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Teen Pregnancy: Navigating Unprecedented Territory

The importance of resources and support for young parents-to-be

  Although teenage pregnancy is becoming less common, (according to the CDC) young parents across the United States suffer from elevated stress levels, financial strain and social stigma. The root of teenage pregnancy starts in the nuclear family, with education on topics like stress management, lifestyle choices and sex education. 

  “As a school district, we need to recognize that not all families are having these personal, sometimes uncomfortable conversations with their children. The information needs to be scaffolded, being shared and taught at age-appropriate levels,” Marjie Rich, Executive Director of Generations Ahead and former TCAPS Board Member, said. 

  Utilizing the framework of “scaffolding” within life-long education can equip teenagers with a thorough comprehension of societal norms and the consequences of impulsive actions.

  “You don’t want to just have a conversation that’s ‘one and done’ with the teenager, but you want to start with children who are young and talk about their bodies, and body parts, and what it means to have autonomy over their bodies. By teaching at a level that a child understands, you can start to build in ideas about body autonomy and consent and what that means and looks like,” Rich said.

  Generations Ahead is a small non-profit organization located at TC High School, helping young parents who have a baby in their teenage years. 

  “Thinking about the family in a very comprehensive, holistic way, we’re thinking about their health care, their mental health, their social-emotional health. What are their child’s health care and education needs? If they are toddlers do they need to get into a preschool program? What social services do they need? We work with many organizations in our community, making referrals and advocating for our clients,” Rich said.

  By adopting a holistic approach, Generations Ahead is able to foster short and long-term health. The experienced, welcoming staff assists young parents by addressing critical issues in healthcare, stress management, schooling and promoting a life without the social stigma associated with teenage pregnancy. Despite this, most teenage parents opt out of school due to the financial burden of looking after a family, as well as the isolation associated with being a young parent.

  “It is a lot harder to complete your high school education if you have a child, so a lot of our clients drop out. They try to finish via online schooling but we all know that’s challenging in itself. Your chance of having an income that can support your family is quite less. And in terms of health, a teen parent struggles with isolation because they don’t have a lot of peers living the same life,” Sarah Payette, the Program Director at Generations Ahead, said.

  However, Rich also notes some clients pursued college degrees at NMC, overcoming issues and stereotypical thoughts regarding teenage parenthood. 

  According to the National Library of Medicine, early child-bearing comes with highly elevated levels of suicide and substance abuse. The stress of caring for and providing necessities for someone other than yourself at such a young age can easily become too much. 

  “It’s hard for a teen parent to go into facilities to ask for help because of fear of judgment and sometimes that judgment is real. Even if it’s not considered a service, just community engagement is difficult. I have clients tell me that they get nervous. They see the judgment. They see them [people] look at them funny like ‘Is that really the parent?” Payette said.

  We [Generations Ahead] work closely with the obstetric department and closely with health care providers. If someone doesn’t have what’s called ‘a medical home’ then we will refer them to a family-care physician. Housing needs, getting their basic needs met, including utilities paid, and getting them into counseling if they need mental health services. We will work with them until they are 22. Some of our clients when they have a baby as a very young teen, 15 and 16 year olds, we can work with them for six to seven years until they reach 22,” Rich said. 

  For those who feel the stress, pressure and stigma and don’t have family and societal support, gateway drugs like alcohol, nicotine and marijuana are commonly abused to relieve these burdens. These gateway drugs can lead to more serious addictions with cocaine, fentanyl and alcohol. 

  “[Drugs] can just lead to a lot of other problems. Like addiction, emotional and physical abuse, it’s just a lot of self-harm. Take steps toward it to overcome it and build resilience. And that will help the issues of alcoholism, and just in general alcohol and substance abuse,” Payette said. 

  Even for teenagers juggling school, sports and everyday struggles, managing stress levels and ensuring a healthy lifestyle is a valuable and admirable life skill.

  “One of the newest and most concerning trends is the sky-rocketing level of mental health issues that young people face today. If you don’t have that one person that you trust, then life feels pretty hopeless. That can be hard to find when you’re feeling at the end of your rope. People genuinely want to help those who are struggling, so to find that person in your life is critical,” Rich said.


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About the Contributors
Brody Weston
Brody Weston, Business Manager
Brody Weston is a sophomore in his first year of newspaper. He took the class to be able to express his ideas in his school community. Brody is currently a reporter working on stories for the school newspaper and website. Outside of academics, he enjoys reading and exploring the outdoors with his dog, Nova.
Ashlyn Cummings
Ashlyn Cummings, Business Manager
Ashlyn Cummings is a sophomore in her first year of newspaper. She chose the class to expand her writing abilities and try something new. Ashlyn is currently a reporter in the newspaper. Outside of school, she enjoys playing softball, spending time with friends and family, and hunting.

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