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Stereotypes aren't always true
Member Name: shoequeenrach
Advantages: Teenagers can make great parents too
Disadvantages: Can miss out on being 'young'
Teenage pregnancy is a topic that I am extremely interested in and focused on a lot in assignments during my time at university. Sex education in general is something that I feel is an extremely important and very much neglected area of education provided in schools.
I haven't personally experienced teenage pregnancy myself, I am 22 and can honstly say I have never been pregnant. However, two of my cousins both became mums at the age of 17 and I have several friends who became parents at a young age and I cannot fault their parenting ability or the way they care for their children in any way.
I feel that the stereotypical image of teenage parents that has been wrongly portrayed by the media is inexcusable and extremely judgemental; but sadly, newspapers don't sell if they are filled with boring, yet good news, if they can't critise someone then it is most definitely seen as a bad day in the media world.
Unfortunately, these stereotypes have to come from somewhere and from time to time you do unfortunately see, hear and read about young parents who appear to have very little interest in their children and spend their income on cigarettes and alcohol and generally on anything other than their children. Thankfully, I am pleased to say that this isn't something that I come across often and the teenage parents that I know are just as able to care and provide for their children as older parents could. Some of my close friends became parents at a young age and yet they carried on with their education and following this got a job so that they could give their child the best start in life and be a good role model for them.
I'm not fully convinced that schools can't be blamed in some part, for the high rates of teenage pregnancy in this country. Secondary schools inparticular. When i was at secondary school we had one session where we had to put a condom on a banana and that was our sex education pretty much in a nutshell. I very much believe that young people need to have all the information to enable them to make educated, informed decisions when it comes to deciding whether or not to enter into a sexual relationship. Sex education should provide both the health risks of having sex and also the benefits, they should understand that it is not all doom and gloom, but that you have to be sensible and responsible to be able to enjoy sex safely. Above all a huge part of sex education should be myth busting: Yes, you can get pregnant when you have sex for the first time. Yes, you can get pregnant if you are on your period. Yes, you can get pregnant if your boyfriend pulls out before he ejaculates and so on.
Schools are also a breeding ground for peer pressure and when you think that everyone is having sex, it only puts pressure on those that haven't done it to go out and do it so that they can fit in and be like everyone else, even though it is highly unlikely that that everyone has done it.
I also believe that if the unthinkable happens, and a teenager does find themselves pregnant, that the school and also the family health team (midwife, health visitor, school nurse etc) should be on hand to offer support when needed. I know that during my teens I was very much still learning how to look after myself, being faced with the prospect of having to care for someone else, especially a baby whose whole existance depends on my ability to care for him/her and meet their needs would have resulted in me having a bit of a break down I think, so I greatly admire anyone who has been able to do this. I think that services such as sure start are fantastic at being able to provide not just young parents, but parents of any age with support and they also offer teaching sessions on parenting skills and meeting the basic needs of your baby aswell as providing breastfeeding support. Places like sure start are also great places to meet other parents in the same situation, and I really do think that health visitors should recommend the use of this service to every new mum, young or old and best of all, it's FREE!
By providing young people with the appropriate education, there is no reason for them not to be able to care for their children effectively.
Obvious downsides to becoming a teenage parent however, in my opinion must be that continuing with education is more difficult as you have so much more to think about than just essay deadlines and exams and it must be easy to miss out on some of the experiences enjoyed by young, care free individuals such as girly (or boys) holidays, nights out and spontaneous plans with friends.
I just wanted to share my opinon that the stereotype isn't always true and that there are young parents out there doing just as good a job, if not better at raising their children than older parents. I don't necessarily agree with teenage pregnancy as I think it is important to experience life to the full before taking on such a huge responsibility. Having said this however, I'm sure that most teenage parents do not plan to become parents so young (my friends didn't anyway). I am extremely proud of my cousins and friends that became parents at a young age, they have coped amazingly with such a huge change in their life and are all raising beautiful, polite and clever children that any parent would be proud of. However, they have all had a great support sysem in place and have had family and friends available to help, which I think is essential for any new parents!
Summary: Teenagers can make great parents too!!