Avoiding Shame And Stigmatization
Adolescents who are pregnant or parents face a host of negative stereotypes and labels. Whether overtly or subconsciously many people in our society immediately associate teen pregnancy or parenthood, with issues like: promiscuity, public dependence, poverty, and school-dropout. Surprisingly, these labels are often inadvertently perpetuated with well-meaning social advertising campaigns that focus on reaching teen moms with social services and welfare support.
To avoid feelings of shame, guilt or judgement a pregnant or parenting teen may isolate themselves, avoiding confrontation with individuals or settings that make them feel stigmatized. As a result, they may avoid medical care, appointments with social services, school or other peer events – effectively eliminating their critical and much-needed support system.
In addition to providing a safe, judgement-free, and nurturing environment – clinicians can act as an advocate and serve as a trusted adult in the adolescent’s support system. Here are some tips for clinicians to create a stigma-free clinical environment:
- Serve as an advocate: It’s essential that young parents have a support system and clinicians can play a powerful role in letting them know they are not alone.
- Change your language: Avoid using phrases like, “As a young mother/father…” or “As a teen mom…” Instead speak to them “As a new mother/father…” or “As a parent…”
- Offer recognition and praise: All adolescents need recognition for successful development, pregnant and parenting adolescents even more so. Recognize and praise “wins” – even seemingly small steps such as keeping a well-child visit or not missing school.
- Create a safe space to share: Group programs that bring adolescent parents together, have shown significant promise in improving outcomes for both the teen and their child. Being with other teens that have similar experiences provides a safe environment for sharing.
Refer a Teen Parent to a Case Management Program in Your Area
These programs provide wrap-around case management and additional support for pregnant and parenting teens, and their families, and are funded through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services