Some pretty awful things can happen during adolescence. One of these tragedies is an unwanted pregnancy.

I believe that parents need to “get real” about the risk that their child could get involved in an unwanted pregnancy. Think about it: At puberty, kids begin developing adult bodies, and they experience powerful sexual desires. But they lack experience and wisdom and continue to be naïve about almost everything.

It could become a parent’s worst nightmare: a young girl having a baby at a time when she is simply not equipped to care for it. According to the CDC, unwanted teen pregnancies have been steadily declining over the past 10 years. Still, the pregnancy rate today for girls 15-19 in the U.S. stands at about 16 per 1000, or 1.6%, which equates to 160,000 unwanted pregnancies.  According to the WHO, the annual figure worldwide is about 20 million.

The physical desire to have sex is natural. It’s the part of our human biology that enables procreation, so our species will continue to survive. The truth is that teens rarely consider the consequences of “making love” – pregnancy and childbirth. Their physical desires, the teen culture, the need to be popular, and the larger sexualized culture influence them. They confuse sex with love, and the possibility of having a baby and the life-changing responsibility to care for it are just not in their minds.

Yes, having a baby. And in many states, it has become illegal to arrange to terminate the pregnancy.

Kids need to hear the truth about their bodies, sex, and how to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. The tragic consequences at this age need to be real to them in their minds. Otherwise, they will feel the desire, confuse it with love, and not consider that they could be fertilizing an egg to make a baby.

Making sure kids have the facts is crucial, but a lot of parents find it hard to talk to their kids about it. Maybe their own parents failed to do a good job of this. Maybe they feel embarrassed to talk about sex, not sure what to say or how and when to say it. So they just hope things will work out for the best. Realistically, considering the potential consequences, this seems like taking horrible risks with the children they love.

For years, my favorite expert on this subject has been Cath Hakanson of Sex Ed Rescue, who offers many helpful resources.

Every child needs guidance as they grow up. They need the truth to help them navigate the real world safely.

More about communicating with your child: