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FAMILY   -   EDUCATION & ENRICHMENT
Help! I have to Feed the Baby and Study for my English Test
The Family Therapist is In
July, 2007 - Issue #33
Parenting means being responsible for someone other than yourself. A teen parent is responsible for their baby and homework, chores, possibly a part-time job and answering to their own parents if they live at home! All of that can be a pretty overwhelming challenge. How do you graduate from high school and learn how to nurture a child when what you really want to do is see your boyfriend, talk on the phone and go shopping with your friends? Where do you go for support and information?

Many teens share that when they find out they're pregnant, their friends aren't as interested in getting together to do things and their boyfriends disappear or deny they could be the father of the baby. In some cases their parents make them find somewhere else to live. And yet for teens that bear children, selflessness is required. Their fussy newborns, curious babies and defiant toddlers will require patience, unconditional love and emotional availability - characteristics many teens themselves have not experienced.

"Legally, the teen is responsible for taking care of the baby, but if they're not 18 THEY'RE ALSO STILL A CHILD and their parents are still legally responsible for them."
Teen parents have some tough questions to deal with that adult parents don't. Here are some things teen parents must consider.

Have you sat down with your parents to talk about who's going to parent the baby? Legally, the teen is responsible for taking care of the baby, but if they're not 18 they're also still a child and their parents are still legally responsible for them. Even if you are 18 or older, if you're still living at home it can be a big issue. Will your parents let you parent your baby? Who will have the final say so? What do you think of your own parents' parenting style? Are "Grandma and Grandpa" okay with you doing things differently?

How committed is the baby's father? What is his involvement? As a teen mom, do you want financial support, emotional support or do you want him gone? Does your boyfriend say he's not the father? Do you need legal resources? Can you afford them? What's available in your community?

How do you meet your education goals with a baby? Can you keep going to high school when you're pregnant? Will you even feel like it while you're having morning sickness, gaining weight and your feet and back hurt? What other school options are available so you can complete your high school education or continue going to college? What is independent study?

What options do you have for childcare and can you afford the average $150-a-week childcare costs if you don't have family to help watch the baby? Will your family help watch the baby while you go to school or work?

Can you keep your job or get a job with a baby? Will you need a job to help provide for the baby's needs: diapers, food, baby wipes, clothes, medicine, childcare, etc.? Do employers hire pregnant teenagers? If you're pregnant and working will your employer hold your part-time job for you while you take time off to have the baby?

How do you talk to your family about who's going to buy the things a baby needs? Will your boyfriend help? If you have to work, how soon after the baby's born can you think about trying to get a job? What community resources provide childcare support?

These are tough questions to ask. The answers are often painful or difficult to face. It's easy to feel alone. However, there are resources available to help teen parents feel successful and give them options so they don't have to do the job alone.

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The answers are out there. If you are a teen parent or know of one in need of encouragement and support please contact Kim Schafer at kschafer@insidescv.com.
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