What you need to know:
- Amidst the social stigma attached to children who become mothers, there is a lot that parents can do to assist their pregnant kids and teen moms get back on their feet and live normal and successful lives.
- Some teens fall into the trap of exploration, eagerness, and peer pressure
During the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, Kenya reported a surge in the number of schoolgirls who fell pregnant. According to the Kenya Health Information Management System data for the 2020 period, 11,795 teenage pregnancies were reported in Nairobi County between January and May 2020, 6,686 in Kakamega County, and 3,966 in Machakos County. In total, teenage pregnancies stood at 151, 433 between January and May 2020. These statistics echo data from the United Nations Population Fund report on child pregnancies in Kenya. The UN report showed that Kenya recorded 378,397 pregnancies in girls aged 10 and 19 between July 2016 and June 2017. Out of these, 28,932 pregnancies occurred in girls aged between 10 and 14 years, while those aged 15 to 19 years accounted for 349,465 pregnancy cases.
According to WHO, children of teen moms usually have lower birth weight, more childhood illnesses, higher infant mortality, and poor medical care compared to children born to older and mature mothers. Additionally, psychologist Lydiah Maina says daughters of teen mothers are also likely to become child moms.
Amidst the social stigma attached to children who become mothers, there is a lot that parents can do to assist their pregnant kids and teen moms get back on their feet and live normal and successful lives.
If the girl is below 18 years, you will need to know the circumstances under which she became pregnant. If she was made pregnant by an adult, there are legal steps that you can take to seek justice. Currently, the law is vague on cases where both the boy and girl involved in pregnancy are underage. “There are cases where the girl’s parents demand that the man responsible for the pregnancy marry the girl if he is over 18 years. Don’t go down this road,” cautions Lydiah. “Just because a young man is able to procreate doesn’t mean he can financially and emotionally support a home.” Instead, make plans about how your child will resume school after delivery. “When your child or teen falls pregnant, they will most likely have to drop out of school. Many young mothers who drop out of school never go back. This is the fate you must help your daughter to avoid,” says Lydiah.
Factors that contribute to teen and early pregnancies
- Broken home: Most teen mothers have volatile relationships with their mothers and virtually no relationships with their fathers. Be there for your child. This goes beyond them giving money or good clothes and includes spending quality time with them.
- Sexual assault: Some teens become moms after sexual assault. Others suffer long-lasting trauma which triggers emotional pain and hopelessness. This may trigger feelings of worthlessness leading to more reckless sexual acts.
- Curiosity: Some teens fall into the trap of exploration, eagerness, and peer pressure
Tips for teen mothers
Abstinence: Cease engaging in sex. This may require you to cut any relationship with the father of your child.
Parenting skills: Learn some parenting skills to avoid being overly dependent on other people. The skills you learn will give you a measure of competence when it comes to parenting, and you will know how to create a good balance between your child and other activities.
Education: Try to go back to school. A good education will give you the necessary credentials that will bring you a good life in the coming years. Start by doing research on the available options. For example, the government has a ‘Go-Back-to-School’ school policy for pregnant teenagers. Embrace it.
Gratitude: Learn to appreciate the help you get from your parents, relatives, and friends. Your simple acts of gratitude will go a long way in encouraging more support.
When your teen is having a child
- Talk about options: Do not impose your decisions about the pregnancy on her. Bear in mind that she may choose to raise the baby or even give it up for adoption. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each option and arrive at the best conclusion. You may consider consulting a trained, professional therapist for counseling to help her make informed and independent decisions.
- Find support: Confide in some trusted friends and relatives. Note that you also need emotional support.
- Get her resources: Importantly, get some emotional and financial resources for your daughter. This will help her cope with stigma from her peers and stress, as well as the challenges that come with being a teen, young mother.