The moment that a person realises they are going to become a parent, their life changes. When parents are going to have a baby, they go through several emotional and psychological changes. Additionally, when the mother is pregnant, she also goes through physical changes. Whilst having a child can be very exciting, it can also be stressful, especially if the baby was unplanned. An age group that can be quite challenging for parents to have a child is the teen years.
Sex education helps unintended teen pregnancies from occurring, since teens who are sexually active learn what to do to avoid getting pregnant. Teen parents face several challenges one of which is the pregnancy itself as teen pregnancies are associated with higher risks of premature delivery, low birth weight and neonatal mortality (Grech, 2017). In 2020, in Malta, there was 1 birth by a mother aged 14 years, and 130 births by mothers aged between fifteen to nineteen years (Gatt, 2021).
Support needs to be provided to teen parents so that they can understand what the journey of parenthood is about. One of the common challenges that teen parents face is to how to tell their own parents that they are expecting a child. At that age, they might not be in a stable relationship yet and cannot live independently. Thus, they need to tell their parents as they are likely to need their help to raise the baby. If the teen parents are under 16 years of age, they would also still be attending school. The professional supporting the teen parents would need to formulate a plan so that the teen parent can continue with their studies whilst their baby is being taken care of.
Besides the focus on the pregnancy journey itself, teen parents will also require significant support during the early years of their child. The teen parents need to act as an adult but in reality, they would not even be an adult themselves. They might not be prepared to deal with certain behaviours such as tantrums that toddlers can present with. Thus, it can be helpful to have a professional working with them to equip the teen parents with the skills to fulfil the parenting role.
When working with teens, it is important to provide psychological and emotional support, and to involve their families so that they can build a supportive network throughout the parenthood journey. With such complexities to tackle, one might not know from where to start when supporting a teen parent.
To help professionals tackle these topics, a comic book and guide book have been developed for through the project ‘Tool4Teen’ which aim to provide a practical digital resource to be used by professionals when working with the teen parents. This resource is being presented at this upcoming event.
If you would benefit from further support on this topic, you can reach out here.
Dr Marilyn Muscat is registered as an Educational Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom where she trained. She works with children, adolescents and their families to understand more about educational, social and emotional well-being concerns that they have and to help them improve upon their difficulties. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 79291817.
Gatt, M. (2021). NOIS Annual Report, 2020. National Obstetric Information System, Directorate for Health Information and Research. Available at: https://deputyprimeminister.gov.mt/en/dhir/Pages/Registries/births.aspx
Grech, V. (2017). Teenage Pregnancy in Malta. Malta Medical School Gazette, 1(4). Retrieved from https://mmsjournals.org/index.php/MDHG/article/view/105#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20World%20Bank,and%2010%2F1000%20in%202015