Adolescent parents – and their babies – face a host of challenges. They are at higher risk for school failure, physical and/or mental illness and poverty. In addition, medical complications are higher for both baby and mother – with youngest teens at most risk.
And at a time when they need support the most, adolescent pregnancy can cause stress between the teen and their families – with reactions such as anger, denial, and guilt. These reactions can cause adolescents to feel alone, increasing the concern of mental health related issues and at-risk behaviors.
Clinicians themselves can also have a difficult time separating personal values around teen parenting and sexual behaviors to provide supportive, impartial care. Avoiding giving adolescents the perception of blaming, judgement, or condescension is key in both successfully connecting with, and caring for, parenting adolescents.
Providers can play a critical role in supporting pregnant and parenting teens, teen fathers, and their extended families to ensure they receive the proper medical care, education, and emotional support they need.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) statement on Caring for Teenage Parents and Their Children provides evidence-based guidelines for clinicians:
The AAP recommendations for clinicians caring for adolescent parents include providing anticipatory guidance and intensive instruction on issues such as:
Use of community resources, support groups (in the office, clinic, or school setting), home visits, and the creative use of videos and the media are also recommended to support instruction and skill development on these topics. The AAP guidelines suggest the clinician can also serve as an advocate for the adolescent – providing praise for teens who successfully reach milestones (such as exhibiting healthy lifestyle or caregiving skills, or graduating high school) and by supporting the adolescent in navigating the school setting as a parent.
AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/107/2/429.full.pdf