ever have. But through communication and support, these easy ways to make sure your teen doesn’t hide a pregnancy may just help keep your family from making headlines.