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Being a teenage parent
Being a teenage parent has benefits and challenges.
On the upside, you might find that parenting comes to you quite naturally as a teenage parent. You might be better than older parents at getting used to the changes that children bring, as well as dealing with little or no sleep. And you'll probably have lots of energy to keep up with busy children.
On the downside, you might feel that there's a lot going on in the rest of your life and you're struggling to give your child enough attention. Or you might worry about balancing work and family life, finding a job, finding affordable child care, or keeping in contact with your friends.
Some of these worries are normal for all parents, not just teenagers.
Teenage parents do face special challenges as well. For example, there might be the challenge of finishing school while looking after a baby. You might also feel that people judge you for being a teenage parent.
Finishing school as a teenage parent
One of the biggest challenges for teenage parents is finishing school, but finishing school is one of the most important things you can do. If you finish school, you have a better chance of getting a job later on and being able to support your family. Studying can also help you feel less isolated, if that's a problem for you.
In Australia, if you're pregnant or have a baby while you're still at school, you have the right to continue and finish your schooling. And with the right planning and support, you can do it. It's a good idea to talk to a social worker, counsellor or your antenatal team to find out more about education options and planning, as well as school programs that support young parents.
School support options might include:
- modified or flexible school hours
- reduced study load
- classroom support staff or guidance officers
- study from home
- return to school after your baby is born to complete your year 12 certificate
- part-time study to complete your year 12 certificate
- study at an external accredited institution like TAFE to complete your year 12 certificate.
You could also look at options for balancing family and study. For example, you might be able to study at night while your partner or a friend or parent minds your child.I coped because I had to. I didn't have much help except from friends, but I didn't find parenting as difficult as some people made it out to be. The hardest part was dealing with so many different bits of expert advice from books, other parents and so on. Everyone has a different view on how children should be raised and I learned that you can't panic - you just have to trust your instincts in the end.
- Pippa, mother of one
Practical tips for teenage parents
If you're a teenager and a parent, there are ways to help yourself and your child. Remember, it's OK to ask for help and support from your family, friends and services in the community.
Here are some tips:
- Consider whether you can stay with your parents while your child is young. This might help you deal with the pressures of caring for your child or coping financially. Your parents might also be able to give you some backup when you need it and even share some tips from when you were a baby.
- If you're on your own or living away from your family, find out what sorts of financial support you can get through Centrelink to help with living expenses and rent.
- Contact your local community centre for support groups for young parents. These sorts of groups can provide emotional support as well as information on child development and health care.
- See whether your local council or medical centre can put you in touch with a counselling service. Counselling can help parents with personal issues as well as issues associated with being a parent at a young age.
- Speak to different experts that you come in contact with - like your GP, child and family health nurse or other early childhood experts - to learn about creating the best home environment for your child. These experts can also help you learn about topics like nutrition, health and emotional development.
Having someone to talk to - like your partner, a family member or a trusted friend - can help you handle the ups and downs of life as a teenage parent.At the end of the day, we have a very special relationship. We're very close and have excellent communication, and Bessie understands that she can talk to me about anything. My relationship with my parents has also improved a lot and they now play an active role in her life, which makes me just so happy.
- Pippa, mother of one