We know the stereotypes and prejudices that teen parents have to face — but we also know the truth. We know that teen parents can be capable caregivers and fabulous role models for their children. We know that, with support, they can achieve academically and professionally. We know young families can be successful.

This space is to push back against all that ignorance, bitterness, and prejudice and show what young parenthood really looks like.

Blog

 

Recent Posts

5 Ways the New Policy For Parenting Students in Boston is Awesome

Boston Public Schools has been working with the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy and several supportive organizations across the city on a very comprehensive policy for expectant and parenting students. It’s pretty amazing and nostalgic for me as I was brought on as a young mom during a roundtable discussion with Councilor Ayanna Pressley at Boston City Hall in 2010 (here’s my recap) and it’s been history-in-the-making since!

In 2010, Councilor Ayanna Pressley, Chair of Committee on Women and Healthy Communities, scheduled a meeting with organizations across the city who work with expectant and parenting students, Boston Public Schools, and young mothers to talk about the 1988 version of the policy. In 2010, Councilor Pressley presented the motion to revise the School-Age Parents Policy of the Boston Public Schools and the revision process began in 2013!

I have attended every single meeting and ensured that my voice was and is both being heard and used to entirely change and improve a policy that will impact the lives of young families. My experiences may be unique in some ways and my narrative does not represent an entire community, but my lens can help shape something more appropriate for people like me. 

Here are 5 awesome points we cover:

1. Throughout this new policy, “expectant student” is defined as any student, regardless of gender identity, who is either pregnant or is the partner of a pregnant student. This matters to young people who are often misgendered and misidentified. 

2. Discrimination and harassment from school staff is highlighted! Yes! School leaders, teachers, and other school staff are held accountable for leading the way in treating all students, including expectant and parenting students, with respect, and recognizing that all students have the potential to succeed, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, relationship status, or marital status.

3. And just as Title IX mandates, expectant and parenting students who feel their civil rights may have been violated for any reason are encouraged to file a report with the Equity Office. Principals, Superintendents, and staff are all held accountable for violating a young parents' rights.

4. Schools should also be sensitive to new mothers’ need to express breastmilk and should work with students to identify a private and sanitary location for this purpose. Because of my experience in high school, this was actually one of my own key policy suggestions. Elevating every young moms' right to pump and giving them the time to pump, space to pump, and support to pump is vital.

5. And of course, all expectant and parenting students have the right to choose how and when they seek services and support from school staff. Staff cannot push their noses into a young parent's business and no one can force a young parent to participate in a program or apply for something they do not want to apply for. Young parents are not forced into any class or program that perpetuates the idea that they are incapable of succeeding without it.

As you can imagine, the policy is both long and comprehensive so there’s a ton more that isn’t posted in this blog and while it's not in its final state, I am so proud of it already.

Please leave a comment below with your thoughts on this policy or feel free to ask a question. I’ll answer them myself! 

0 comments 

Not The End

Not the end—but a new beginning to my world.”

Dear Teen Parent,

Becoming a parent at a young age means that you and your baby have found each other a little earlier than expected, but it also means that you will get to love them longer! I guarantee that many have said and will continue to say your life has ended. Do not let this lie become a reality to you. Reality is, your life has just begun. A baby certainly does not take away our, or anyone’s future. They give us a new one. As teen parents, it is up to us to show the world the amazing young men, women and parents there can be. Things may be hard but definitely not impossible, even though you may feel it is because of all the stress. Just know it is not the end of the world. It is a new beginning and a blessing. I guarantee you will never love anyone as much as you love your child. And no one is going to love you and look up to you as much as your child will. There’s a type of love no one experiences until they have a baby and we are lucky to have experienced it at a young age. Do what you have to do for you and your child. Keep your head up high and do not let anyone tell you you’re not a great parent because of your age. Also know that there are people out there who care and live the same struggles, and your child is going to love you no matter what.

Sincerely,

Ciara Mejia

0 comments 

It May Be Hard

It may be hard but not impossible!”

Dear Young Parent,

Back when I was 16 and first found out I was pregnant this is the quote my cousin, who was a teen parent, told me to get me through. This quote helped me when I was scared, when I didn’t know what to do, or when I felt like giving up, and still does to this day. Whenever times get tough I always keep this quote in mind and it makes me want to keep pushing and to not give up. And today I am giving you this letter to tell you that yes things are going to be hard. But with hard work and dedication you can get through it; it’s not impossible! And I know that for a fact, because I went from being 16, jobless, in school, homeless, depressed, and struggling to 20 years old with 3 jobs, my own apartment and car, starting college, and happy with who I am today and where I am headed!

Best Wishes,

Jasmin Colon

0 comments 

The Journey Starts Today

Dear Young Parent,

If there was only a few words that I had heard when I needed it—something to hold onto—it would sound like this:

Listen I’ve been there. I got pregnant at 16 and 99% of the people I knew and cared about thought I wouldn’t become the college educated, healthcare worker I am today. I just want you to know that on your weakest days you will (eventually) be fine- just keep doing what you have to do.

1) Evolve- life changes –be able to evolve and change with it. Do what you need to do to fit your dream and get you and your child to that finish line.

2) Follow your heart- you know what’s best for you and your child.

3) Every day is temporary. Most importantly,

4) You’re never too old to start dreaming a new dream and NEVER too young to start to make it happen.

Long story short I BELIEVE IN YOU! Just because you’re a young parent, doesn’t mean you’re any less of a mom or dad. You can and will be able to achieve a great life for you and your kid(s). The journey starts today. 

Love, 

Jacqueline Raetz

0 comments 

Shoot For the Stars

 “Shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you'll land amongst the stars!” 

Dear Young Parent,

When I was pregnant, I lost my friends. At that time I felt alone and isolated. Now my son is 2 years old and it doesn’t bother me that I don’t have them anymore. In life people change. Now, I have different friends and I have a big support system. I am stronger and realize who is important and who isn’t. Don’t let anybody ever tell you, you are not capable of being successful, because you are. You can go to school, you can work, and you can be great parents. If you do lose the people you love, know that there will be other people out there who will care about you. Just know that I think you’re amazing for being exactly where you are, even for just being here at Lobby day!

From,

Lauren Singer 

0 comments 

Your Life Is Not Over

"Your life will be hard, but it is not over!"

Dear Fellow Young Parent,

You may not know this yet, but becoming a parent at a young age makes you a part of an elite, secret society of exceptional young people! Not many achieve the thick skin, strength of mind, and levels of confidence and independence that all come from suffering the shame, stigma, and other hardships associated with being a young parent. It may not feel like it now, but you are braver, stronger, more resourceful, more resilient, and just down-right tougher than your peers. They may look down on you now, but soon, when you are achieving your goals and raising a beautiful family, THEY will be looking up to YOU

I know you’re getting a lot of messages– from your parents, your peers, the media, society – but I want you to remember this message that my mother gave me when I told her I was pregnant at just 14: “Your life will be hard, but it is NOT OVER!” You can still do, achieve, and be WHATEVER you wish. I graduated high school on time and earned an academic scholarship to attend college, graduated college with honors, and started my dream business. If I could do it, I know YOU CAN

If you ever need an ear to listen, a pep talk, a shoulder to cry on or anything, I am here for YOU! I’ve been there, and I know how hard it can be sometimes. We’re members of the same secret society, remember? 

With love and support,

Tynesha Chandler Allsop

0 comments 

100 Things You Should Never Say to a Teen Mom

Our culture perpetuates the idea that teen mothers are not valuable women and that our children are destined for failure. Many reinforced this idea when they made comments and asked invasive questions about my life. There's this illusion that teen moms are no longer worthy of empathy or respect, so anger, hatred, bitterness and judgment are projected onto us. I tolerated it at 17 but I fight back at 25.  

In less than 15 minutes, I compiled a list of all the discouraging things I was forced to hear as a teen mom - many of which were spewed by people with "good intentions." 

1. You’re just a kid

2. Children shouldn’t be having children

3. Your child is more likely to end up in jail now

4. Your kid is more likely to be a teen mom because you were

5. This child probably won’t go to college

6. Your life is over

7. Do you know who the dad is?

8. I know it’s not my business, but (insert anything here)

9. Maybe you will grow up now that you’re a parent

10. Do you think you’re cute now?

11. Why are you proud?

12. Babyshower? Why?

13. Ugh, you must hate your life. 

14. Tell me about how much your life sucks now. 

15. You’re going to need to sacrifice everything for this kid. 

16. Say goodbye to your future.

17. I guess you didn’t have any goals.

18. Should have kept your legs closed.

19. Are you stupid?

20. Didn’t you learn anything from those teen mom shows?

21. Haven’t you heard of condoms?

22. Are you going to live off welfare now?

23. He’s going to leave you, you know. 

24. Why didn’t you get an abortion?

25. How did this happen?

26. Is he around?

27. Aren’t you afraid that you’ll ruin this child’s life?

28. You will ruin this child’s life. 

29. With birth control and condoms so easily available, you must have planned this. 

30. Did you do it to keep your boyfriend around?

31. Are you sure you know who the dad is?

32. This isn’t a fairytale.

33. This baby is your punishment.

34. You’re going to give birth to a kid that will ruin your life. 

35. I bet your mom is gonna raise the baby anyway. 

36. You don’t deserve help.

37. You made your bed, now lay in it. 

38. You’re not like other teen moms

39. You’re just like all teen moms. 

40. You’re just a baby momma now.

41. How much drama do you have in your life?

42. I will only support you when you prove to me that you deserve it.

43. What are you going to do with your life now?

44. You can’t go to college. 

45. Your dreams are not achievable anymore. 

46. You are just a statistic now.

47. I hope you plan on marrying his/her dad. 

48. Why are you going out? You’re a mom.

49. Forget about your social life. 

50. You can’t have fun anymore.

51. It’s not my responsibility to help you.

52. I’m not going to make this easy for you. 

53. You chose this life. 

54. You’re not allowed to complain. 

55. You should have thought about that before you opened your legs. 

56. You should have your kid taken away from you. 

57. Now you can share your story to others who might make the same stupid mistake.

58. Tell me about your shitty life. 

59. I thought you were gay.

60. You must be a freak.

61. You are super fertile.

62. You’re fast.

63. Well, I guess you can audition for Teen Mom now. 

64. How are you going to support a kid when you can’t even support yourself?

65. Your parents must hate you.

66. I’m glad you’re not my kid.

67. My daughter would never make the same mistake you did.

68. Your kid is a mistake.

69. Why are you so happy? You’re a teen mom. 

70. You’re depressed? Get over it. 

71. Of course you’re going to be stressed, you were irresponsible. 

72. No, I will not help you. 

73. You don’t deserve respect. 

74. I’m not saying you’re dumb, I’m saying your choice was dumb.

75. Do you ever wish you just aborted or put it up for adoption?

76. You realize that no guy will ever want you now, right?

77. I’m so glad I’m not a teen mom. 

78. Do you just live off his child support?

79. I don’t understand why you upload photos of your belly. You should be ashamed. 

80. Let me tell you what you need.

81. I know better than you. 

82. Your body must look awful now. 

83. You have too much baggage.

84. No one will marry a single mom.

85. Just give up. 

86. If you don’t go to college, you’re gonna end up poor. 

87. Own up to your mistakes.

88. Don’t blame others for your stupidity.

89. My kid won’t be like yours. 

90. How can you have a kid and be gay?

91. Are you on birth control now? Why not? 

92. How did it happen?

93. Do you wish it never happened?

94. How many more kids will you pop out?

95. Have you learned your lesson?

96. What are you gonna do to make sure your kid doesn’t turn out like you?

97. People like you drain our economy. 

98. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps. 

99. No one cares about your story.

100. Stop trying. 

1 comments 

No Regrets

Hi! My name is Ciara Mejia and I am 18 years old. I became a young parent at the age of 16 while being a junior at Norwood High School. My son was born the summer when my junior year ended and my summer of 2012 consisted of being a new teen parent. Since I was on vacation it wasn’t as much as a hassle as when senior year began in September.

Balancing school and taking care of a 3 month old baby was very tough. When I graduated in May, I realized I an very capable of proceeding in life as long as I put my head to it, not only that but there would be much more challenges coming my way.

My son's name is Jayden and he is a very intelligent healthy 18 months old. I am very grateful for my son, he has not ended my life but changed my future and I cannot see myself without him. Being young and a parent is hard to balance at times, but it is always okay to have time away from your kids. Its not being selfish, but it is important to keep yourself mentally healthy to be an excellent provider for your kid.

I am currently employed with Brigham and Women’s Hospital as a Young Parent Ambassador and recently joined The Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy as a Young Parent Policy Fellow. I cannot emphasize enough the fact how much support these organizations have granted for me and helped me succeed in teen parenting.

Overall being a teen parent isn’t the only thing about me that is important. I am glad to say that I am 100% Latina, Dominican and Puerto Rican and I speak Spanish fluently. Being bilingual is a very awesome thing and now my son is learning both languages as well. I grew up in the Dominican Republic and moved back to Massachusetts right before high school.

Since we are now in 2014 I would love to say Happy New Year to all. 2013 was a very stressful and tough year. Now that the New Year is in, I strive for it to be a good one, considering it will be my second year parenting! I have set several goals for myself. One of them is to definitely get my son into daycare. It doesn’t seem like a big thing but there’s only so much other people can do that its great to not have to depend a lot on others for childcare.

I also want to obtain my driver’s license and hopefully get a car. I am only 18 so I wouldn’t look for anything too fancy. As long as it gets my son and me where we have to go. Most importantly I want to begin school on a set schedule and make it my first priority. This fall I enrolled in BHCC and attended the first couple weeks. I soon realized it was too much to handle at the moment so I stopped going. Education is very important and I know I am capable of getting through it as a young parent! It will be a lot of work but it is all worth it in the end. My field of interest is in Business, but I also have a passion for Public Health. At this point, I remain undecided.

Parents experience a type of love no one else experiences, and I am certainly lucky to have experienced it at the age of 16. No regrets.

0 comments 

TV Shows Are Not a Substitution

A joint study between researchers at the University of Maryland & Wellesley College published by the National Bureau of Economic Research is claiming that the popular MTV show, and its Teen Mom spin offs are the cause of a 5.7 percent decrease in teen births (Kearney & Levine, 2014). To briefly summarize the study, researchers measured the shows exposure, based on Nielsen’s Ratings, data from Google Trends and Twitter Tweets, in order to determine if the places in the United States where the show was most popular correlated to geographical areas that saw significant decreases in teen childbearing. The researchers presented a strong case that there is a positive relationship between these variables.

Unfortunately, the researchers go so far as to make the claim that the show “…had a sizable, causal impact on teen birth rates (Kearney & Levine, 2014 p.33)”, essentially saying that the show is responsible for the decline of 5.7% of teen births in the United States. After reading the study, I am deeply concerned by the claims that are being made, and the perpetuation of the claims by media outlets including Huffington Post, New York Times, and others.

From my perspective, not only as a former teen mother and teen parent advocate, but as a PhD student of Social Psychology and Assistant Professor of Human Services, this study can only successfully demonstrate two things; 1) that people who watch the TV show are more likely to perform Google searches and Tweet about birth control and abortion and 2) that there is a correlation between decreases in teen birth rates in places where the show was most popular and show popularity. To say that the show is responsible for a 5.7% decrease in teen birthrate overall is a huge exaggeration of the results.

At a very basic level any undergraduate student of social sciences would know that in order to prove that one thing causes another, you need an experimental design which unrealistic for this line of research. Even with the type of design that Kearney & Levine (2014) implemented there are major questions to be answered before we can start to even consider what they are claiming. For example, what specific cities/towns showed the highest correlations? Are these towns also places that are high-risk areas and received Federal Funding, or other funding sources, for Teen Pregnancy Prevention programs? Also, I’d like to see the demographic information regarding the population of the study. Research demonstrates that the highest decrease in teen pregnancy by sub-group is among the Latina population (National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy, 2013) which is the same population that is least likely to watch the show according to Kearney & Levine (2014). These are just a few, of many, questions that would need to be answered before claims that the show reduces teen childbearing in any significant way.

Further, what are the implications of these types of claims? That media can be a substitute for research based intervention, positive mentorship, education, etc.? That we should continue to exploit young people dealing with other high-risk issues in order to decrease negative outcomes? What is the significance of this type of research?

So although this study may demonstrate that the show influences fans interest in the subject in teen pregnancy, I don’t see any solid evidence that she show is shaping the behaviors and decisions of teens in any significant way. Further, I am deeply concerned that these types of claims can undermine some of the amazing, hard work that organizations are doing every day with young men and women in order to address the challenge of teen pregnancy and parenting. TV shows should never be substituted for the work that it takes to shape adolescent attitudes, behaviors, and life outcomes.

 

References:

Kearney & Levine (2014) Media Influences on Social Outcomes: The Impact of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant on Teen Childbearing, National Bureau of Economic Research. Cambridge, MA

National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Parenting (2013) Fast Facts: Teen Pregnancy and Childbearing Among Latina Teens. Washington, D.C.

1 comments 

What I've Learned About Community Support For Young Parents

In early 2013, I was sitting in my graduate advisor's office when she mentioned that the local job and family services staff had visited her recently and asked for help on a local problem. They had been tracking the data and discovered a disturbing trend. It seemed the child abuse reports tended to spike during the weeks leading up to finals. The agency wanted to do something to address the amount of stress student-parents were under and to connect them with resources in the community so they would feel supported well before they were at their breaking point. 

I partnered with them to create the Young Mom Summit, a half-day conference for young parents in Northeast Ohio. We will have workshops on budgeting, careers, stress management and more, all presented by former teen parents. The attendees at the first event will help craft future events. It has been a long time coming, I'm thrilled it is finally happening! 

But the journey to put on this event has opened my eyes even further to where young parents rank in terms of community priorities. I opened registration and the first five registrants weren't even from Northeast Ohio - they were signing up from Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, signaling that there was a major need for this type of event, where young parents can come together in supportive spaces. 

It's not there isn't any support for young parents in many communities, but all too frequently, they do not collaborate. One group that's serving young parents might not know what the others are doing. That leaves room for trends like the child abuse correlation to go undetected. 

With so many teen parents feeling isolated and alone, ensuring they feel their voice is being heard is one of the best things we can do. I've had to consider the fact that I don't know what's best for teen parents - sometimes we have to step back and ask them what they need. And then listen. 

 

For more information on the summit, visit the official website: www.youngmomsummit.com.

0 comments