Too Close Too Soon

July 13, 2020

Society in general no longer accepts biblical principles of sexual morality. Sex is considered a normal part of a dating relationship, and couples very often live together before or instead of marrying. This has greatly contributed to adolescent pregnancies.

Adolescent pregnancy is defined as the occurrence of pregnancy in girls aged 10 to 19. Adolescent pregnancy has become a major public health problem, particularly in Africa.

Teenage pregnancy has hit an all-time high here. Children have a lot of time on their hands, and they are not drawing boundaries in their relationships. Sex has become such a normal part of a relationship that those who do not engage in sex are looked at as not being ‘cool.’ When a 17-year-old girl engages in a sexual relationship with an older boy, most likely, she will not be thinking of the dangers she is putting herself through. Most likely, she will be focusing on making the boy happy and hoping to keep him from straying in the relationship. The girls, must however, be careful of seeking instant intimacy and mistakenly assuming that such intimacy constitutes a lasting relationship.

Parents have sadly gone to the extent of putting their children on a family planning method to prevent pregnancies. When teenage girls get involved in sexual relationships, most of the time they are not in charge of the relationship; they tend to do what the boy wants, and most of the time that involves sex. Most of them are not even thinking of the dangers of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

The parents of these girls are left with a heavy burden to bear. They have to take care of their daughters and be ready to take care of a child if it is born through the relationship. In a situation where the family is struggling financially, an additional mouth to feed, only makes things worse. The parents of the girl will tend to argue; mostly the mother will be blamed for not taking care of her daughter and making sure she remained disciplined. In Africa, we have a saying that ‘when a child is good it belongs to the father; when it is bad it belongs to the mother.’ Teenage pregnancy changes the entire course of a young girl’s life and often the life of her partner. The impact on their future is most often a negative one. Teens often don’t get prenatal care soon enough which is one of the many reasons pregnant teens and their babies are at higher risk of health problems than older pregnant women. Teens younger than age 15 are especially vulnerable to anemia, or low blood iron, and pregnancy-related high blood pressure. Nearly 10 percent of teenage mothers deliver a low-birth-weight baby. Sadly, these babies are more than twenty times as likely to die in the first year of life versus a normal-weight baby.

The children of teen mothers are more likely than the children of older mothers to be born prematurely at a low birth weight and to, consequently, suffer a variety of health problems. They are more likely to do poorly in school, to suffer higher rates of abuse and neglect, and to end up in foster care with all its attendant costs and traumas. In Africa, there are communities that kill a child fathered by a relative; the more considerate ones leave the baby at the hospital and ask that it be taken to a children’s home.

Although it can be stressful for parents, adolescence and risk-taking go hand in hand. This is because teens need to explore their own limits and abilities, as well as the boundaries set by the parents. These steps are part of their path to becoming independent young adults. Teens need to express themselves as individuals, which is part of developing their identities.

Also, the parts of the teenage brain responsible for impulse control do not fully mature until about age 25. This means teens are more likely to make impulsive, emotional decisions without thinking through the consequences.

Most teenagers join school with the hope of passing their exams, joining the university, and becoming responsible citizens. But this is also the time when most teenagers get involved in romantic relationships. Though it is an ordinary phase in a teenager’s life, these relationships, if not handled with care, can cause a lot of problems. Instead of students focusing on doing well in school and getting involved in goal-reaching activities, they concentrate most of their time on dating. One would imagine that during the school holidays students would be engaged in workshops, special interests, personal growth seminars, learning a new sport or picking up an old hobby. Generally, such activities are a far cry from where their minds wander.

We hope to engage as many teenagers as possible and help them understand there is more to a relationship than sexual intercourse. Schools remain closed indefinitely, and we are likely to see the numbers of teen pregnancies rise as a result; nonetheless, we will do the best we can to enlighten these young girls.

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