These stories have been written by teen parents involved in the Thrive project in Auckland. Thank you to everyone for sharing their thoughts with the SKIP community.
Six positive ways to work alongside young parents
I know it’s not always easy working with people/parents, and trying to figure out how to help them out. So here are 6 suggestions of ways you can work alongside them. I hope they are helpful.
1. Treat them like responsible people, not children. This is the most important way to start a positive relationship. Try to make suggestions, give them useful information and don’t tell them what to do. Give them respect. Most of the time, you will get it back. Praise them for the good work they are doing. Everyone loves being praised for the things they are doing right and to know they are appreciated.
2. Explain to them what your role is, and what you can help them with and what you can’t. If you have some information available on where to find the help they need, point it out and let them do the rest.
3. Be positive. Try and make every catch-up you have as positive as you can. Look for their strengths and help the young parents apply them in each situation. And most of all, use positive language. Keep in mind that good can always come out of a negative situation.
4. Ask them what they want or need help with. Listen to what they have to say.
5. Make them feel welcome — like you want to help them and like it’s not just your job to, but you are genuinely interested in their needs.
6. Give them some time and space. Please don’t expect them to tell you everything straight away. It takes time to build trust and a relationship, so try not to pressure them into telling you anything they are not ready to.
Good luck, and I hope these 6 positive steps help you to get closer with the young parents you are working with.
How to support a young parent in 5 easy steps
Step 1: Respect me
Sometimes I may seem like I don’t know what I am doing. I may be quiet and shy and I will make mistakes as I go because I am still learning, but as a parent, I am capable and strong.
Try to remember that this is my family and though I may need help at times, I will raise them my way. Please respect that.
Step 2: Inform me
Instead of deciding what you want me to do, give me all the information I need to help me make the right choice for myself and my family.
Give me the chance to show my potential as the terrific parent I really am.
Step 3: Encourage me
Let me know every now and then what a great job I am doing. It’s nice to know all my hard work isn’t going unnoticed.
Parenting opens more windows than it closes doors, so help me see clearly the amazing opportunities that are waiting.
Keep me on the track, but let me find my own path.
Step 4: Believe in me
Have faith in me and let it show with confidence. Encourage me to do my best but do not push me into the corner. Let me breathe and grow at my own pace.
Step 5: SMILE!
Smile when you see me.
Work with me.
Look at me and know that although I am young and my pregnancy may or may not have been planned, I am a parent now and I am loving it. My life has only just begun, so help make this a journey to remember, not to regret.
Being a father
Joshua Te Rore
Kia ora koutou katoa, hello everybody.
I am a young father of a girl named Fay, and my partner’s name is Cassandra. We have been together for just over 4 years and we both regard parenting our daughter as the most important thing in our lives.
Being a father is the most rewarding experience of my life, and I hope all aspiring young fathers find the process as encouraging as I did.
In general, most organisations my partner and I worked with during her pregnancy were very supportive. Some, on the other hand, could have been more.
We had a Plunket nurse give us advice on sleeping and feeding routines for our daughter. The advice she gave was so helpful to us. It meant a couple of hours more sleep that we both desperately needed. She told us to feed on demand — that way baby won’t cry before she’s fed and settling her will be easier and less time consuming; definitely great advice for us.
The only issue I ran into while becoming a father was that I felt ignored with anything to do with maternity, and that no one valued my input or the way I felt about certain issues.
For example, at the place of birth we chose for our daughter, the midwife asked my partner and I if we minded that an intern doctor (male) be present during my daughter’s birth, for training purposes.
Although I was aware of this fact I still found it uncomfortable to have him present, and when I told the charge midwife how I felt, she told me that it was not my decision to make. At the time I felt offended and undermined. In the end, the trainee doctor stayed and witnessed the birth, and it was still one of the most highlighted experiences of my life.
Building the confidence and understanding of young parents today through encouragement, support and respect is essential if we want to see them and their families flourish in our world. For me, with all the help out there, I’m eager to go into life proud-as to be a dad.
Young parents and health professionals
As a young parent working within the health industry I often draw on my own experiences when supporting young parents. Sitting on the fence with a clear view of each side, it is easy to see the intentions of the health professional and the expectations of the young parent.
From my experiences I have come up with 3 points that I believe young parents look for when dealing with health professionals and service providers.
The overarching message is K.I.S.S. — Keep It Short and Simple.
Young parents respond to positive communication. We like reaffirming statements that empower us to problem solve, as opposed to telling us exactly what we are doing wrong and how you think we should fix the problem.
Communicating with young parents could be easier if professionals didn’t assume all young parents are uneducated or have no clue about how to raise a child.
Instead, they should try to build a supportive relationship through communicating in an encouraging way. That will build trust and help the development of mutual understanding between the service providers’ role, and the needs and wants of each young parent.
For example, a young parent may ask, ‘How am I going to cope at home with a newborn baby?’ The professional could answer, ‘Would you like to talk about some possible situations? Then we could talk about some solutions that are comfortable to you, and you could choose to use these at home.’ This communicates to the young parent that you are there to encourage and support their decisions.
The number one mistake people usually make is to assume that young parents are incapable of raising a child.
For this reason, it can be difficult for a young parent to talk about questions or concerns about something they do not know or understand. We as young parents experience an anxious feeling that we will be humiliated and treated like a child.
It takes a significant amount of courage for a young parent to put their hand up and admit they need help. If you are a service provider that a young parent has come to for help, it should be regarded as a significant deal.
Someone once told me that there is a difference between a teacher and a facilitator. A teacher stands at the front of a classroom and tells everyone what to do and how to do it. A facilitator stands beside you and supports you when you need guidance, and encourages you to figure out a way that is comfortable for you.
I believe that when a young parent asks for help, we are really asking for you to facilitate us through the many different parenting stages to find a path or style that suits our values and beliefs.
There may be times when a young parent is overwhelmed with their responsibilities, but even in these cases it would be more helpful to facilitate than to push us into something. This can be done by getting to know the parent and encouraging the use of their many skills or their knowledge, and helping them to recognise the new skills they are learning.
If a young parent is unsure about how they will cope with being at home with a newborn, you could draw pictures of situations that might happen and then ask them what they would do in each situation.
Answer their questions with something like, ‘I think carrying a water bottle in your nappy bag for you to sip on is awesome. You will be able to stay hydrated and this will help you to continue to produce milk for your baby.’
In this answer you are positive and encouraging. You have also provided some education in a simple and easy-to-understand form, and the answer is said in a way that you respected the young parent’s discovery of a solution to their own problem.
This leads nicely onto my last and definitely most important point. It is exactly like how Aretha Franklin sings it: ‘R.E.S.P.E.C.T., find out what it means to me...’
Young parents appreciate all professionals who are helpful. We respect all the knowledge you must have learnt to be in your position. We like to be treated with the same respect. This can be shown in the smallest of ways. It is in the way that you respond to us.
We like to have the power to make decisions that affect our lives. Here is an example of how a service provider respected a young parent.
When a friend of mine went to her GP, she was very anxious. The doctor took his time and asked my friend about her children, how she was feeling, and really listened without jumping in with ideas or comments, just sat there looking at her and letting my friend talk. Then he asked a few questions about how he could help her. She left the doctor’s office feeling much better, as most of what she needed was someone who could hear about her concerns and what she was going through, without judgements or lectures.