Teen moms & extended family

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The facts

Teen moms often live with their parents or other family. This is not necessarily the right choice for everyone; it all depends on your current family situation and dynamics. Many people believe it’s impossible for 3 generations to live together comfortably in one house, but it CAN work. In fact, having extended family around can be beneficial for everyone. Young mothers have a support structure in place to help and guide them, grandparents can build a very close relationship with their grandchildren (and it keeps them young!), and the grandchildren themselves can benefit from having “extra arms to love them”, and learning to be considerate of other people. It’s only in very recent times that the nuclear family of mother, father and children living alone has been the norm – in generations past and indeed in many cultures today, extended family living together is the norm. It can be tricky to find the correct balance of privacy, compromise and support, but it is possible. Let’s talk about how to do it.

  • There is less money, less space and less privacy
  • Everybody’s life changes, not just the teen mom’s life
  • Sometimes there is tension between grandparents and teen moms
  • Fighting between the teen mom and her parents will affect the child
  • If you live with your parents or family – how do you get along? What would you like to change?

The mother’s role

  • You might be young, but you are still your child’s mother
  • Even though you might rely on your parents for a home and financial support, the responsibility for looking after your child, making decisions about his life, and disciplining him is still up to you
  • There is nothing wrong with accepting help: but you must make sure you do not take advantage of your parents: for example, using your mom to babysit so that you can go out all the time
  • You MUST make sure you are doing your part to make life easier for everyone
  • You must not let anybody try and “take over” raising your child: he must know that YOU are in charge, otherwise he will not respect your authority

The grandparents’ role

It can be hard for your parents to adjust to being grandparents, especially if it was unexpected. They may be worried that you cannot handle the responsibility, and that they will end up having to raise the child themselves. It’s up to you to make sure they know they don’t have to be worried about this. Most parents love their daughters and want to help her: so they might be offering advice or doing things for baby that you don’t want them to do – it might feel like they’re “taking over”. Realise that in most cases they are simply trying to help you. However, grandparents need to accept that YOU are the mommy, and that your decisions are final.
Grandparents can offer to help financially, or with a certain amount of babysitting, but they cannot be expected to raise this new baby themselves too. As we said, make sure you show them by your behaviour and decisions that you CAN be trusted to be a good parent.

Being a grandparent can be rewarding and special: YOU do the mommy work, and let granny be a granny.

Learning to get along

Sometimes the elders in the family assume they know best, and young moms must listen to them without question. This is not always true: all new moms are still learning, and you WILL make mistakes. Be willing to accept help or advice from your parents, but always make sure you do what YOU feel comfortable with. Sometimes older people want to raise children in an “old-fashioned” way that you might not agree with. This is often the case with outdated health related issues: for instance you might want to only give baby solid foods after 6 months, and your mom wants you to give him porridge at 3 months. It can be difficult to get older parents to adapt to “new” ways of parenting, but they can learn together with you. You need to be TACTFUL and respectful of your parents, but FIRM with them, if you disagree with something.

Communication!

The only way to get along is to TALK!
Have a family meeting, preferably while you are still pregnant,  to discuss what everyone’s roles are: talk about how much babysitting granny will be prepared to do, and when.

  • Discuss who will look after him when you are at school
  • Discuss who will do baby’s washing and cooking, who will get up at night to feed him
  • Discuss how you will share the other housework
  • Discuss how much your parents will contribute financially
  • Discuss if they will expect you to move out at some stage
  • Discuss who will deal with disciplining the child, and make sure you all agree on the rules

The Golden Rules

The key to living with your family is:

  • Compromise: everybody will have to make some sacrifices and consider other people
  • Communication: make sure you’re all talking about how you’re feeling, especially when you are unhappy about something
  • Acceptance: parents need to accept that their daughter is now a mother, and she is the one who has the final say in how things work. Teen moms – you need to accept that you are now a mother, and NOT expect your parents to raise your child for you
  • Appreciation: you need to show your parents appreciation for what they do for you. Parents need to encourage their daughters in their parenting, and NOT make them feel bad for being a teen mom

Last thing

How your family handles your situation depends on what kind of family you were before. If your family was abusive, dysfunctional or unhappy before – having a new baby in the house will make it even worse. If your family was strong and happy before – you will all be able to handle your new situation.

You need to be strong enough to:

  • Ask for help if you need it
  • Not take advantage of your parent’s help
  • Say NO to your parents if they want to do something you don’t agree with
  • Show your appreciation to your parents
  • Speak out about things that bother you
  • Accept that adults do not always know best: listen to their advice about parenting issues, but in the end YOU are in charge of your child

 

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