Gloucester is such a nice place to raise your kids…

Just when I think my rambling on about teen sexual activity is fodder for the mill, to my suprise (not really) another news story about teens and risky behavior arises. And this time, its local:

Can I tell you how much I love the fact that people are so shocked by this? Teen fashion, music and overall culture involve sexuality, and we sort of accept it as natural development, and while many of us disagree with the sexualization of our youth, we may unfortunately accept it as part of “what’s going on with kids today.” However, this sort of thinking, that these kids will somehow get together and raise their kids together in some sort of commune on the government’s dime is somehow calculating.

And rather ingenious, actually.

Many accept that teens are going to experiment with sex, as sort of a jaded, condescending look at the state of our culture, as if its a given. Then we get all bent out of shape when they actually meet and exceed our own expectations. Additionally, these girls had enough intelligent forethought to try to create a microgeneration of children within their community. The calculation of such a plan at the possible cost of their own sexual and developmental health is astounding, and I’m not entirely sure these teens knew exactly what they were getting themselves into.

“They’re so excited to finally have someone to love them unconditionally,” Amanda Ireland, 18, said. “I try to explain it’s hard to feel loved when an infant is screaming to be fed at 3 a.m.”

So the other 16 girls in the pact with did not love them unconditonally? Perhaps not, as maybe pregnancy was a condition of that acceptance. Either way, the fact that all of these girls were under 16, and that there seems to be some indication that some of the fathers may be over the age of 18, leaves us with the question:

What do we do about all this?

Education seems to be the first answer, obviously. But what kind of education? Who educates? Who pays for it? And of course the obvious question, where are the parents (which you can’t reliably argue anyway, because this sort of thing can happen no matter what level of involvement parents have)?

The Washington Post reports:

“The birth rate rose by 3 percent between 2005 and 2006 among 15-to-19-year-old girls, after plummeting 34 percent between 1991 and 2005, the National Center for Health Statistics reported. “

We have two options. We can throw up our hands and say that this is just part of their generational difficulty, or, we can start with ourselves. We can start making choices that model for our children the kind of choices we would like them to make. Also, we can encourage our kids to talk about sex in a healthy way to their parents. If kids don’t have a safe place to talk about it at home, they will likely talk to their friends about it, or look it up online, and possibly get misinformation about what being physical with someone really means. This includes possible consequences, as teens may be sold a bill of goods on only the benefits of sex and having children and not the disadvantages. Perhaps let them know that you don’t want to condemn them for their choices or thinking, and that you want to help them make choices that will increase their chances of success in life.

If we give up on our children, then they will give up on themselves.

Jim Valeri, LMHC