By China Hill
Columnist, Austin Weekly News
During the month of May, we take the time to celebrate or appreciate our mothers. Whether they raised us while being the sole breadwinners of their homes, guided us into our current careers or modeled for us how to be wonderful mothers, they did it possessing an array of skills needed for the job.
There is, however, a population of mothers today who have not yet acquired these skills, but are still required to do the work — teen moms.
Teenage parenting is tough. Developmentally, teenagers long for freedom and independence. They seek the affirmation of their peers opposed to parents, and they take more risks, not thoroughly reflecting on the consequences of their actions.
Many are concerned with what others think and are often insecure about how others perceive them. Being a parent is hard enough, but when parents operate from the aforementioned framework, it may cause them to make poor choices while significantly hurting their children's physical and emotional growth.
Think of the parent who longs for freedom, leaving her child with whomever will babysit, or the parent who longs for approval, involving herself in romantic relationships that jeopardize her child's well-being. Such actions can lead to a new generation of parents who lack the skills needed to help the next.
Nevertheless, teen parenting does not equate to poor parenting. There are many mothers who had their children during high school and who have evolved to be just as self-sacrificing, supportive and capable as those who had their children past 19.
In fact, you might be one of them, and you may have found that due to various factors you made it unscathed and so did your child. A great many teen parents today, however, struggle. They have resolved to bring a life in this world and shape that life in the best way they know how. So how do we teach those who struggle and/or how do teen mothers learn to be good mothers?
Teen moms still need mothering themselves. Parents of teen moms often allow their daughters to make tough decisions alone, thinking, "If she made the big-girl decision to have a child, she should also be able to make the big-girl decisions to raise it."
Unfortunately, this attitude does not often result in what is best for the baby. Just as 15 year olds need guidance on what to eat and how to study, they will continue to need guidance as they teach their children these things.
Continue to be a part of a teen's life once she has a child. If you are a teen mom, seek support and guidance from mothers you aspire to be like. Just as new workers seek mentors who can support and assist them with on-the-job demands, teen mothers should receive help from experienced mothers who they can turn to when they need advice about parenting or are feeling overwhelmed.
Parenting classes, articles
At what age should you toilet train your child? What do you do when your child is failing school? Parenting articles and parenting classes are made for questions such as these.
Even older, experienced mothers benefit from articles and classes that teach best practices on raising children. So in addition to studying for U.S. history and world lit, teen moms should also study ways to be a better parent.
For parent tips in print, teen moms may continue to read this monthly column, "Beyond the Textbook"; free parenting news magazines, such as Chicago Parent, found at most libraries; and online parenting information sites like babycenter.com.
Teen parents may also take parenting classes held at Lawndale Christian Health Center. Lawndale provides free parenting classes on topics, such as positive discipline and newborn infant care. Contact them at 872-588-3300 for more information.
While being a teen mom is hard, mothering multiple children is even more challenging. Therefore, teens should take precautions when engaging in acts that may lead to future unexpected pregnancies. This month is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention month, so take advantage of the resources and information on the teen pregnancy prevention site thenationalcampaign.org. This site provides teenagers with information on contraception and gives links to other sites on teen pregnancy prevention.
Finally, if you are a teen mother, do not be discouraged. There are no perfect parents. Although you have skipped the prerequisites, attaining a mothering degree is a result of on-the-job training. Even adult moms make poor choices. Just know that your chances of learning from those choices increase if you are willing to be taught.
...when you help a teen mom you are changing not just one life, you are changing two.
We hope you will join us and meet the inspirational teen mothers we work with.