University of Illinois Extension

Mentoring Your Teen Parent

Cheryl Geitner, Youth and Family Educator

Parenting a teen parent can be like riding up and down on a roller coaster. Not only must a pregnant teen change her role to motherhood, but also new relationships form with her own parents and boyfriend or spouse. And, she must redefine her own identity, especially among her peer groups. That's quite a bit going on at the same time.

Although it can be a challenging time, there are some positive things you can do to make the best of the situation.

Your granddaughter may rely on you for information - especially if few of her friends have become pregnant, if school dropout narrows her circle of friends, and if she does not receive much information about pregnancy from doctors and other health professionals.

During this time, your role may need to be that of counselor or mentor. But the warmth, affection, and positive communication of a counselor or mentor must be balanced with the teen's need to be independent and in-charge.

In the Handbook of Parenting, Burton (1990, 1992) identified different configurations of support and caregiving in three-generation families. Burton found that grandmothers who act as role models for their granddaughters and help train them for eventual self-sufficiency have granddaughters with the most positive parenting styles. Grandparents who give primary care to the grandchild may prevent a young mother from taking the lead in parenting role. Grandmothers who play an important, but not primary, role help the young mother become an independent young parent.

Obviously, having a teen parent in your home is a life transition that can be viewed positively or negatively. You can set a positive tone by creating an atmosphere for mentoring and teaching your granddaughter how to become a parent. It takes time, requires respect, and can be looked at as an opportunity for growing together during this transitional period.

Source: Brooks-Gunn, J, and Chase-Landsdale, L., Handbook of Parenting, Status and Social Conditions of Parenting, Teenage Parenting, 1995.