Being a teenage parent
What matters most to children is what their parents do, not what age their parents are. When parents raise their children in reliable, loving, nurturing, warm, sensitive, responsive and flexible ways, children grow and develop well.
All parents navigate challenges as their children grow and develop. Many of these challenges are the same for teenage parents and older parents.
But if you’re a teenage parent, you might have to navigate extra challenges, like trying to finish school while looking after a baby. You might also feel judged for being a teenage parent or overwhelmed by the responsibility of raising a child.
With support from family, friends, school and community services, you can navigate these challenges and help your children thrive by:
- working on your relationship with your child
- working on healthy relationships with other people in your life
- asking for and accepting practical, emotional and financial help
- trying to finish your education
- looking after yourself.
All pregnant women need proper and timely antenatal care. But if you’re pregnant and aged under 19 years, you need extra care in pregnancy and during parenting. You have special health concerns because your own body is still growing and developing. Pregnancy can also be a very emotional time for you. Read more about teenage pregnancy.
Your relationship with your child as a teenage parent
The relationship you build with your child from birth and in early childhood is the foundation of your child’s health and development. A strong relationship with you helps your child feel safe and secure and gives your child confidence to learn and explore. A strong relationship also helps you understand and respond to your child’s needs.
Here are ways to build a strong relationship:
- Bond with your baby. You can do this through cuddles, eye contact, smiles and play.
- Learn about baby behaviour and child development. This can help you understand what to expect as your child grows and develops.
- Get to know your baby’s cues and body language. This can help you understand how your baby is feeling and what they need.
- Talk with your child – it’s never too early to talk, and the more talk, the better.
- Play with your child – play is a great relationship builder. It’s also the main way that children learn and develop in the early years.
As a parent, you’re always learning. It’s OK to feel confident about what you know. And it’s also OK to admit you don’t know something and ask questions or get help. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the demands of caring for your child, call your state or territory parenting helpline. You might also like to try our ideas for managing anger, anxiety and stress.
Healthy relationships with others as a teenage parent
Relationships during your teenage years are often full of emotional ups and downs. And if you have a baby or young child, it can put extra pressure on relationships. For example, less sleep and less time with a partner can lead to disagreements and conflict.
Strong and healthy relationships are good for you. They’re good for your child’s development as well. For example, if your child sees kind and respectful relationships around them, your child learns to be kind and respectful with others.
So it’s worth working on your relationships with others when you’re a teenage parent. Here are ideas:
- Work on positive communication with your partner if you have one. Positive communication is about listening, talking and problem-solving.
- If you have differences of opinion or disagreements, work together on conflict management.
- Make time to stay connected with old friends and make new friends – planning ahead and being flexible can help.
- Join a playgroup. Playgroups are great for your child’s learning and development, and they can be a great way to meet parents like yourself. You could look for a playgroup for teenage parents.
- Contact your local community centre or council to find out about support groups for young parents. These sorts of groups can provide emotional support as well as information on child development and health care.
If there are problems in your relationships, including family violence, you can get support by calling the National Domestic Family and Sexual Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732). You can also call Relationships Australia in your state or territory on 1300 364 277 or Lifeline on 131 114.
Finishing your education as a teenage parent
Finishing school, TAFE or university is one of the most important things you can do, for yourself and for your child.
If you finish your education, you have a better chance of getting a job later on and being able to support your family. Studying can also help you stay connected with friends, build and maintain your support network and be involved in your community.
In Australia, if you’re pregnant or have a baby while you’re still at school, TAFE or university, you have the right to continue and finish your education. And with planning and support, you can do it. It’s a good idea to talk to a social worker, a counsellor or your antenatal team to find out about your options.
Education support options might include:
- flexible hours or modified timetables
- reduced study load or part-time study
- classroom support staff or guidance officers
- home or online study
- supervised home visits from teachers
- an alternative pathway to higher education.
If you’re at school and these options aren’t available, you could look into other schools that are good at supporting new parents. Or you could consider completing Year 12 at TAFE or a similar institution.
You could also look at options for balancing family and study. For example, you could look into different child care options. Or you might be able to study at night while your partner, a trusted friend or a relative cares for your child.
If you feel that you’re being discriminated against by students or staff, it’s important to talk to your school, TAFE or university about the issue. You might want someone you trust to help you do this, like your parent or carer, a youth support worker or a social worker. If you can’t resolve the issue, you can get help from your state or territory anti-discrimination agency.
Practical help for teenage parents
There are many practical things to learn when you have a baby. These include how to:
- feed your baby
- change a nappy
- bath your baby
- settle your baby for sleep
- know when your baby is sick
- start your baby on solids.
Money might be an issue for you as a teenage parent. It’s worth looking into government parenting payments, which can help you with the costs of raising children.
One way to ease practical and financial pressure is to think about whether you can stay with your parents, carers or kinship networks while your child is young. This might help you deal with the pressures of caring for your child or coping financially. Your parents, carers or kin might also be able to give you some backup when you need it or share tips.
Looking after yourself
You’re the most important part of your child’s life.
When you’re focusing on looking after your baby or young child, you might forget or run out of time to look after yourself. But looking after yourself physically, mentally and emotionally will help your child grow and thrive.
Your emotional and mental health is very important too. You could see whether your GP, child and family health nurse or local council can put you in touch with a counselling service. Counselling can help parents with personal issues as well as issues associated with being a parent at a young age.
What you eat, drink, smoke or vape is passed through your breastmilk to your baby and can affect your baby’s health and development. So if you’re breastfeeding it’s best not to drink alcohol, smoke, vape or use drugs, including marijuana. It’s also important to protect your baby from second-hand and third-hand smoke.