Teen pregnancy is not a fashion statement

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 believe there are more single teen mothers in America now than there are adult, single mothers.

Teen pregnancy is a serious consequence of early initiation of sexual activity. In my opinion, one of the many negative consequences in being a teen parent is dropping out of school. This creates a lack of employment opportunities, and in many cases, this leads to a dependence on welfare. I have heard that taxpayers will be required to pay more and more each year towards state aid, and most of that state aid is used to help teen parents.

But that does not scare our teens enough to keep them from becoming teen parents. Why? From my experience — and from the general reading that I have done over the last few years, I see three primary reasons for the prolific growth in teen pregnancies: a lack of truth, perpetrated by current social media with the intent of exploitation; a lack of maturity; and a lack of education.

Teen pregnancy does not make someone popular, although our society seems to portray it that way. Our current social media creates shows and movies about teen mothers and fathers, glorifying them. This propaganda does not focus on the struggles of being a teen parent, but rather, these shows focus on how teen parents dress, what their hairstyles are like, the type of diaper bag they carry, and the glory you get when having a child.

This stream of media does not focus on the difficulties of raising a child, nor on the relationship struggles one goes through with the other parent of the child. Who stands to gain from this false representation of teen parenting? The social media and marketers reap the benefit of the millions of dollars spent annually by this manipulation.

Immaturity is another reason for this ongoing increase in teen pregnancy. A lot of teen moms I know have become pregnant on purpose, thinking it will keep their boyfriends around. As a teenager, you don’t think as rationally as an adult, only because, as an adolescent, your brain has not fully developed, meaning your ability to make sound decisions and to have mature coping methods are not fully progressed either.

I only believe this because I have “been there” myself. Not being developmentally mature makes it hard to handle adult problems in a mature and rational way. Not being developmentally ready to be a teen parent leads to more relationship problems, especially if you are being forced into something you weren’t ready for.

Most of the time, it seems, the young fathers, who are also immature, get too overwhelmed by the responsibility of being a parent that they end up leaving their girlfriend for good. This is all due to not having experienced life in a way that a teenager should.  Everything a teenager goes through provides building blocks to becoming a mature adult. Having a child as a teenager is like building a house without all the supplies. Now, I’m not saying this is true for every teen parent; however, this is true from my experience.

There is a saying: Children of teen parents are more likely to become teen parents themselves. I do not believe that this saying always proves true and is inevitable. I believe it’s an excuse. Becoming a teen parent is due to a lack of education about sex and a clear understanding of the consequences that go with being a parent.  

Parents of young children and teens need to be more active in their children’s lives, and they also need to overcome their fear of discussing sex with their children. The earlier that parents discuss this with their children, the better. Parents need to have an open relationship with their children and make their children feel safe to talk to about personal things and also free to give their opinions. I believe that if a teen comes to their parent and says they are having sex, the parent should not abandon them but should educate them. Teens need to be taught.

Our society needs to stop glorifying teen pregnancy. Having a baby on your hip at 16 is not the new pink. It is not a fashion statement, nor will it make you rich or famous. Having a baby, as a teenager, is the result of a lack of perspective, often created by our manipulative social media, as well as the result of a lack of personal maturity and a lack of education.

It is hard to be a teen parent. Teen parents struggle day to day. Teen pregnancy is not glorifying in any way; it is sad that a child has to grow up so fast. Knowing personally the struggles they will go through, I really hope that our society will learn to better educate our youth about the causes and consequences of teen pregnancy.

Claus is a resident of Kalispell.

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