Supporting teen parents to talk more and talk differently
Teenagers who happen to be parents are an important group to engage with; risk factors cluster around them. For many it’s a real learning curve to put their children’s needs ahead of their own. What is key for adolescent parenting? Increasing parent competence, healthy decision making and baby bonding. At least 40% of teen parents will have mental health issues and 30% will have experienced their own trauma.
A couple of strategies stood out. No matter when a young parent turned up at a service they were always seen, never turned away. And the process of motivational interviewing, focusing on where the young parent wanted to head. A presentation by New Legacy Charter School, a new teen parent focused school in Colorado described several ideas for promoting conversations and talk between parents and their children:
Many of the young people were estranged from their families. The school created Family Circles where young parents could plan the traditions and rituals they wanted to establish in their own new family. That’s a very strengths-focused approach.
Parents created books about their children’s feelings as part of their learning about child development. They took photos of their babies when they were crying, angry, tired and excited. They wrote short explanations about those feelings and read the books to their babies. What a great way to grow the socio-emotional capability of those little ones -and to support the confidence of parents about writing and reading.
To encourage parents to put their cellphones down, they had “in-school currency” – basically monopoly money. Parents earned ‘money’ when they demonstrated core values like talking with their children, putting their phones down, choosing to interact and play rather than talking to each other. They could use their cash credits for buying privileges and treats at school.
Talking Matters has started to work with two teen parent organisations, to understand more about their experiences as parents and who we might help them talk more and talk differently to their children.