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Talking to Preteens and Teens about Abortion

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
This thread is a spin-off from this thread, and was discussed further in this thread. I'm hoping we can have a discussion that doesn't deteriorate into inflammatory commentary and/or personal attacks, and I'll be watching as closely as I can to ensure that that doesn't happen. However, since I'm the only moderator in this forum I can't be here all the time, so if you see things going rapidly downhill you can PM any mod who is online and ask her to temporarily remove it.

Linda on the Move had some good ideas about how to do that in the second linked thread, which I'm going to reproduce here:
Quote:
I think that we as posters could help by:

1. Not responding to the offensive posts while waiting for them to be pulled. Working together to NOT quote or mention the inflammatory posts would help the thread no spiral out of control, and make it easier for the moderator to sort out.

2. Stick to discussing our actual children and real conversations we've had with them. If we stick with real experiences, there's just less to debate.

3. Left our political views aside. We all know that some people are pro choice and some aren't, we really don't need to know who on the board is each way. That's not the question. The question is -- "how do we explain this difficult moral situation to our children while they are growing up and learning about life?"

I also want to quote one of katelove's posts from that thread, because I think it gives us a nice framework for how to have this kind of discussion:
Quote:
I recently read a book about how to discuss a variety of sex-related topics with children of different ages. The author basically divided the information into two categories; facts and values. She argued, and I agree with her, that it is important to discuss both with your children.

So, if you're explaining sexual intercourse and conception the facts would be penis in vagina, sperm meets egg etc. And will be the same for everyone (although different language variations obviously). The values are your beliefs on the matter ie. I thing only a married couple should have sexual intercourse and create a baby. Or, I think you should only have sexual intercourse with someone you love very much. Or, I think 14 is too young to be having sexual intercourse, I hope you will wait until you are at least 18. Or whatever your personal beliefs are.

I think, in discussing termination of pregnancy the dialogue should be exactly the same. The facts are the same whatever you believe. Everyone has different *values* and I don't see anything wrong with sharing those with our children. In fact I think it is really important to do so.

Please keep in mind that other posters may not share your values, and try to post in ways that are sensitive to these values, even if they differ from your own. For example, writing about "killing babies" or calling an embryo or fetus "a blob of tissue" are not okay, even if within your value system that's what you believe.

Ok, carry on....
post #2 of 28

I've copied and pasted from the other thread because these comments really belong more in this discussion:

 

I can't remember how hold my kids were when I first explained abortion. They had heard the word, and wanted to know what it meant. I explained that an abortion is a medical procedure that happens when a woman is pregnant but doesn't want to be, either because it isn't a good time in her life for a baby, or because something about the pregnancy is very dangerous for her, or because the baby is so deformed that it would be in a lot pain and not be able to have a decent life. I explained that some people feel that abortion is always wrong and should be against the law, and that some people think that abortion is deeply personal and that every woman has a right to decide such things for herself.

 

I emphasized that birth control isn't 100%, which is why using two forms of birth control if a couple doesn't want a baby makes a lot of sense. Abortion is difficult for everyone involved, and it is much better to prevent pregnancy than to end it.

 

I've also told them my personal view, that abortion is sad to me, but that I think it should always be legal. I would prefer to work to make it it less in demand than to make it illegal.

 

My kids are old enough now that they understand what rape is, and that has also shaded our conversations about abortion. But this information has come out slowly over a period of years. I've done my best to answer every question honestly, not giving any more or less information than they are ready for at the time.

 

Because I feel no judgement on this issue, I've heard many women's stories. I feel compassion.

 

I've tried to state EVERYTHING I say to my children in very soft terms. Eventually, they will be making their own choices, and I would really prefer that that always consider me someone they can talk to. That is really more important to me than the age at which they first have sex or what sort of birth control they use. I never had that kind of unconditional love from my mother, and I'm giving to it my DDs.

 

 

post #3 of 28

 

I've struggled with my response here partly because I just don't share my views on abortion - ever. I am conflicted about it and I don't know how to avoid sounding hypocritical, even to myself. I think DH and my dc are probably the only people in the world who know everything I  believe. I also want to respect the guidelines set out for this thread. So, with that in mind, I hope what I offer here is helpful. 

 

I don't recall what age my dc were when we first discussed abortion. I know that I would have answered as factually as possible even if they asked at a young age, along the lines of "Not every woman is able to carry a pregnancy until the baby is ready to be born. Sometimes the baby doesn't develop and that is called a spontaneous abortion. Sometimes, a medical procedure is done and that is called an elective abortion". I explained that people have strongly held opinions about elective abortion, and that's okay because it's a serious issue, but that I believe it is wrong to judge any woman. 

 

The most important thing for me is preserving future communication on this issue. I want my children to be able to come to me and ask for help if they need it, without fear of judgement. So I have always made a few things absolutely clear to them:

 

- With pregnancy, time is essential, so don't delay in asking for help

- I don't expect them to make the same choices I would make in case of a pregnancy (and obviously in DS's case, a decision is even further removed from us and rests with his girlfriend). 

- I will support any decision they reach, and only offer as much guidance as they ask for

- Most importantly, their child will always be welcome in our home 

 

I think there is a big difference in the conversations with a young child and with a young teen. With a child, it tends to be a matter of fact-finding and information and satisfying curiosity, since young children aren't thinking in terms of being sexually active and managing a pregnancy themselves. Teens are very conscious of these issues and they are sorting out their own beliefs and values. The dialogue must flow both ways, or at least the lines of communication should be kept open to allow an open dialogue. I think there is a risk of serious heartbreak otherwise. 

 

 

 

 

 

post #4 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree View Post

 

 

 

The most important thing for me is preserving future communication on this issue. I want my children to be able to come to me and ask for help if they need it, without fear of judgement. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


This. Absolutely key for me as well.  Our conversation has been helped along by a very dry, slightly old fashioned, yet judgement free, booklet dd picked up at the doctor's office. Not my style, but dd seems very drawn to it.

 

We have ongoing dialog about all issues pertaining to sexuality and young women's/women's health- sometimes I  feel like I'm muddling through things, although not because I'm unclear about my personal views. I move through it though, and it seems to be working out fairly well because we do have very open communication, or at least I think we do.  My number one goal is for my dd to feel that she could turn to me, any time, for any reason, and be supported.  It's made me be committed to talking about everything with my children because the risk of not doing so feels like a separation I don't want to facilitate.

 


Edited by karne - 3/7/11 at 2:51pm
post #5 of 28

I think being factually accurate is extremely important. Just like when discussing sex ed the fact that the penis goes in the vagina needs to be explained even though some kids will be shocked at that reality they need to know. So to with abortion. The science of it needs to be known, you have a growing human being with human DNA inside you and abortion ends that. To me, this is along the lines of teaching kids the proper names of their body parts verses using the term vajayjay ( however you spell that). It's a disservice to our children to not teach them the facts. And just like with circumcision I did and do teach my kids my moral values on the subject of abortion.

 

My daughter is 21 and you can bet that I won't be standing by and going, oh honey go ahead and circ your baby no fear of judgement anymore that I'd reserve my opinion on any other moral issue. There are plenty of things she is free to decide for herself without my judgement, these issues aren't included. After all they effect my future innocent grandchildren.

post #6 of 28

This isn't something I've discussed yet with my kids so I'm very interested to hear everyone's experiences. I think that I definitely agree with explaining factually what it is & why some women choose that option in addition to adding my personal perspective.

post #7 of 28

I think my immediate family has talked about abortion more than most.  My kids are 9 & 12 for reference.

 

From a very young age, my kids have noticed that parenting is *hard.*  That it takes a lot of work.  We have talked about how choosing to have children is a huge, life-altering decision.  We also talk about what (IMO) children "deserve"--- totally loving and committed parents.  I'm not sure if I am actually discouraging my kids from having their own children, lol, but it is something each of them have mentioned as a possiblity.  As part of that, we have discussed that many people are faced with the possibility of having a child when they are not prepared to deal with it.  How others are faced with wanting a child but being unable to grow a healthy one.

 

Something that I really try to practice is owning your own decisions.  Not saying you "had" to do something, that you "couldn't" do something else, but that you are prioritizing one thing, or that you're not doing something because it doesn't fit in with your grand plan.  For us, abortion comes into this context.  We teach abstinance & birth control FIRST, but do not ignore the reality of abortion.

post #8 of 28


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TiredX2 View Post

my kids have noticed that parenting is *hard.*  That it takes a lot of work...  I'm not sure if I am actually discouraging my kids from having their own children, lol, but it is something each of them have mentioned as a possiblity.


I really don't do that. I'm uncomfortable with presenting my kids with the idea that children are a burden because I don't want my children to ever feel that they are a burden to me. I think a child is a blessing. We have talked about how it's easier for people to raise kids if they are a little older, and my kids understand that certain things they have in their lives (like a nice private school) happen because DH and I got our educations and built careers and all that first, and didn't have kids until our 30s. We also talk about the things they want to do with their lives -- I think that having dreams and understanding biology can work together to help young adults use birth control.

 

I think the reason to wait until one is grown up and has one's own life fairly solid before having children is that it's easier in many, many ways. But I know parents who were quite young when they had children who've done a wonderful job. A couple of the Mothering.com moms come to mind. It's not what I wanted for my own life, and I hope that I'm setting my kids up to make good choices that will let their build their lives they way they want them to be -- whatever that turns out being for them.

 

Rather than teaching abstinence, I talk about how to make choices about when and with whom to be sexual, and how to do so safely. I, personally, find abstinence to be a very limited model. Pretty much every one has sex eventually, and the ability to make good choices regarding our sexually is a life long issue. Some of the most destructive sexual behavior I've seen was in married adults. Abstinence isn't the whole answer -- it just delays the question.

post #9 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post


 


>Rather than teaching abstinence, I talk about how to make choices about when and with whom to be sexual, and how to do so safely. I, personally, find abstinence to be a very limited model. Pretty much every one has sex eventually, and the ability to make good choices regarding our sexually is a life long issue. Some of the most destructive sexual behavior I've seen was in married adults. Abstinence isn't the whole answer -- it just delays the question.


Yep, I feel the same about that. I hope my kids have bed rocking sex with a committed partner someday.

Yes, my kids have known for a while that abortion was the last say in birth control and birth control failure. They know the facts. They know not to wait too long before coming to get my help or the help of a trusted adult if they feel there are circumstances in which they can't talk to me. That last one's important, because I could not talk to mother. Every bone in her body judges.

I have a dear friend who had three abortions as a young teen. It was a terrible time in her life. Sex equaled love and attention. She's a PhD now and a great adult with three wanted children. The map of her life would have vastly different as a teen mother.
post #10 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post

 


I really don't do that. I'm uncomfortable with presenting my kids with the idea that children are a burden because I don't want my children to ever feel that they are a burden to me. I think a child is a blessing. We have talked about how it's easier for people to raise kids if they are a little older, and my kids understand that certain things they have in their lives (like a nice private school) happen because DH and I got our educations and built careers and all that first, and didn't have kids until our 30s. We also talk about the things they want to do with their lives -- I think that having dreams and understanding biology can work together to help young adults use birth control.


I just wanted to clarify: we definately don't consider our kids burdens.  And they know it!  They also have a fairly realistic perspective of the time and energy (and money)--- well, as much as a 9 & 12 year old can have---- that having a child takes.  They have friends (in the same age range) who see a baby, play with it for a few minutes and are like, "Mom, Dad, we should get a baby!!!!"  We just don't encourage that kind of thinking.  They were both THRILLED when our family babysat a 5 week old baby recently.  They loved playing with her, they were all over feeding her, they showed her things, etc... BUT they also realize that babies need to be held a lot of the time, they cry a lot, they are not a 15 minute commitment but one you make for the rest of your life.

 

I was talking to my DD about an aquaintance of mine in high school the other day.  At 17, he was sick of his mom telling him what to do.  His 16 year old girlfriend.  They literally decided to try and have a baby for the "freedom."  Since they would be the parents, they wouldn't have their parents telling them what to do!  At 12, DD could already identify this as a horrible idea.  Could identify that they weren't going to be "more" free--- they wouldn't have time to go to parties and they'd need to be spending their money on diapers and kids classes instead of what they wanted.

 

Being a parent is probably the biggest, most wonderful thing I have done in my life.  But it's not a joke, and it shouldn't be done on a whim (IMO).  If you want to spend most nights drinking and partying, putting off parenting until that's not as important to you is a good idea.  I just want my kids to be realistic AND to be ready to really commit to their children.  If they *don't* want to expend the time/effort that I feel are vital to good parenting, then not having children is a totally fine option.  I feel like too many people have children because it's just "the next thing" and not because of any draw towards it or even any active thought.  And I 100% believe that our society would be better for EVERY child being a loved and respected member of a family who wants them there.

post #11 of 28
i would also add to this that i think, especially for families that are discouraging the use of abortion, to talk about what other options are available besides just the "teen parenthood will ruin your life" argument which doesn't seem to be that discouraging to most teens as far as preventing sexual activity (and i hate shaming of teen parents, because i was a young parent and my life was definitely not ruined...). so, talking frankly about what kinds of adoption are out there (like open/closed adoptions, adoption within the extended family, etc) in the case of a pregnancy where the parents aren't ready to be parents, or talking about what kinds of support exist for young parents, or talking about what kind of support i would offer as a grandparent. i think there needs to be much more of this among folks who are trying to discourage abortion for moral or other reasons, i think offering other options goes much further when a teen is in a crisis situation. obviously a family's views on adolescent sexuality/abstinence/marriage will be a part of this larger discussion.

talking about the responsibilities of being a parent is important too and how parenting really ties you to your co-parent for a long time and can make life very complicated, especially if the relationship is not one of a long-term commitment. i personally wouldn't emphasize this aspect too much since it's very close to my personal situation, so i don't want to sound like i am bashing my kid's other parent, but it's something that i now take very very seriously...

i'm writing this as i think back to some of the choices i have made and wish now i could have made differently and what could have changed my mind or steered the decision elsewhere.
post #12 of 28


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by la mamita View Post

i would also add to this that i think, especially for families that are discouraging the use of abortion, to talk about what other options are available besides just the "teen parenthood will ruin your life" argument which doesn't seem to be that discouraging to most teens as far as preventing sexual activity.


agreed. I think that much of what is said in abstinence only sex ed encourages abortion. I want my DDs to know they can talk to me, they have several options, and that what ever they decide I'll support them and be there for them. I would really not want my child to have an abortion because she believes that I feel having a baby will ruin in life. I'm pro-choice, but to me, that kind of thinking is sad.

 

I believe that conversations about the evils of sex or the difficulty of raising a child won't stop my kids from having sex (because they didn't stop ME from having sex) but would only serve to limit the communication between my kids and I.

 

I think that teens who have babies on purpose to solve other problems in their lives most likely have some serious issues and put up all sorts of flags first that their parents didn't notice or didn't know what to do about. It goes back to basic questions -- how do we know when our kids are doing OK? How can we tell the difference between "a little depressed" and really needing help? How do we encourage dreams and self-confidence?

 

Still -- a 17 year deciding to make a baby so they can be an adult could make a worse choice. They could kill themselves. Or drive drunk and kill someone else. Or commit a violent crime. Or start using addictive drugs. I think when it comes to sex, teens, and babies, we need to maintain our perspective. Yes, having a baby changes the course of one's life and makes a lot of things harder. It's not the end of the world. It's not the worse thing that could happen.

post #13 of 28

I just wanted to say how much I appreciate seeing a balanced, civil discussion on this topic.  I'm not a parent yet, but I hope to be soon - DH and I are currently TTC #1.  However, I am a sexual health educator and counselor, and I currently work in a clinic that provides abortion care.  I'd say about 5% of our patients are under the age of 18, and many, many more are in their late teens or early 20s.  Although birth control does occasionally fail, the vast majority report that they became pregnant because they had sex without protection.  When I ask our patients why they weren't using protection, they often say that they simply weren't planning to have sex (and were caught unprepared), that they were too ashamed to talk to their parents or doctor about birth control, or that they didn't want to take birth control because they don't see themselves as "that kind of girl."  There is so much shame and stigma in this culture around women's sexuality - I think recognizing that and really making an effort to empower young women with regards to sexual decision-making is an important part of preventing unwanted pregnancies (thereby preventing abortion).

 

Obviously there are many other factors that contribute to our astronomical teen pregnancy rate, but this, at least, is something we can address with our own children.

 

 

 

 

post #14 of 28

My parents were always very matter of fact about it. I am sure I knew what it was from an early age. It was presented to me as just another thing that happens. I was shocked when as a young teen I found out there were people that wanted to make abortion illegal. I could not wrap my head around people trying to tell others what to do with their own bodies, especially when it came to something as important as bringing life into the world.

post #15 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by la mamita View Post

i would also add to this that i think, especially for families that are discouraging the use of abortion, to talk about what other options are available besides just the "teen parenthood will ruin your life" argument which doesn't seem to be that discouraging to most teens as far as preventing sexual activity (and i hate shaming of teen parents, because i was a young parent and my life was definitely not ruined...). so, talking frankly about what kinds of adoption are out there (like open/closed adoptions, adoption within the extended family, etc) in the case of a pregnancy where the parents aren't ready to be parents, or talking about what kinds of support exist for young parents, or talking about what kind of support i would offer as a grandparent. i think there needs to be much more of this among folks who are trying to discourage abortion for moral or other reasons, i think offering other options goes much further when a teen is in a crisis situation. obviously a family's views on adolescent sexuality/abstinence/marriage will be a part of this larger discussion.

talking about the responsibilities of being a parent is important too and how parenting really ties you to your co-parent for a long time and can make life very complicated, especially if the relationship is not one of a long-term commitment. i personally wouldn't emphasize this aspect too much since it's very close to my personal situation, so i don't want to sound like i am bashing my kid's other parent, but it's something that i now take very very seriously...

i'm writing this as i think back to some of the choices i have made and wish now i could have made differently and what could have changed my mind or steered the decision elsewhere.

Why would you assume anyone that discourages abortion would teach that kids ruin your life or would not discuss the other things you mention? This is not the forum to get into religious discussion but I can tell you that in my religion children are gift and a treasure regardless of how they came into the world. I don't know anyone that is teaching that teenage parenthood will ruin your life. And while obviously it's up to the mother to decide if she will give her child up for adoption I personally would never encourage my own child to choose adoption. I'm well aware from experience in my own family on both the joy but also the real pain that comes with adoption. 

 

post #16 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Arduinna View Post



Why would you assume anyone that discourages abortion would teach that kids ruin your life or would not discuss the other things you mention? This is not the forum to get into religious discussion but I can tell you that in my religion children are gift and a treasure regardless of how they came into the world. I don't know anyone that is teaching that teenage parenthood will ruin your life. And while obviously it's up to the mother to decide if she will give her child up for adoption I personally would never encourage my own child to choose adoption. I'm well aware from experience in my own family on both the joy but also the real pain that comes with adoption. 

 


we're in the same religion smile.gif so i am coming from a very similar place.

my experience with abstinence-only reproductive education and even non-abstinence-only reproductive education, as far as how it is approached in schools and in the culture at large--not within my specific church--, involves a lot of the discussion about how a baby is a big responsibility, with the underlying message of 'aaaand that's why a baby will ruin your life.' for example: the life skills/health class in my high school had the robotized baby experiment where the teens carry and care for the robot baby for a few days to realize how much work a baby is, without talking as much about what alternative options were if a teen ended up pregnant and didn't want an abortion. another example: i had the idea that adoptions were always closed until joining MDC, actually--and that would have made a huge difference for me in my decision making had i been in that situation. my health class at public school never talked about the reality of adoption and it wasn't something that my peers were familiar with either.
post #17 of 28

:)  I didn't even notice it was you posting

 

And yes I hear you on the public school and secular society message of baby ruining your life, heck Obama said he didn't want his daughters punished by a baby. But IME public schools and secular society don't emphasize abstinance only education. They talk about abstinence and then immediately act like of course that isn't going to happen and then emphasize pregnancy prevention birth control and then abortion birth control as a back up. A totally different type of message than our religion teaches regarding children and their place in the world.

 

 

 

 

post #18 of 28


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by la mamita View Post


 without talking as much about what alternative options were if a teen ended up pregnant and didn't want an abortion. another example: i had the idea that adoptions were always closed until joining MDC, actually--and that would have made a huge difference for me in my decision making had i been in that situation. my health class at public school never talked about the reality of adoption and it wasn't something that my peers were familiar with either.


agreed.

 



Quote:

Originally Posted by Arduinna View Post

 

But IME public schools and secular society don't emphasize abstinance only education. They talk about abstinence and then immediately act like of course that isn't going to happen and then emphasize pregnancy prevention birth control and then abortion birth control as a back up.

 


disagree. Last year in public school, one of my DDs had sex ed for 6 weeks. Each week she brought home a sheet about what had been discussed with ideas on how to further the discussion. The sheets had to be signed and returned. The message was very clear -- don't have sex because if you do, you'll have a baby and that will ruin your life, and then you will die of AIDs. There's no point in bothering with birth control because it doesn't prevent babies or AIDs.

 

We did use the sheets as jumping off points for conversations, but not the conversations our sweet government feels parents are supposed to have with kids. We all laughing referred to the program as "sex mis-education."

 

neither abortion or adoption were mentioned, and the message was VERY clear that babies ruin lives and if you have sex you will die of AIDs. And condoms don't work.

 

I really feel sorry for kids who's parents cannot bring themselves to be open and honest. They are left with such complete nonsense, and relying on their equally uninformed peers for information.

 

post #19 of 28

I said IME, your experience may be different.

 

I never understand why people post saying they disagree with someone else experience. IME is just that my experience, it's not equivalent to or code for all people in all places at all times. It's one persons experience, mine. 

post #20 of 28


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Arduinna View Post

I said IME, your experience may be different.

 

I never understand why people post saying they disagree with someone else experience. IME is just that my experience, it's not equivalent to or code for all people in all places at all times. It's one persons experience, mine. 

 


Sorry, poor word choice on my part. I don't disagree with your experiences, but they are very different from mine. It's really different from what happened in our public school, it is my understanding that the content is mandated at the federal level. It's also my personal experience that parents of teens who are comfortable talking to their kids about sex and encourage the use of birth control are the exception, not the rule.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Calycanth View Post

When I ask our patients why they weren't using protection, they often say that they simply weren't planning to have sex (and were caught unprepared), that they were too ashamed to talk to their parents or doctor about birth control, or that they didn't want to take birth control because they don't see themselves as "that kind of girl."  There is so much shame and stigma in this culture around women's sexuality - I think recognizing that and really making an effort to empower young women with regards to sexual decision-making is an important part of preventing unwanted pregnancies (thereby preventing abortion).

 

It's sad to me that nothing has really changed in the last 30 years.

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