Your baby’s safety is your top priority.
Teenage mothers must think of their babies with almost every choice they make. The baby’s health and safety must be her top priority, and the list of precautions is long. Leaving the baby with an acquaintance whom she knows only casually is unacceptable—only long-time friends and family who have proved themselves to be reliable and safe should be trusted to babysit. Teenage mothers must not smoke or use drugs or alcohol around the baby—the effects could be deadly. She should bring her baby to all physical check-ups and follow her doctor’s advice.
Mothering can be stressful—call a friend or a parenting hotline.
Parenting isn’t always fun. Sometimes children cry and act in ways we don’t like. Teenage moms must learn skills for coping with the frustration that these moments bring. Taking a deep breath and counting to 10, taking the baby or child for a walk in the stroller, turning on soothing music or calling a trusted friend or a parenting hotline are all acceptable ways of dealing with a child whose behavior pushes us to the limit. Hitting, shaking or otherwise abusing a child is never okay.
Teach children to make good choices.
Teen mothers can teach toddlers and preschool-age children to make choices—it empowers young children to discover the consequences of their actions, and it minimizes power struggles between mother and child. For example, when a small child shows signs of throwing a tantrum in a store or public place, give the child a choice: stop fussing and visit a favorite part of the store or stop at the park to play on the way home, or continue the bad behavior and take a time-out in the store or go straight home for a nap. Mothers must be willing to modify their plans to take care of a tired or fussy child and take advantage of these teachable moments.
Use eye contact to strengthen the bond with your child.
A teen mother must make time for one-to-one bonding with her baby or child. These activities should be nurturing and interactive. Read a story to your child and discuss the pictures on the pages, play patty-cake while looking into the baby’s eyes, stack blocks together, sit in the sandbox and talk and dig together, make hand prints with paint on paper, or cook together. Passive activities—watching television together or talking on the phone while your child sits beside you doing something else—do not strengthen the mother-child connection.
Every mother needs at least a few minutes alone each day.
Every mother needs time alone—even if it’s just a few minutes each day. This can be difficult for the mother of a newborn, but alone time is important for a mom’s emotional and psychological well-being. Take at least 10 to 30 minutes for a regenerating activity—meditate, pray, walk, stretch, take a bath—while your child is napping, in daycare or with a trusted babysitter.