Should Parenting Classes be mandatory in high school?

Alexis - posted on 04/08/2015 ( 15 moms have responded )

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I am writing a paper for my senior class, and I have experience with taking care of children. I have raised my two younger siblings for the past three years. I have dealt with a colic child to anything you can think of. Being only in my senior year of high school and not being able to actually be a "teenager," my opinion on academic achievement has changed. I feel like with my experience and opportunity that I feel like parenting classes should be mandatory. I see all these young girls becoming pregnant and it makes me so sad. Not only because they now have to grow up and become mothers, but they don't have the experience of being mothers or dealing with children. Any thoughts? Any articles or bits of information that could help me please? I could go on for hours about this topic, but it can't be biased.

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Raye - posted on 04/10/2015

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I was in 7th grade when the Health class taught anything about sex. Then it was pretty basic and not all that helpful. I think it was my Junior year of High School that Biology class showed a video of live birth. I had to be excused and sit in the hall with my head between my knees so I wouldn't pass out (I actually fainted at the hospital when my sister was in labor). Could be part of why I never had kids of my own. But generally speaking there wasn't much else taught on sex. We dissected frogs and learned the reproductive system, but that's not exactly "sex-ed".

I saw things on TV way back when about schools that would have the egg-baby that students had to care for (and if you can't even care for a hollow egg, how can you care for a baby?). But we didn't do that in my school or any other in the city that I know about. Now, I've seen there are simulator dolls, but those are only used with teen parents-to-be, because of the expense.

I agree that better sex education classes and, as Trisha said, financial planning would be better options to try to get in the mandatory curriculum. Parenting classes should be an elective, but not mandatory for the general student body.

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Sarah - posted on 04/09/2015

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So true, Jodi. I have to say the issue of teen pregnancy is my most personally conflicting! I want to take these girls and shake them, and say "Why? Why were you careless? Why don't you want to be a teenager? Why!" Professionally I can't do that. When kids come to me inquiring about where to find birth control, I grab on try to really ram home the consequences of any sexual activity. There is no negative stigma with being a teen parent in my schools. It actually give you a sense of celebrity....until the baby comes. Then those girls fade away from the others, because they must parent their babies. I have not had one girl (or boy) come back to me and say, "becoming a parent at 15 was the best choice I ever made" Instead, they look tired, frazzled and frustrated. Why we can't get ahead of the problem in the US is ridiculous. If we taught our 12 years old students what the consequences of sex can be, perhaps the teen pregnancy rate would drop. Instead we gloss over how it works and wait until it is often too late to introduce options.

Jodi - posted on 04/09/2015

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Mandatory ongoing sex education should be implemented - it would be far less costly to society as a whole if you think about it.

Where I live here in Australia, in our public schools, sex ed is quite a key part of our PE and Health program, and is an ongoing discussion (not just one class and its done). We don't have the same teen pregnancy rates that seem to occur in the US.

If a teenager has a baby, then yes, parenting classes should be mandatory, but prevention is a far better program to make compulsory, and research after research demonstrates that education is the key here.

Personally, when I read about some of the sex ed programs in the us (or the lack thereof because they simply teach abstinence and nothing else), it amazes me and makes me realise how sex education in some areas there is contributing to the problem.

Trisha - posted on 04/09/2015

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I would have to agree with a few of the other women. Parenting classes should be mandatory for all first time parents. Human reproduction SHOULD be mandatory.

I do however think that Financial Basics should be mandatory. I have never heard of a school teaching this, but I think it would be so beneficial for kids to know what a SIN card is, how taxes work, how credit works, the importance of protecting your identity, how to budget/save - but that is an entirely different topic.

Sarah - posted on 04/09/2015

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So true, but sadly we only teach human reproduction to our junior high. They learn the biology behind getting pregnant so any kids who are misinformed at least know how a baby is made. Birth control is breezed over in the curriculum until health class sophomore year. When there was a push to change this and really teach our 6-8 graders about birth control, safety and the risks of having sex, it was shot down. The argument was made that the information is available to the students who want it, they just go to student services or the nurse and ask for information. The problem is the kids don't ask! Sex ed is not enough. Even though I think they are too young, I have junior high students that are sexually active. Unless their parents have taught them well at home, they are a high risk group. I find the best informed kids are the one who wait to have sex. I don't get it, we are a conservative family and my kids go to parochial school. My eldest knew how babies were made in first grade! I was pregnant with is sister and he asked, so I told him the truth. Why is telling kids the truth considered wrong or dangerous?

Dove - posted on 04/09/2015

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But sex ed should be mandatory (at least as part of health) starting in middle school. My daughter had sex ed in the 6th grade (didn't really learn much since I am a proactive parent and had already covered 'most' of the material) in health class. She is in 8th grade now and says that it is no longer part of the 6th grade curriculum. I don't know if she is misinformed or truthful on that, but if she is truthful... that worries me. That is one class they should NOT do away with for these kids.

Ledia - posted on 04/09/2015

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I like your idea, but I think making them mandatory for ALL students is too extreme. First, not all students will go on to become parents. I have several friends who are perfectly happy in their 30's and 40's who never became parents. A parenting class would have been a waste of time for them--time that, as Sarah pointed out, could have been better spent on AP courses for college credit. I do think mandatory sex education classes should be redesigned so that the consequences of sex are introduced earlier. I think 7th grade is the most appropriate time to discuss birth control and sexual desire, and while some kids are already engaging in sex at that age, I think 7th grade is an age where most parents would not object to their kids being taught this information. There are still a lot of parents who would object to that kind of information in 5th and 6th grade, and might opt out of the classes for their children, but by 7th grade, they'd be okay with it. I think it should be retaught EVERY YEAR until graduation. It might get repetitive, but information changes, students are more receptive at different ages, students who opted out of earlier classes would get the same information in later classes, and students would be less likely to forget what they learned.

As for parenting classes that teach specifically about parenting--I don't think they can or should be used as a deterrent to becoming parents. Being a parent is a good thing if you do it at the right time, and I fear that only pointing out the difficulties of parents would make already overwhelmed teen mothers to be even more overwhelmed. It may also discourage students from EVER wanting to be parents.....although that might be a good thing for some.... Anyway, I think a parenting class should be about helping kids learn the technicalities of parenting and child psychology, and not so much about making them afraid of parenting.

Sarah - posted on 04/08/2015

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Alexis, you have a mature and impressive perspective. Probably because of your need to learn to parent independently so young. It is unfortunate that my school district funnels hundreds of thousands of dollars toward parenting teens; day care, child development, parenting class, life skills class and I provide medical supervision to the pregnant students as well. Yet when in come to the education of our younger students about the realities of having sex- they expect it to come from home, the kids to come and ask for information on their own or they "learn" it in science class. I have a very diverse student population, and I don't like to make sweeping generalizations; but teen pregnancy is much more common in the Latino and African American communities. Often these girls (and boys) are children of teen parents. Of course I have had pregnant Caucasian students as well, but fewer overall.
You are absolutely correct that the services we offer seems to enable to problem. I often feel conflicted about all we do for teens that are behaving irresponsibly. the goal is to keep the mothers in school, get them to graduate and keep them off welfare and hopefully help them become contributing members of society.
The classes we offer are required for our pregnant teens, if they don't take them they don't get a slot in the day care. I just can't think of a strong enough argument to require all students to take a parenting class. We have a few unique graduation requirements in our district; every student must take and pass CPR and every student must be able to swim unless excused medically. I think the swimming thing is bizarre but even if you were to transfer one month prior to graduation, you take a swim test and if you can't swim, you learn. Does your paper argue both sides of the issue? I think you have a good argument, and if you pose it as a risk vs. benefit issue, you could be quite persuasive. Where it gets sticky is the funding, forming a curriculum and the way to incorporate it into a students required courses.

Ev - posted on 04/08/2015

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You have to consider that at state level to get that to be a mandatory class it would have to go through the department of education to start with and get approved to be done. Then the districts in that state would have to consider the plan that is set and work it into the school's curriculum that is already in place. And in some cases it might be brought before the voters to decide if this should be implemented at all. Making things mandatory takes steps to go through and years to do it. Once in place it might take permission from parents before the kids could take the class as the parents might not think its one of those classes the kids should need to graduate or for other purposes. If it does not need parental permission to be placed in schools, then you got to get it taught one way or another and decide if its to be mandatory or by choice to take the class. You also have to understand one thing: With so many cultures in the United States now, a class like this being made mandatory might work against a culture's way of thinking. So you have that issue to go on as well.

Alexis - posted on 04/08/2015

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yes, many parents don't want to open their eyes and actually see they their child is growing up and some don't feel comfortable with discussing it with their children. I was wondering what points I could take on this paper. I am talking about why these classes aren't being implemented in high school and how they could be implemented any insight on that?

Ev - posted on 04/08/2015

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I think it would be hard to have parenting classes for all the kids in school just because you would have to come up with the basis of the class and the books and what not to be used in the class. Also to make it mandatory is going to make it one of those classes the kids hate. But I would agree at the same time they need it. Not all kids get this talk at home from the basic sex to what happens when you find out you are becoming a parent and what choices a parent is faced with and how to be a parent. Not all of them have positive role models at home to show them what it is to be a parent. Not all of them have access to help like Sarah mentioned in her school area. Not all schools have the means to have a day care on sight for those girls and a lot of them end up quitting school to take care of a baby. At the same time the young fathers of these kids may not be held responsible for the child. They also have no idea what it means to be a parent. When I was in school in my senior year, they decided to have the sex films shown for the whole high school. So one day it was the girls and they divided the classes up freshman/sophmore girls one hour and the junior/senior girls the next hour. The next day it was for the boys in the same groups. And a lot of it we all already knew and I knew for a fact some of the girls were more than likely already having sex with their BF's. Nothing new to write home about so to speak. My senior year there were 3 girls who were expecting babies. Two of them were sent by their former school districts to mine to finish their education because having a pregnant girl in their old school made it look bad or some such thing as that. One actually was a junior and not only took the junior classes but did her senior classes via the mail so she could finish and graduate a year sooner. She also had complications right before her delivery date. We had a child development class together and our teacher took it to heart what was going on with this girl and we discussed the matter in general and the girl even talked about things as she was experencing them. It was a good education that semester. She walked graduation with us that year. The other two I am not sure what happened to them as they were also a year behind but they did not finish to go to graduation early. I think a lot of parents thing its not a wise thing to discuss sex, pregnancy, and parenting because there is so much to discuss or its taboo. If more parents were open with their kids I think it might make a difference.

Alexis - posted on 04/08/2015

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Also, not all schools actually teach about the things you listed. I was never taught about them. I was only informed when I acutally went to the doctor and was talked about it there.

Alexis - posted on 04/08/2015

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Okay I understand your point and I also agree! But also, don't you think that with all the help through schools and things teenagers aren't really looking at it as a "bad" thing? I mean they are getting all they help they need, some aren't really even taking care of the child that they have made. And on top of that they aren't being actually held accountable with their choices I feel maybe I am wrong,

Sarah - posted on 04/08/2015

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I posted to the other thread but I will get the ball rolling here as well. I work in a public school district that is huge, we have five high school in my district alone. The two largest schools have programs for pregnant and parenting teens. We have day-care centers at those two schools as well. I agree that once a student is pregnant, parenting and life skills classes are important for both mothers and fathers. I do not agree that it should be mandatory for all of the students. We have many kids that are college track students and to require a parenting class would take away an opportunity to take an honors, AP or other college prerequisite course. In my schools both of our day-cares have waiting lists. I think we need to focus on educating our younger students in prevention of pregnancy much sooner than we do currently. In my district the first in school discussion of sexual reproduction is in fifth grade and it is very basic. The junior high students have one unit in biology that discusses human reproduction and we offer information in the student services office and of course in the nurses' office. Sadly the kids do not seek out the information. Health class is offered sophomore year and that is really the first time abstinence, birth control and safe sex is discussed. Those kids are 16! Many are already parents. I am working with our administration to modify curriculum at the elementary school level. Sadly, the problem we face is many parents do not want the school to introduce birth control and other topics at that age. It is a real problem. Darned if we do and darned if we don't.

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