During the 12 years I have been speaking to students, there have been a number of times when I have left schools feeling so burdened by the state of our culture that my chest literally felt heavy when I walked out the door of the school. Let me tell you about one of those days.
When speaking to a group of 8th grade students, there was a statement made by one of the students that really saddened me. I was talking about the issue of teen pregnancy and telling them how selfish and unfair it was for teens to make decisions to have sex because that decision could result in an innocent child having to pay the price for their choice if a pregnancy occurs.
A young lady interrupted me to say just because a girl got pregnant as a teenager didn’t mean she couldn’t still make something of her life and give her child a good life. She used her cousin as an example and said the following:
My cousin had four kids by the age of 17 (the first one was born when she was 12) and she now has 6 kids. All of her kids are doing fine. So you can’t say that being a teen mom messes up your life.
I thought to myself, “Where do I start in addressing this girl's mentality when it is this flawed?!?”
I reminded her that I didn’t say a teen mom couldn’t go on to become successful. But I was saying it would be more difficult for her to do so than it would have been without a baby. I also told her just because she thought her cousin’s children were doing fine, she really didn’t know what or how they were feeling inside (or faring outside, for that matter).
It is unfathomable to me that anyone (even a 14-year-old 8th grade girl), could believe that a 17-year-old mom with four kids is a good thing. When this young lady doesn’t believe teen pregnancy impacts one’s life negatively, there is little motivation for her not to end up in a similar situation.
Many people think the answer to the issue of teenage pregnancy is more education about and access to birth control. My experiences over the past 10 years have convinced me otherwise.
We can provide all the education we want about birth control (ensuring that teens have access to it and understand how to properly use it). But, as long as this attitude, that teen pregnancy has little or no negative impact on the mother’s or her children’s lives, prevails, teens will not use the birth control because they are not trying to avoid a pregnancy. That's why I stopped having a goal of preventing pregnancies years ago. Today, my goal is much higher than that!
The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark. ~Michelangelo
I am trying to pull GREATNESS out of these young people. I am trying to help them understand their purpose in life so they can come to the decision themselves that anything that has the potential of keeping them from becoming all they can be is not worth it!
“How do I do that?” you ask. By:
- Challenging them to find something to say YES to (a dream, goal or vision—something they want so badly that they won’t let anything or anyone keep them from getting it)!
- Encouraging them to create a vision of the perfect life they want to have as an adult.
- Showing them the correlation between their choices and their futures, both negative and positive (i.e. teen pregnancy and poverty; graduating high school/college and a higher income).
When you can get young people to value themselves and their futures, you have a much better chance of preventing them from making bad decisions that could derail those futures.
We don't have a "sex" problem! We have a "lack of value" problem!
Have you come across this mentaility when working with youth? If so, what have you found effective in addressing it?