Most expectant mothers and fathers of any age experience a range of emotions: fear, excitement, anxiety, joy, uncertainty. It is no different for most teen mothers and fathers.

Now add the feeling that people are judging you because you are young and pregnant or parenting. It is very sad to hear some of the things people say to and about teen parents. Sometimes even well-meaning adults assume since teens are young, they cannot be a good parent.

Motherhood and parenthood are common ground for all people. Just because you are young does not mean you don’t fall in love with your child just as deeply as you would if you were a few years older. What new parent knows all there is to know about caring for a newborn?

When I first meet a young pregnant or parenting mom, I think of her as a hero. At this point it doesn’t really matter to me why she became pregnant at a young age. She had a choice to make when she found out she was pregnant. She made a brave choice to continue, despite what many would see as obstacles.

Most teen moms see these “obstacles” as opportunities to make good choices for the new human being they are carrying. They often choose to change many things in their own lives. They want the best for their children, like any other healthy parent.

Teen parents need loving adults guiding them just like any teen. They may also have some specific needs. Finances can be an issue for many. It can be more difficult for teens without support to get to appointments, learn life skills or to get housing if their families have rejected them or are just not there to help them.

Some live in unhealthy situations and once they learn of their pregnancy want to change their circumstances for their child’s sake, so they live with others or try to find their own housing; a tight commodity in our community.

For about half of the teen mothers I work with, the baby’s father is very much involved, taking his role as father very seriously. He needs our support too. The most common remark I hear from young dads is that they have had to grow up. They face obstacles too and need support as well.

Unfortunately, the other half of the young moms do not have support from the baby’s father and must go on as a single parent.

In my position as Director of Parent Life (a ministry of Umpqua Valley Youth for Christ), I have the privilege of coming alongside pregnant and parenting teens. I see first-hand the joy and struggles of young, first-time parents. I see their remarkable love and desire for the best for their children. It is truly the best “job” I have ever had!

Learning to trust someone at such an important crossroad of life is not always easy. And it takes time. I get to work with an amazing team who pours love into our teen parents. Each one of them uses their passions and talents to connect with teens and to build that trust. As relationships grow, trust grows. Quality time with someone who cares is something we all need!

So, what is your attitude toward teen parents? We all have biases, and sometimes we need to work very hard to overcome them. Can you find the joy in a newborn baby, regardless of the age of his/her mother and father? Can you love the baby’s parents?

We’ve all needed a little help at some point in our lives. Our young parents are no different. We choose to love them right where they are, as brand-new parents, who love their children with all their hearts.

Carol Sherwood is the Director of Parent Life, a ministry of Umpqua Valley Youth for Christ. Parent Life is an outreach to pregnant and parenting teens in Douglas County. Contact Carol Sherwood at carol@uvyfc.org.

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