I want to talk about something, we as parents, don’t want to think about happening to our kids.
It is real, it is local, and it changes everyone’s life forever, regardless of what happens with the baby.
Did you know:
· The CDC stated the 1/3 of girls will become pregnant before age 20. (This 1/3 of girls can’t make a baby alone….)
· Only 38% of teen mothers who keep their baby, will complete High School.
· Only 2% the above women will go on to complete post-secondary education.
These are changeable numbers.
It is however, unrealistic to think that all teens will abstain from sexual intercourse, as their hormones and brains and foresight of consequence are still in vast developmental mode until the age of 25. We, as parents need to understand that we cannot prevent everything our children experience, bad or good. We cannot make their decisions for them all of the time. Learning, good and bad, are facts of life and while some kids are victims of circumstances, or associations, a parent can only hope that they instilled in their child the best possible factors of support and expectations early on.
It is not the decision you make that tells your character, it is what you do after it that proves who you really are.
Children need information. Children need structure, time, support, love, and a goal. As a teen mother myself, and having researched and studied teen pregnancy and prior teen mothers, particularly those whom have successfully completed post-secondary education, there are a series of factors that became evident as uniform among us all that allowed for our success. This does not make YOU a bad parent if it does happen to your family. But what you as the parent do after knowledge of this occurring, may.
If this happens to you or your family:
1. You, as the parent will be disappointed and fearful. You are all in the metaphorical fishbowl. And all of this is ok, it is also ok to respectfully voice this to your child as they will be looking to you for an example and support.
2. You, as a FAMILY, need to explore options, and map the plan all the way out to a goal point. I.E. if your 16 year old girl is pregnant, and say for your family the only option is to keep the baby. The goal point could be completion of a bachelor’s degree. That means that the teen would agree to follow ______ rules, be expected to do and contribute______, while taking advantage of the supports of living under the parental roof and having a family member(s) watch the child under situations like (school, work, a few friend events, etc.) until the successful completion of __________. At that point you have _______ time to get stable housing, job, etc. and live out on your own.
3. Consequences to not meeting the following need to be stated and enforced, realize the teen is STILL a teen. The rate of getting pregnant again before 20 increases significantly for those who had their first in their teens.
4. It is ok to fight, have issues, and as the parent, to go and take guardianship of the child at any point you feel your child is not able to handle or is doing things that could be of serious detriment to the baby. It is also ok to seek help.
5. Remember, the baby did not ask to be here. It is your job as the parent of a teen who is to be a parent, to set a good example, to love, to support, and to do what is best for your own. If you know your child is not able or ready or does not want the child, it is not wrong to give it to a family who does. They call that the ultimate sacrifice, however that decision too is wrought with emotions that help and support are necessary parts of as well.
6. Seek guidance from a counselor or psychologist, the department of health and family services for your state, the school, prayer/church, and other parents who you know have gone through the same.
7. The most important part in all of this is the teen. Keeping to a schedule and taking baby steps toward a goal, making mini-mile stones along the way is key to long term responsibility and success. Keep the teen parent busy and motivated, and you are helping them help themselves and their child.
DO NOT, as the parent, do the following:
1. Kick your child out
2. Do not force a decision upon them with ultimatums. (i.e. if you don’t have an abortion, you will be kicked out)
3. Do not call names, beat, or ridicule the teen. The next few months and years will be filled with all sorts of feelings of inadequacy and name calling by the outside world. Expressing disappointment is fine, calling your daughter a slut, or your son a man-whore, is not.
4. Do not isolate your family, nor your child from the norm. They will need normalcy and structure to be successful. Making them take responsibility for their actions is the first step in success, but isolating them and cutting them off from their normal peers and age appropriate things will cause angst, anger, and resent toward you and the baby.
5. Do not forget you were a teen once too. Do not forget the memories, the things you did that bent or broke the rules, big or small, and the things you learned along the way that helped you to be where you are now.
This is a long hard journey, it is filled with such joy and blessings, but also with such disappointment and anger and loss. But with the right supports, the time, and the motivation, families can bond intergenrationally more than they would have, move on, and get so very close while watching an ill-timed blessing become a gift you don’t know what you would have done without.
Happy graduation to those teens that made it, good luck to those who are working on it and to those teen parents out there, there is hope for you-but you cannot do it alone.
With my utmost thanks,
The teen mom phenomenon,
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