The challenges of being a teenage parent

By Faeza
12 August 2016

Teenage pregnancy is real. When you are pregnant at a young age you will probably experience a wide range of emotions, from being shocked, depressed and disappointed to constantly worrying about your future.


Being a parent at a very young age may really affect and destroy your future. According to a social worker at the Family Life Centre, Mushi Kolobe, “Young children who fall pregnant have serious challenges and they end up not being able to enjoy life like their peers.” She says because the life of a teen who is pregnant changes, things can never be the same any more. “You find that it disturbs you through your studies because you cannot just leave the baby alone once it is born,” she says.

“You have to make sure that the baby comes first and your education, which could be your key to a brighter future, comes second. You just cannot prioritise your time like you used to. Most importantly, your life will be affected in a negative way.” Mushi says that depression may hit hard on young parents. “They start to be depressed and some think it is the end for their lives. Some do very silly things and may feel like an abortion is the only way they can avoid complicated lives, without considering that even an abortion can complicate their lives too,” says Mushi.

Negative feedback from friends, family and society may leave a teenager who is pregnant feeling like a failure in life and lead to anxiety and stress. Some teenagers feel miserable because they weren’t expecting to be pregnant so soon and become disappointed in themselves. Relationship problems also surface around this time and the romantic relationship that the teens might have enjoyed changes into misery. All of this is unexpected and adds another layer of trauma.


According to Mushi who also started a Single Mothers Support Group, most teenagers get pregnant because of unemployment. “They often get pregnant because no one will support them financially so they say government will provide for them when they get pregnant, not knowing that this is when life becomes difficult,” she says, adding that poverty worsens the teen’s situation.

“Peer pressure pushes you to have a boyfriend that you think might provide for you and your child, which is not always a good thing to do,” Mushi warns. “The situation may at times be so bad that the teen may decide to hide the pregnancy due to the embarrassment they feel. Some get pregnant because they want to make their relationship strong, which is something that always ends up in bigger problems.”

Most girls have time to make a decision whether to continue to be pregnant or not. This can be a very difficult choice to make for someone with little life experience and no capacity to make lifechanging decisions. “Some of these girls come to our organisation for help because they know that motherhood is a very difficult thing to do. We always do our best to assist them but being a young mother can never be easy. There are no easy ways or short cuts around it,” Mushi says.


It is also important to bear in mind that this is not something that only affects young girls; the young boys who are suddenly fathers also get affected. “Both the girl and boy face difficult challenges even though the girl may be affected to a greater extent than the boy. Usually the girl can’t further her studies because she is supposed to look after her child,” she says. “Education will be put on hold when you are pregnant; some pregnant teens even decide to quit high school.

Others who already planned to attend college in the future may put off those plans after becoming pregnant. They may decide to focus on the baby or getting married rather than pursuing their education.” Mushi says a boy can be able to continue with school but the biggest challenge for him is to now know how to compromise. “If he has been brought up well and is responsible, he will stick around and assist where he can. Sadly most boys choose to completely forget that they are fathers,” she says.


Once the baby is born, teenagers often neglect their babies leaving their parents, older siblings or relatives to take care of the child. “These teen girls are often afraid of parenthood and would rather be with their friends and boyfriends,” she says. “A teen may not be a suitable mother because she is overwhelmed by the constant needs of the baby. She may grow annoyed by the fact that she lacks freedom to interact with other people her age.”


Is it advisable for teens to take contraceptives without their parents consent? It depends on the family. Pharmacies allow teens to come and buy contraceptives without any parental consent. This is not against the law. Mushi says teens should rather try to discuss sexual matters with an adult they trust or their parents or older siblings so that they can get good advice before they start engaging in sex.


FAMSA: 011 975 7106/7

Lifeline SA: 011 715 2000

or the South African

Depression and Anxiety Group: 0800 12 13 14