Becoming a parent at a young age may not have been in your plans, but if you are raising a child there are some things that you can do to make your life easier.
The most important thing you can do is get support. Look for backup from your friends, family and your child's other parent. If any of them are unavailable to help you, your job will be harder but you can still do it.
There will be days when you are tired and wish someone could take care of you. There will be other times when you'll want to be free to do whatever you like, without having the responsibility of taking care of a child. Parenting will probably be one of the most difficult things that you will do, but it will also be the most important -- and it can be fun, rewarding and deeply satisfying.
Parenting will affect all aspects of your life and can create:
Remember you can always call Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868) if you need someone to talk to.
Parenting is expensive. You will have to pay for things that you've probably never even thought about before! In addition to your regular expenses, you will need to find a reliable source of income to cover the cost of:
- Food (may include baby formula if you aren't breastfeeding or stop breastfeeding before 12 months)
- Baby supplies (like baby wipes, diapers, shampoos, creams and medications)
- Baby clothes
- Baby equipment (including a crib, a stroller, a car seat, toys and more)
- Child care
You can often get great second hand baby clothes and equipment at reduced rates (or free) from friends, garage sales and resale stores. Creating and sticking to a budget will help you keep on top of your expenses. If you need extra financial help there are a variety of assistance programs offered to young parents. They include credit counseling, day-care assistance and other support services from government and private sources. For more information you can contact your area office of Community and Social Services.
One of the hardest things about being a parent is that you will have less time for yourself. All of a sudden you will have to plan and possibly save (to pay a babysitter) for every moment that you spend away from your child. Although it may sometimes seem impossible, you need to make time to do things just for you like:
- Hanging out with friends
- Spending time alone
You will be a better parent and a happier person if you make time for yourself.
You might find that your old friends may not understand what you are going through and this can be frustrating and disappointing. Sometimes you will grow apart from them. You might even need to find new friends and activities that fit into your new lifestyle.
- Many communities offer local parenting groups that can give you free support, helpful information and the chance to meet other parents.
- Community centres often provide organized activities for tots, kids and parents.
- Playgrounds, baby-sitting pools and day-care centres may be available to you at a low cost or for free.
- Some religious groups also offer recreational programs and assistance to families.
You will have to do a little research to find out where and when programs are available. Often the best place to learn about great programs is to ask another parent. If you feel comfortable doing so, approach other parents at the park or in your community. Or check with your family doctor, public health department or the yellow pages under "parenting", "day care", "family support" or "community centre".
Parenting is a deeply emotional experience. There is probably no one who can make you feel as many different emotions as your child does.
Parenting is demanding. It's normal to feel flustered and helpless at times. Talking to other young parents can be relieving and reassuring. You may want to join a support group in your community or on the Internet. Just recognizing how challenging life can be for ALL parents can make you a better parent.
If you are finding some of your feelings particularly difficult to deal with you may want to get support from a mental health professional (a counsellor, psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker). There are many groups and organizations whose main purpose is to help parents. To find a mental health professional ask your family doctor, talk to someone you know who is receiving support or look in your yellow pages under "Mental Health", "Health", "Psychotherapy", "Counseling", or "Therapy".
If you ever feel overwhelmed and unable to care for your child (even temporarily), talk to your doctor or contact a Child Protection Service in your area. They will help you any way they can. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
All parents have to learn new skills - from diapering to discipline. If you are living on your own for the first time you may also have to learn skills like home maintenance, cooking and budgeting time and money.
Sometimes just having more information can make you feel reassured. The more you know about being a parent, the less likely you will be overcome with feelings of inadequacy. There are lots of places to get useful parenting advice:
Learning about parenting can help you become the best parent you can be. But don't expect to know everything and to get things right all the time. You learn to be a good parent by making mistakes.
Being a young parent can be challenging, but remember that all parents have difficulties and being young can have its advantages - you may have more energy and be able to relate to your child better than parents who are older. Either way, the bond between a parent and a child is unique and special and unlike any other relationship you will ever have. Enjoy it.
Last checked: March 2010