by Susan Stagg
Most of my clients are teenage girls. They arrive at the pregnancy centre with their mother, with an expression of boredom and an air of insecurity. I typically talk to both of them together briefly to introduce myself and hear the reason for their visit, and then have a brief visit with the girl alone. The initial appointment is about making connections.
Straddling the fence between childhood and adulthood is intimidating. We all go through this phase at some point, so you’d think those of us that went through it in years (decades?) past would have some words of wisdom. And we do, but this particular phase of life seems to be one that we all need to figure out for ourselves.
When a teenager discovers they are pregnant, they are launched unceremoniously off the fence they’ve been straddling and find themselves lying on the cold, hard ground of adulthood, and much of the time the adults they encounter aren’t ready to accept them as adults.
Pregnant teens have unique challenges that adults don’t. They usually haven’t completed their education, started on a career path, or moved into their own place. They often don’t have family support. They are frequently too young to qualify for the Child Tax Credit, low income housing, or income assistance. At a time when their peers are going out with friends every weekend and making plans for grad, these girls are feeling isolated and abandoned.
I’ve had clients tell me about complete strangers sharing uninvited horror stories, rude comments about her pregnancy, and judgments about her as a person.
If today’s youth are our future, why would we do anything to hold them back from being the very best young adult they can be? If they’ve already made choices that led to a pregnancy, the best response from the adults in their community would be to embrace them, come alongside and support them, and be a positive influence in their lives. If this is our future, the best way for us to have any influence is to deliberately tie strings of fellowship between the next generations and ourselves.
So the next time you see a pregnant teen, look her in the eye and smile. Ask her about her pregnancy. Treat her like the priceless human being she is, deserving of respect. Welcome her with your kindness into adulthood. Your warmth just might change a life.
~ Susan Stagg is the Executive Director of Peace Pregnancy Support Centre in Dawson Creek, BC.