Teen parents commonly believe that adults expect them to fail at parenthood. Most discussions with adults emphasize the hardships of becoming a parent during the teenage years. The teens often feel harshly judged and monitored constantly for mistakes. A support group is a good place to receive encouragement, helpful information, and peer support in a non-judgmental setting.
Support groups are available through many organizations, each with their own agenda and functioning methods. It is important to find the right group. If a group meeting is spent solely listening to an adult facilitator lecturing, the meetings will feel like punishment and the teens will not likely return.
Find a suitable Support Group
It is important to find a support group where the participants feel free to express feelings, are comfortable asking questions, and view the facilitator as a mentor rather than a judge.
An effective support group will encourage both teen mothers and teen fathers to attend. Up until birth, the focus is largely on the mother, but babies need fathers as well as mothers. Whether the teen parents are still a couple or not, being a teen father is a lifetime commitment.
Teen fathers are in need of support, a chance to share their experiences and feelings with other teen fathers and receive guidance regarding child development and parenting skills.
A typical support group meeting will start by checking in with group members regarding any concerns that have come up during the previous week and to acknowledge any positive events. The facilitator then presents information on a previously announced topic and encourages the group to engage in discussion.
This may be followed by a social time where snacks are served and teens can interact with their peers. The meeting often ends with information about the next week’s topic and encouraging words for handling the challenges of the coming week. Occasionally, there may be social outings scheduled.
Follow the rules!
It is important to note that there are some basic rules to follow if you are a member of a support group. The most important rule is that of confidentiality. What is said in the group, stays in the group. In order to freely share feelings, either positive or negative, every group member needs to be confident that their words will not be repeated outside of the group. Another rule is that all opinions and comments are valid and respected.
There are no dumb questions or statements. Additionally, it is okay to cry and it is okay to laugh. Tears of frustration or grief are always acceptable. Laughter is a great stress reliever and humor is a welcome addition to the group. Some support groups start each meeting with each person telling a joke.
Sharing personal information such as phone numbers and e-mails is an individual choice. Most groups provide a contact list for the participants who agree to be included. This enables the teen parents to contact each other between meetings if they need someone to talk to.
A facilitator can make or break a program. An effective facilitator is a mentor, an equal participant in the discussion, and someone who offers encouragement believes in the strengths of teens and shares educational information. A good facilitator also remembers that the group belongs to the teens, is open to suggestions, and recognizes that peer sharing and support are the pillars of the program.
It’s not fair to make poverty worse for children because of the actions of adults over which children have no control. Children need to be put first, and struggling parents need help. https://t.co/xjJgOjEQZ3
— Children’s Commissioner NZ (@ChildrensCommNZ) February 24, 2020
The facilitator helps the teen parents to realize that all parents make mistakes. Older, younger, richer or poorer, there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Helping teens forgive themselves for parenting mistakes is a vital function of a teen parent support group.
Many teen parents feel isolated, they no longer fit in with their friends, they are exhausted and trying hard to juggle many responsibilities. A support group enables teens to see that they are not alone, it puts things in perspective and helps to nurture friendships with people who understand.
A right support group is an invaluable tool for a teen parent. Never think low of yourself, as our bodies are made to get pregnant early, so you were given the baby at the right time.