It is pretty common to hear adults tell our youth that teen pregnancy leads to a hard, troublesome, stressful, and tough life. In fact, there are even statistics that support their beliefs. Heck, even many teen pregnancy prevention campaigns use this “scary” teen parent life as a fear tactic.
Because we know a large percentage of teen parents drop out of high school and a small percentage of teen parents graduate from college by the age of 30, we assume these outcomes are directly related to their pregnancies. Unfortunately, we usually fail to analyze their lives before becoming pregnant. We don’t envision the paths they were on before becoming teen parents. Ask yourself:
- Would this teen parent have dropped out of high school even if he/she wasn’t expecting?
- Did this teen parent enjoy school and have the support he/she needed to graduate before expecting?
- What type of stress was this teen parent facing before expecting?
Without thinking about these simple questions, how can we determine why a teen parent dropped out of high school? We cannot assume teen pregnancy is the only issue in a young person’s life and we cannt assume all teen pregnancies lead to the same outcomes.
It’s much easier to point at a teen parent and declare her pregnancy as the reason she has decided to drop out and not go to college. We can call it “lack of responsibility”, or a “stupid mistake”, or even a “cry for help” but when we put the blame on the teen parent, we take away our responsibility. We fail to look at what his or her life was like before becoming pregnant and the realistic chances of finishing their education. Too many of our youth are falling through the cracks and our job to is stop that from happening.
As a teen, I loved school. I was in enough extracurricular activities to keep me in school everyday until 6:00 and sometimes even on the weekends. There was never a moment when I hated it and there was never a minute when I doubted my love for my education. That changed when I became a teen mom and my teachers started treating me differently. The same teachers who once asked me to tutor others, began to wonder if I would even graduate. It frustrated me so much to know that the very people who praised my hard work were now doubting me. All I wanted… all I needed… was for them to treat me the same way they always did. And if they were willing, provide me with a little extra support. Unfortunately, it was much easier to turn their heads and assume I would drop out because of my growing belly.
With my own experience in mind, I cannot imagine what high school must be like for teens who are unhappy at school then find themselves expecting a child. Not everyone felt the same way I did about school and when you already have other challenges to overcome (poverty, language barrier, lack of support, homelessness, etc…), how can you be expected to fulfill your educational goals.
It frustrates me when we look at teen parents as high school dropouts. When we, as a society, want to see everyone succeeding, there shouldn’t be one group of people left behind because of a decision they made. It hinders our progress as a whole. We need support, not judgment.