Mandatory Child Development and Parenting Classes
There should be a law prohibiting teenage pregnancy. It would be impossible to make such a law, since the country’s prisons would be filled with fifteen year-old-mothers. A law should, however, be made requiring mandatory child development and parenting classes before high school graduation. The statistics concerning teenage pregnancy are frightening. One teenager each minute becomes pregnant, in 2004 420,000 babies were born to teenage mother in the United States, and 67% of teenage mothers drop out of high school (Horizon Solutions, 2006).
Three out of ten girls get pregnant before the age of twenty at an average of 750,000 girls per year (National Campaign, 2006). Girls as young as thirteen are becoming parents and often with no support from the equally young and inexperienced fathers. The grandparents are then either forced to raise their grandchildren or the young unprepared girls are forced to give up their future plans to become parents much too early. Most schools in the nation currently offer child development and parenting classes as electives for those who are interested in childcare. Since most young teenagers will eventually become parents, however, it should be mandatory to prepare them for their future roles.
Most public schools in the United States teach sexual education, which includes ways to prevent pregnancy. Unfortunately, this has not significantly decreased the occurrences of teenage pregnancy. When compared to the statistics of teenagers in other countries the united States ranks high in the number of pregnancies, because of the differences in how teenagers are prepared for parenting and the expectations for them (Guttmacher). Part of the differences are that the young people in other countries are not taught to be ashamed to admit to having sex and are taught to be more responsible about preventing pregnancy. In this country many adults are uncomfortable talking to their children about sex (Coloroso 228). The better young people are educated about and prepared for male-female relationships in early adolescence the less likely they are to give in to peer pressure (Campbell 51).
In most schools, no student can graduate without learning about American History, government, English or science. Students are taught how to have children and usually how to prevent it, but it is not required for them to learn how to care for the children after they have them. Unless they come from large families, many young people have no idea how much responsibility is required in caring for an infant. If they did, maybe they would take more precautions to avoid this until they were ready for the responsibility. If a law was made to make it mandatory for all freshman high school students to take child development and parenting classes, all teenagers would have a better understanding of the responsibilities involved. This would make them more likely to take better precautions to avoid teenage pregnancy.
Parenting is not easy at any age, but when parenting is combined with dating, and trying to finish high school, it can be overwhelming. When young girls discover they are about to become a parent, they can go through a range of emotions. Some do not want to take on the responsibility of parenting. These girls are faced with the difficult choice of abortion or adoption. If she chooses to put her child up for adoption, she and the father both have to sign their parental rights over to the adoptive parents (Gay 6). Some of the girls feel happy about having a baby they may see it as playing house or as an accomplishment (American Academy, 2004). These girls have no real idea how much responsibility is involved in caring for infants. They often like the idea of caring for someone.
The problem is the people who are currently taking the elective parenting courses are usually the ones who know something about caring for infants and are interested in the subject. These people already know a little of the responsibility and often are the ones least likely to be teen parents. By making the classes mandatory, those who think it is like playing house or have no idea about babies will get more information. Many of these classes teach students what to expect throughout the first few years of life. Infants especially in the first weeks of life need very much of the parent’s time and can be exhausting, and they cry a great deal (Preston 11). The average day in the life of a mother with an infant consists of waking at approximately 3:00 a.m. and getting very little rest until late the next night.
It involves diaper changes, feedings and constant attention to someone helpless and fragile (O’Callahan 66). When the young people actually begin to realize what life is like for a parent, they can see the consequences of being careless in sexual relationships. In recent years a new trend has become part of child development class. Many schools have started using programmable dolls, which cry during the night, need changed, fed and held. These dolls are amazingly lifelike and can provide young people an idea of what it is really like to be a parent (Memorial Community, n.d.). Teaching young people what parenting is like is sometimes more effective than teaching them methods of birth control or about the risks of disease. In addition to the dolls, child development and parenting courses teach young people how to cope when they do have children.
The good news is the message is getting out. The number of teenagers age fifteen to nineteen who have reported having sex has decreased by just over 13% since 1991 and the number of teen pregnancies has dropped by 36% in the same amount of time (National Campaign, 2006). There was a trend in the country for a while where teens were not afraid for parents to know they were having sex, but they did not have enough facts to keep from getting pregnant. With the increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases, the education about the use of contraception has helped teenagers become more responsible about using birth control to avoid disease and thus pregnancy.
If all school districts were mandated to require these classes using the teaching dolls and statistics as a requirement for graduation like they do math and science, students might have a better knowledge of what it takes to be parents. This would help them know they wanted to wait until they were ready to have children. It could teach them the financial, emotional and physical requirements involved in having and raising children. Education is the key to knowledge and knowledge is required to make responsible choices. In order to teach the teenagers in the United States to make responsible choices, there needs to be a law requiring the system to educate them.
- Campbell, Dr. Ross. How to Really Love Your Child. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1988
- Coloroso, Barbara. Kids Are Worth It. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1994
- Gay, Kathlyn. Abortion Understanding the Debate. Berkeley Heights: Enslow Publishers, Inc., 2004
- “MCH Foundation Partners With Schools to Provide “Baby Think it Over” Dolls.” Memorial Community Hospital and Health System, 1 May 2007 http://www.mchhs.org/news/BabyThinkitOver.htm
- Preston, Penny. What Every Mother Needs to Know About Her Baby’s First Year. Portland, Maine: Ronnie Sellers Productions, Inc. 2006
- “Reality Works Infant Simulator and Real Care Parenting Program.” 18 September 2006
- Horizon Solutions Site, 1 May 2007 http://www.solutions-site.org/artman/publish/article_47.shtml
- O’Callahan, Kitty. “A Day in the Life of a Mom.” Baby Talk September 2005: 66-7
- “Sex Education: Needs, Programs and Policies.”December2006.TheGuttmacher Institute 1 May 2007 <http://www.guttmacher.org/presentations/sex_ed.pdf>
- The National Organization to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. 1 May 2007. <http.www.teenpregnancy.org>
- “When Children Have Children.” July 2004, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 1 May 2007 <http://www.aacap.org/page.ww?name =When+Children+Have+Childrension=Facts+For+Families>