10.07.2021

It Takes a Village: Creating an Inviting Environment for Teen Parents

Teen Parents Empower Generations

In traditional societies, children were raised in a whole-village approach. Immediate and extended family, other mothers, kindly neighbors, and older children willingly helped new families adjust to the daily demands of childrearing and life. Anthropological studies suggest that this approach to parenting fostered healthy recovery for new mothers, healthy attachment to multiple caregivers in infants and toddlers, and a healthy, productive society. Through the 20th century, as industrialism became the norm, couples moved away from their families, and women entered the workforce, this model has shifted. In modern America, women and families more and more are expected to carry the heavy burden of parenthood alone. Women are praised for being out and about right after birth and expected to be super moms, juggling housework, babycare, work, older siblings, socializing, and self-care. Women are also expected to return to work shortly after birth (the norm in America is 6-8 weeks). Men also carry a heavier burden. A shifted perception in a man’s role in childrearing has resulted in a more equitable responsibility in child rearing; however, men are also expected to return to work (sometimes without taking any paternity leave at all), participate in grocery shopping, sibling care, newborn care, and caring for a new mother. Without immediate family or a network of friends nearby, it’s clear that we are setting parents up for anxiety, stress, depression, and isolation.

When we add the factor of being a teen with an unplanned pregnancy into this equation, the outcome looks even more bleak. Teens are at the highest risk for poor maternal and infant outcomes (premature birth, maternal and infant mortality, poor breastfeeding rates, etc), need for government assistance, and dropout of school. Less than half of teen mothers finish high school, and of those that do, less than 3% finish a post-secondary degree. Teen parents report feeling isolated, depressed, anxious, and overwhelmed. While there are many excellent government and non-profit organizations designed to support teen parents, these organizations are often fragmented in services. One of the largest gaps in services is education. While there are independent study programs and comprehensive high schools that offer some options, teens report feeling under served or judged by such programs and often drop out.

Empower Generations is changing this. By providing a safe, non-judgemental educational program for teen parents, we are bringing back the “Village” needed to support teens on their journey to success. There are several ways we are creating a village for our learners.

Advisory. This twice weekly group meeting provides a network of peer support and learning for teens. Facilitated by expert mentors, advisory covers a wide range of topics to support “just in time” learning, from health, parenting, academics, social skills, and post-high school planning.

Mentorship. Our learners will have the option for a mentorship with a former teen mother/father who have wisdom, resources, and guidance to offer our young parents. Learners will be matched from a pool of volunteer mentors willing to spend a few hours per month with our program.

Internship. Our learners will also participate in internships in the community. Working with local businesses, learners will prepare for, participate in, and reflect on an internship each year. This allows our learners to explore career paths of interest, practice real-world skills like communication, punctuality, initiative, and innovation, and give back to the community.

Safe Environment. Empower Generations also creates a village of support in the learning center. Trained volunteers help out with working with infants and toddlers while learners work. Trained professionals volunteer their time to come teach important workshops like babywearing, car seat safety, parenting skills, yoga, college and career planning, literacy and math support, gardening, and stem related topics. Our learning environment provides a fun, safe, and inviting place for teen parents to gather, bond, and learn and our 2nd generation (babies and toddlers) to experience healthy social connections and rich learning experiences.

All of our guides, volunteers, and staff are trained in creating a solution-focused non-judgemental, and safe space for our learners to come.

Our learners are motivated and ready to continue their education and be the best parents they can be. They face the same challenges that many modern parents face and more. They struggle with financial stability, living situations, emotional readiness, lack of support, judgment, and the need to finish their high school education. Empower Generations creates a village of support so that our learners may find their own confidence in reaching their goals.
Interested in learning more? Contact us about joining the village as a learner or a volunteer.

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