Saravia never intended to get pregnant. However, the idea of having a child at an early age doesn’t concern her. After all, she is not the only one within her group of friends doing so: at least eight of them are either mothers or mothers-to-be.
“I didn’t use protection, and –really—it didn’t matter. I always wanted a baby. I knew that if I didn’t use protection I could get pregnant,” Saravia said. She currently lives with her mom, awaiting delivery while watching television at home.
She doesn’t attend school, either. She decided not to go back eight months ago. “I don’t like studying,” she said. Saravia, of Salvadorian origin, is the youngest of four sisters.
According to CNPEA, a third of teens and young females in the United States get pregnant before the age of 20. Another 2007 study showed that more than half of Latinas have never considered what would happen shall they get pregnant while in their teens; and only 38 percent of them believe that having a child at an early age would be an obstacle to achieve their goals in life.
“Throughout the years, I’ve seen more young girls getting pregnant. Most of them didn’t have enough information on how to use protection,” said Lumarie Orozco, coordinator and trainer of Casa Esperanza’s project in Minneapolis.
Sexually-active teens that don’t use contraceptives present an 85 percent chance of getting pregnant in any given year, according to CNPEA. And while Latino teens have the same chance of engaging in sexual relationships than their peers, they are less likely to use protection. Potential reasons for the latter include shame, fear of their parents’ finding out, or simply choosing not to use them.
“Latinas are currently ahead of the list in teen-pregnancy rates in Minnesota,” Orozco said. She added that these rates increase each year.
Not talking about this at home is a problem as well. “Sex is not a topic discussed at home because it’s considered a taboo. It is thought, that, if it’s not acknowledged, teens won’t do it –that’s what parents think.”
That’s what happened to Saravia. What she knew about how to prevent pregnancy she learnt from her sister, a few years her senior. “My mom doesn’t talk to us about [sex]. It’s always been that way –you don’t talk about those things,” Saravia said.
But beyond the communication gap between parents and their children when it comes to sex, Orozco says that lack of information is at the core of the problem.
“I think it’s not about blaming parents for not paying attention to their children. They have to do what they have to do in order to survive. I think the problem is lack of information and where to find it.”
Saravia says that the majority of times she discusses sex is with her friends, never her mom. She’s ashamed. She doesn’t think topics such as sex should be discussed with parents.
“The reason why parents don’t have these types of conversations with their children is because nobody had these conversations with them,” Orozco said.
It’s a generalized lack of knowledge. Many parents think that by avoiding talking, they are preventing actions. “They are wrong. They need to have these conversations; even more now, when there are so many young girls pressuring each other [into having sex],” Orozco added.
She has also witnessed a problem among the Hispanic community in recognizing that teen pregnancy is increasing in young Latinas.
“We need to act like parents; we need to communicate with our children. Sexuality is part of our nature and young people are going to explore it. We need to provide them with accurate information, so they can take the best decisions for themselves,” Orozco concluded.
How can parents talk to their children about sex?
1. Be Open. Teens appreciate their parents’ honesty, and want to learn about their experiences in dating and relationships.
2. Be an Expert. This implies talking to them and listening to their point of view. Take the time to listen and to respond.
3. Be Accessible. Although parents are always busy, it’s important to be ready to talk to your children when they want to.
4. Be Trustful. Children want their parents to trust them and show them their love.
5. Be Calm. Teens say being calm if one key thing parents should do when having tough conversations such as sex.
6. Make Open Questions. Ask your children what they think by asking open questions—those that can’t be answered by only ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
7. Listen. Let them talk without interruptions. Don’t try to complete their sentences for them.
8. Get on their Shoes. Make an effort to think and see things from their perspective.
9. Talk about Common Goals. Highlight what you both want for them, and why you want the best for them.
10. Show your Interest. Make sure they know you’re paying attention to them. Look them in the eye when you talk.