How To Speak To Your Pregnant Teen Daughter

Before considering how you might respond to the news that your unmarried teenager is pregnant, take a brief tour of the emotions and thought processes that are likely to be swirling through her mind and heart.

Fear is an overriding emotion in nearly every teen pregnancy.

"I can't tell my parents. They'll kill me!" "How can I finish school when I'm pregnant?"

"My boyfriend will take off if I don't have an abortion."

The adolescent with a crisis pregnancy probably sees nothing but loss on the horizon—loss of love, time, education and physical health. Fear of one or more of these losses propels most of her other responses. Remember that the average age difference between the father of the baby and the teenage mother is 6.4 years.

Denial is common, especially during the early weeks of pregnancy when the only indication might be one or more missed periods, a little fatigue, possibly some nausea or even a positive pregnancy test. The longing for things to be "the way they were" may delay acknowledging the problem and seeking appropriate help for weeks or even months.

Ambivalence about being pregnant may cause fluctuating emotions. One day the only solution may appear to be an abortion, while the next the prospect of a cuddly baby may seem appealing. Time spent with a friend's crying newborn may jolt the emotions in yet another direction. Indecision and apparent lack of direction in such an overwhelming situation are common.

Guilt. When a pregnancy results from the violation of moral values held since childhood, an adolescent will usually feel ashamed and worthless. Her growing abdomen becomes a constant reminder of her failure. This is a time when you can come alongside your child and cement a lasting relationship with her.

Pressure to have an abortion. This may come from several directions. A teenager may be weighing what appears to be a dismal future of hardship and remorse against a quick and relatively inexpensive procedure. "No one needs to know, and I can get on with my life."

A boyfriend (who may be dealing with his own fear and guilt, along with concerns about future financial responsibilities) may exert considerable pressure to abort, even offering to pay the bill. He may also threaten to bail out of the relationship if the pregnancy continues. Some parents, worried about their daughter's future or perhaps their own reputation in the community (or even the prospect of being responsible for the actual child-rearing), may also find abortion attractive.

The "cuddly doll" mentality. Some unmarried teenage girls see their pregnancy unrealistically as an escape from a difficult and unpleasant home situation. They may envision a baby as a snuggly companion who will require roughly the same amount of care as a new puppy, not realizing the amount of energy a newborn will take from her without giving much in return (especially during the first few weeks). Teens with this mindset need to adjust their expectations of child-rearing—not to drive them to abort, but to help them make more appropriate plans. If adoption is not chosen as a solution, some careful groundwork should be laid to prevent serious disappointment and even the mother's abuse of the baby.
Excerpted from Let's Talk About Sex, Copyright 1998 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International Copyright secured.

Paul McCartney Divorce Battle With Heather Mills Was Like Hell

Former Beatle Paul McCartney has likened his bitter divorce battle with Heather Mills to "going through hell" and said their daughter Beatrice and his music have helped him through the ordeal.

In an interview in Britain's Radio Times magazine, the 65-year-old also called Queen Elizabeth a "babe".

Asked if he regretted meeting and marrying Mills, 39, McCartney told the magazine: "Going through a divorce is a very painful thing. As Winston Churchill once said, 'If you're going through hell, keep going!'

"The only solution is to remain dignified. If I don't keep a silence about it, I lose this idea of being dignified. But I've a wonderful baby," he added, referring to the couple's child.

"She's a great joy to me, as are my elder children, so I'm a lucky man."

McCartney and Mills married in 2002 and announced their separation four years later. Their acrimonious divorce is expected to return to the courts in February after attempts last week to reach a private settlement failed.

British media have speculated that the pop legend, whose personal fortune is estimated at 825 million pounds, will have to pay between 20 million (NZ$53m) and 70 million pounds (NZ$188m) to Mills.

According to McCartney, music has also eased the pain of divorce.

"Music is a great healer," he said. "Music is the therapy for me. In fact, going through difficulties has only concentrated my desire to make good music."

Speaking about Britain's 81-year-old monarch, McCartney said: "I've got a lot of time for the Queen. She's fun, she's funny, she's amazing. The Queen's a babe!"

He said the Beatles considered reforming in 1976 when "phenomenal amounts of money" were being offered.

"But it just went round and round. There might be three of us thinking, 'You know, it might not be a bad idea', but the other one would go, 'Nah, I don't think so', and sort of veto it."

He explained he had no regrets about never reuniting with his Beatles bandmates, despite the long list of ageing rockers getting back together for lucrative tours.

"I'm actually glad of that now. Because the Beatles' work is a body of work. There's nothing to be ashamed of there. In the end we decided we should leave well enough alone.

"The potential disappointment of coming on and not being as good as the Beatles had been...that was a risk we shouldn't take."

Sex-Saturated Television Encourages Teenage Sex

Marilyn Elias
A steady diet of sex-saturated television might encourage teens to start sex earlier, a national survey of 1,762 kids suggests today.

HBO Programs with sexually oriented conversations have as much effect as those that depict sex or imply that sex has happened, says psychologist Rebecca Collins of RAND Corp. in Santa Monica, Calif. Her study is reported in the Pediatrics online journal.

The research is the first that takes into account other factors linked to early teen sex — such as poor grades, low parent education, having older friends and living in a one-parent home — and tracks how TV-watching might predict sexual activity, says Jane Brown, a University of North Carolina media researcher who specializes in adolescents. The phone survey of 12- to 17-year-olds also took into account sexual experience at the start of the study.

Kids who said they watched more sex-oriented programs at the beginning of the year were more likely than others their age to become sexually active during the next year. Those in the top 10% for viewing of sexually related scenes were twice as likely to engage in intercourse as those in the lowest 10%, Collins says. The more sex-oriented scenes they saw, the more likely they were to become sexually active.

"It's social learning: 'monkey see, monkey do,' " Collins says. "If everyone's talking about sex or having it, and something bad hardly ever comes out of it, because it doesn't on TV, then they think, 'Hey, the whole world's doing it, and I need to.' "

The study didn't take into account a teen's interest in sex or feelings of sexual readiness as the year began. So the findings might exaggerate TV's influence in causing kids to start sex, says adolescent psychologist Joseph Allen of the University of Virginia.

"Sexually explicit TV viewing is exactly the kind of thing adolescents would do if they were interested in becoming sexually active," Allen says. "She may be picking up on teenagers who are about to seek out sexual experiences." Different levels of readiness might have a small effect on the findings, Collins says.

Physical maturity also matters. More sexually developed youngsters feel readier for sex and are more likely to be sexually active, Allen says, "and almost certainly these kids would be watching more sexy TV shows."

Television executives were skeptical, too. "With all due respect to RAND, we do not believe that one show can alter a person's sexual behavior," says HBO spokesman Jeff Cusson. HBO aired Sex and the City, one of the programs tracked in the study.

"Some TV may be too provocative for kids, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be on the air," says Todd Leavitt, president of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. "As the father of three daughters, I believe parents have an obligation to monitor their kids' TV viewing."

Teens whose parents supervised their activities closely were less likely to watch sexually oriented shows.

"Most important is keeping the set out of children's bedrooms, because otherwise the kids have complete control over what they watch," Brown says. Studies show that about 3 of 5 teens have TVs in their bedrooms, she says.

Fewer Cohabiting Couples End Up Marrying

Couples who live together won't necessarily stay together, according to new research. Ruth Weston and Lixia Qu, research fellows at the Australian Institute of Family Studies, conducted a study into the percentage of cohabiting couples who end up marrying one another.

They found that marriage rates had fallen dramatically since the beginning of last century and those couples who did tie the knot were doing so at a later age.

Weston told the Sydney Morning Herald that many young people thought moving in together was "a fun thing to do".

But she said cohabiting couples often lingered for years in unsuitable relationships and had trouble finding new partners when they eventually did split.

"In the old days people might go 'steady' but there was still opportunity to meet others," she said.

"Now once you are living with someone you are cheating if you see someone else. When you cohabit it adds a sense of commitment to a relationship that might be going nowhere."

Weston and Qu's research found that 63 per cent of couples who began living together in the early 1970s ended up marrying, but only 43 per cent of couples who began living together since the 1970s ended up married.

Of those who first moved in together in the early 1990s, there was only a slight difference between the number who were married within five years (43 per cent) and the number who had separated during the same time period (38 per cent).

And while marriage rates have been declining since the 1970s, the rate of cohabitation has risen for all age groups, the research, published in Family Relationships Quarterly shows.

Rates of separation have also increased over the same period, indicating that although more people may be living together, the relationships are not necessarily stable.

Weston told the Sydney Morning Herald that cohabiting couples in the 1980s had tended to treat the relationship as a trial marriage and usually went on to marry each other quickly. "Some might have separated later," she said.

Now, many people enter relationships before they are committed, and without having discussed their future.

"They enter prematurely but can linger on and waste their time," she said.