To support young parents and expectant youth as a professional, it’s important to listen and understand. Expectant and parenting youth are often pulled in multiple directions, balancing school, work and home lives with becoming a new parent, but access to helpful resources and information along with positive relationships with trusted adults can help them thrive.
Trusted adults can foster that positive relationship and provide access to resources and information that will help them on their parenthood journey.
Common Challenges for Expectant and Parenting Youth
Like anyone else, expectant and parenting youth want to feel seen and heard. Understanding some common challenges can open the door to the encouragement and resources they need to overcome these challenges and any others they may be facing.
Staying in school
Parenthood and pregnancy are two of the leading reasons for high school students leaving school. Rigid school policies can make it difficult to take absences or make up work they’ve missed from prenatal care or caring for a child.
Preparing for a child and parenting comes with a lot of costs that most young people are not equipped to handle, especially without help from parents or family. And on top of that, quality childcare can be difficult to access and afford, making it even harder to continue an education or maintain a steady job.
Navigating societal stigmas and mental health
The shame and stigmas surrounding teenage pregnancy and young parents is still very much alive in modern society. This tension and isolation make expectant and parenting youth more susceptible to depression, including postpartum depression, and other mental health concerns.
You can support both expectant and parenting youth by identifying and showing them how to access youth-friendly and high-quality medical, social, educational, financial, and other services they need to be physically and emotionally healthy.
Guidelines for Working with Young Parents and Expectant Youth
When working with expectant and parenting youth, it’s important to try and be supportive and affirming in all of your interactions. Listen to what they are saying and do your best to encourage and support them in their goals without judgment.
Parenting is not easy, and it can be a difficult transition for anyone, age aside. If you want to support young parents or expectant youth, it’s important to respect their decisions and assume that they’re parenting in the best way they know how. Encouragement and gentle guidance works best in most situations.
In your time together, follow their lead. Ask them what they want and need, ask if they’d like your advice before offering it unsolicited, and support them with problem solving if they ask you for help.
Encourage goals for the future
Everyone in a challenging situation needs encouragement—someone to believe in their abilities and dreams. You could be that for the youth you work with. Highlight their strengths and celebrate successes with them. Encourage them to look to the future, whatever that may look like, and offer information or resources about the dreams that they share with you.
Don’t make assumptions
There are many assumptions that add to the societal stigma of expectant and parenting youth, from their relationship status to the circumstances of their pregnancy. These youth need trusted adults to be as welcoming and inclusive as possible with all of the young people they interact with.
Supporting Expectant and Parenting Youth Trainings
While understanding challenges and following general guidelines for working with expectant and parenting youth will be beneficial in the work of trusted adults, there is room to take that knowledge a step further. Through the Pregnancy Assistance Fund in partnership with the Mississippi State Department of Health, Teen Health Mississippi created a five-part training series on working with and supporting expectant and parenting youth.
Trainings in the series include:
- An Introduction to Working with Expectant and Parenting Youth
- Building Trusting Relationships with Expectant and Parenting Youth
- Taking a Trauma-Informed Approach When Serving Expectant and Parenting Youth
- Understanding Confidentiality & Consent when Serving Expectant and Parenting Youth
- Identifying Needs and Connecting Expectant and Parenting Youth to Resources
Through the training series, you’ll learn about aspects of working with expectant and parenting youth, including the unique opportunities and challenges, how to build trusting relationships, taking a trauma-informed approach, understanding confidentiality and consent, identifying their needs, and connecting them to available resources.
Additional Pregnancy Assistance Fund Resources
The Pregnancy Assistance Fund created resource guides for regions across the state of Mississippi that are packed with information and available resources for expectant and parenting youth. They’re designed to help service providers and youth themselves identify medical, social, educational, and social resources available in their communities and counties.
With the proper training and resources, you can better support the young parents and expectant youth that you serve.