Friday, July 30, 2010

An Unexpected Eye Opener

I've spent part of my summer converting the parenting class I teach for online delivery.  One of the units deals with teen pregnancy and teen parenting.  I wasn't aware of it until today, but like a lot of people, I guess I've been more-or-less guilty of viewing pregnant teens and teen moms through a lens of blame and condemnation. 

Anyway, as I was preparing the unit on teen pregnancy and parenthood, I was surfing the internet for supplemental readings and web resources to augment the textbook.  Initially, I looked at lots of research-based fact sheets, policy statements, etc.  These were materials that didn't present pregnant teens and teen parents as humans, but rather as data. 

As I continued my online search for materials and resources, I started coming across sites that had nothing to do with data and everything to do with helping and supporting pregnant teens and teen moms.  These sites really impressed upon me the human aspect of teen pregnancy and parenthood.  I was especially moved by the fact that MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) sponsors a group called Teen MOPS.  My wife has been involved with our local MOPS group, and until today, I had never heard of Teen MOPS. 

Most of the sites I looked at were designed to provide teens with tips and information about resources, services, and parent education.  I looked through plenty of those sites and linked them to my class.  Besides those sorts of sites, however, I also came across numerous online message boards for pregnant teens and teen moms.  These are sites where teen moms and teens who are pregnant can post questions, provide support and information to each other, and receive encouragement, support, information from older women. 

Then the unexpected happened.  The dad in me came out, and I actually started crying in my office.  As I was reading their questions and comments to one another, it dawned on me with crystal clarity, "These aren't bad people who've committed crimes or unpardonable sins who deserve to be looked down upon, shunned, and treated badly.  They're scared girls."

As the title of this post says, it was a real eye opening experience for me.  I don't think I'll ever view teen pregnancy or teen parenthood the same way again.  I still think that where teen pregnancy is concerned, prevention should be our first goal.  However, once they're pregnant or have had children, that can't be changed, and at that point it becomes incumbent upon us to provide them with the acceptance, support, and help they need to be good parents and provide good lives for their children."


  1. Scared? You bet they are, and with reason. I have to help teen moms negotiate parenting problems all the time--from getting child support, to fending off scum fathers who want "visitation" for the wrong reasons, to myriad other issues. Just last month the 16 year old daughter of a client gave birth at home ALONE on her mother's bed. No one knew she was pregnant. BY HERSELF she cleaned the baby up, wrapped her up and went to a friend's house. Like you, I was reduced to tears at the thought of this LITTLE GIRL (!) going through this ordeal. Her life is now forever changed. Yes, prevention and training that maturity is the best perch from which to conduct parenting is our first goal. But babies, whatever their circumstances of birth, are blessings, and we should be compassionate and helpful to young mothers. They have enough challenges as it is. Cynthia

  2. Interesting article. I liked it.

    As a public speaker on teen pregnancy, I point out that the blame and condemnation is misdirected. Teen pregnancy and the teen birth rate (TBR), two entirely different things, are a function of poverty, sex abuse, violent homes, lack of competing choices, and several other dynamics. Unplanned, we say, but not unwanted. If people really, I mean really want to help, they need to see it as a public health problem, not a morality problem. The best prevention isn't a condom, a pill, a lecture or a virginity pledge. It's a bright future filled with strong role models, lots of competing choices, and a vision of something other than early motherhood.

    Rick Machado
    Public Speaker on Teen Pregnancy