Teen parenting: Important things to know

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Parenting will affect all aspects of your life. Suddenly, everything revolves around taking care of a baby. You may feel nervous, scared or unprepared for the demands of being a parent.

The most important thing that teen parents can do is get support from other people. Look for backup from your friends, your family and your child’s other parent. If they’re unavailable to help you, your job will be harder, but you can still do it.

Parenting is challenging physically and emotionally, but it can also be deeply rewarding. The bond between a parent and a child is special and unlike any other relationship you’ll ever have.

Challenges of parenting

Parenting includes challenges related to day-to-day care, money, social relationships and your emotions.

Practical challenges

All parents have to learn new skills from diapering to discipline. If you’re living on your own for the first time, you may also have to learn skills like home maintenance, cooking and budgeting your time and money. You may also be juggling parenthood with school or a job.

The more you know about being a parent, the more confident you’ll feel. There are lots of sources for useful parenting advice. You can:

  • ask friends and family members
  • talk to other parents
  • read parenting books and magazines at the library
  • check out parenting websites
  • access community programs for parents, including support groups
  • talk to a social worker

Being a young parent can be challenging, but remember that all parents have difficulties and make mistakes. Being young can have some advantages — you may have more energy and relate better to your child than a parent who is older.

If you need support, please call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.

Money challenges

Parenting is expensive. Babies need a lot of supplies and you need to cover your own expenses, too.

Here are some examples of things you’ll need to pay for:

  • food (including baby formula if your child isn’t breastfed or if breastfeeding stops before the baby turns one)
  • baby supplies (diapers, baby wipes, toiletries, creams, medications, etc.)
  • baby clothes
  • baby equipment (crib, bathtub, stroller, car seat, toys, etc.)
  • child care
  • rent and utilities, if you’re living on your own

You may be able to get free second-hand clothes and equipment from friends and family for your child. You can also find lower-priced items at garage sales, resale stores and thrift stores. Before you accept or buy baby items, keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Car seats should have an “expiry date” or “useful life date” on them. You shouldn’t use a car seat beyond this date, even if it looks OK. The safety issues may not be obvious (the plastic may have weakened, safety standards may have changed since the seat was made, etc.). Don’t use a car seat that’s missing instructions or labels with the expiry date, manufacturer’s name and model number. Never use a car seat that has damaged or missing parts, no matter what the expiry date is.
  • Sometimes, the government or a manufacturer “recalls” an item because it may be unsafe.
  • Baby walkers and bottles containing Bisphenol A (BPA) are unsafe and banned in Canada.

You can search for more safety information on strollers, baby carriers, cribs, toys and more baby products online.

For weekly expenses, creating and sticking to a budget will help you manage your money. You can search for budgeting tips, online calculators and financial planners online. If you need more financial help, there are assistance programs offered to young parents. For more information, contact Kids Help Phone or search Resources Around Me.

Social challenges

One of the hardest things about being a parent is that you’ll have much less time for yourself. You’ll have to plan and possibly save (to pay a babysitter) for every moment that you spend away from your child.

It’s still important to take care of yourself, so try to make time to do things just for you such as exercise, hobbies, seeing friends or spending time alone. You’ll be a better parent and a happier person if you make time for yourself.

You may find that your friends don’t understand what you’re going through. This can be frustrating and disappointing, and you may grow apart from them. You may even need to find new friends and activities that fit your role as a parent. Here are some things to consider:

  • many communities have parenting groups that offer free support, helpful information and the chance to meet other parents
  • some communities have centres or groups for teen parents
  • community centres often organize activities for kids and parents
  • playgrounds are free and you may qualify for free or low-cost daycare, depending on your income and where you live
  • some religious groups offer recreational programs and assistance to families

You’ll have to do a little research to find out where and when programs are available. Often, the best way to learn about programs is to ask other parents in your community. You can also ask your family doctor, a social worker or the public health department.

Emotional challenges

Parenting is a deeply emotional experience. It’s likely that no one else can make you feel as many different emotions as your child does.

Parenting is also incredibly demanding. It’s common to feel flustered, frustrated and helpless at times. There will be days when you’re exhausted and wish that someone could take care of you instead. Talking to other parents can provide relief and reassurance. You may want to join a support group in your community or online.

If some of your feelings are especially difficult to deal with, you may want to seek support from your doctor or a mental health professional (a counsellor, psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker). If you ever feel overwhelmed and unable to care for your child (even temporarily), talk to your doctor or contact child protection services. They will help you in any way they can.

It’s important that you take care of yourself and ensure that your child is safe. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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