A recent study by a reputed institute has found that more than 7,50,000 parents are under the age of 20, with the United States of America topping the list in teenage pregnancies. To compound the burden of responsibility in the age of innocence, the social stigma and the pressures of being forced to dropout from school and leading a low income lifestyle adds to the emotional strain of the teen. The ideal way to tackle this issue would be to educate the teen in the prevention of pregnancies by sex education and use of contraceptives. But it is also essential that sound advice and guidance is made available to teen mothers at a time when panic and guilt tend to outweigh reason. The following tips could help the teen parent to settle in and cope with the situation.
1. Taking stock of the situation
If termination of pregnancy is not an option, then it is time to relax, think objectively, seek counsel and plan accordingly. As mostly teens are still in the pursuit of their education, taking stock of the situation is essential towards taking the first steps to parenting. The salient aspects like the availability of a support system in the form of parents or relatives, the financial requirements, living conditions, education and the options available needs to be put on paper, in order to have the entire picture painted out.
This is a major area of concern, as biologically the body of a teen is not fully capable of bearing a child. Teens have been found to have increased risk of premature birth, LBW, blood pressure and other related problems. It is therefore essential that the health of both the mother and child should be the primary concern. Qualified professional advice and care should be administered both in pre-natal and post-natal stage to avoid such risks.
3. Working the emotional bond
It has been established that eight out of ten teen pregnancies are unintended. So the archaic mother-child bond would be put to the emotional test is most situations. In a case of total absence of emotions, it would be advisable to explore options for adoption. There are many agencies who undertake such work with total responsibility and discretion and it would be the first appropriate action as a parent to make the right decision for the child’s future.
A sound financial plan is essential and as a teen more so, as employment is hard to come by and education is incomplete. It is also the responsibility of the father to provide support for the child. So it is imperative that the parentage of the child be established at the earliest and where necessary legal option be sought. It is also necessary to have a rational and mature talk with the father regarding sharing the responsibilities.
Teen mothers often face the stigma of having to drop out of school, with few schools showing support or flexibility in such cases. Continuation of education should take priority for a better future for both the mother and the child. Alternatives like online education, schools with baby care facilities, or even professional day care centres should be explored towards meeting the objective.
6. Handling the baby
A small and delicate life in ones hands is mostly fearful than joyful. The aspects of handling the baby with care and its intricacies can be sought from parents, an experienced nanny or the matronly neighbour. The sooner the fear of handling is replaced by the joy of handling; the better would be the bonding and the rearing.
7. Handling emotions
It is sometimes possible that the initial tenderness is replaced by feelings of anger and jealousy, especially in the company of peers and friends who would seem to have a better life and more fun. It would be wise to seek company and emotional support of elders which would provide the much needed balance in the outlook during such turmoil.
8. The stress factor
A small child, especially born prematurely or with LBW is likely to fall sick often or have medical problems which would be constant source of worry more emotionally than financially for a teen parent. In the absence of parents or the father, this would lead to a state of constant stress and resulting depression. It is essential that in such circumstances, adequate medical advice be sought and the health issues of the child fully understood to ensure proper care.