Talking teen pregnancy |

Talking teen pregnancy

Evan Zislis
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Babies. Fat, slobbering bundles of toothless slime and poop. I love them!

At 34 years old with a sassy new wife and a sustainable income in a career I enjoy, I can finally think about starting a family. “Starting a family” is adult code for getting pregnant and making a baby.

I have recently discovered almost immediately after you get married, people want to know how soon you intend to make a baby. It seems like a logical progression to most people: Grow up. Get married. Make a baby. But if I were a high school student, it would not seem like such a great idea ” for anyone.

So, let’s talk about the white elephant in the room: teen sex.

Nobody wants to talk about it ” especially not with teenagers, and least of all with their parents. If sex is too difficult to discuss, so is sexuality. Sex is one of those elusive subjects which gets no real attention at all ” except through the experiences of Paris Hilton and whatever rocker is hot this week. The result is a convoluted mess teenagers are left to grapple with on their own, with astonishing outcomes which may alarm you.

The United States has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the western industrialized world, costing taxpayers $9.1 billion per year.

One in three American girls becomes pregnant at least once by age 20. That’s 730,000 teen pregnancies each year in the U.S.

Two out of three teen mothers never finish high school, leaving them unprepared for the job market and exponentially more likely to raise their children in poverty.

Babies born to teens are at an increased risk of low birth weight and resulting health problems, including mental retardation, blindness, mental illness, cerebral palsy and infant death.

Eight out of 10 fathers don’t marry teen mothers. On average, these absent fathers pay less than $800 annually for child support.

Statistics from The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy

No matter what side of this controversial fence you fall ” pro-life, pro-choice, anti-birth control, pro-birth control ” at least we can all agree the fewer teens getting pregnant, the better. Whether you promote condom dispensers in public restrooms or insist on abstinence-only principles, there needs to be more discussion. And our sexually active and non-sexually active young people need to be involved in the conversation.

Talk to your teen about how they feel about the issue in general. Ask them what they are doing about it. Give them an opportunity to share their own thoughts without “getting into trouble.” This is naturally an emotionally-charged topic, but try to give your teens a forum where they can be honest, if only about their feelings if not their practice. And don’t forget to bring up sexually-transmitted diseases. Rates among American teens are sky high.

YouthZone has been helping families talk about complex topics for more than 30 years. For more information about the valley’s local Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition, call YouthZone at 945-9300 or visit us online at

Evan Zislis is a division manager from Aspen to Carbondale for YouthZone. He can be reached at (970) 948-7283,

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