Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Advice from a Former Teen Mom...

On August, 16, 1994 my life changed forever.

As any Senior in high school, the excitement of the coming year was upon me. What would happen this year? Would I go to prom, would I graduate top of my class, would I get accepted to my first choice in colleges? That stuff was on the mind of most Seniors, but on August 16, 1994 at 6:36pm, all that was on my mind was "How am I going to take care of my new baby boy?" and "Will his father stay with me through thick and thin?"
My life has been whirl wind of emotions, lea
rning experiences and change of plans. I did graduate in the top 20% of my class and I did get accepted to my first choice in colleges, and I worked my tail off to do it. I married that wonderful man from 18 years ago and with that, my husband chose to join the Marine Corps to make a better life for our family. I had to drop out of college to travel with my husband around the world. I have loved every minute of our life, and am happy to say we added a daughter and another son to our family through our travels. The little baby boy that changed my life is now 18 and a high school senior himself, our daughter is almost 15 and our youngest son is 13.

Many parents now-a-days do not talk to their kids about sex, babies and life in general. We have been a VERY open family when it comes to these talks. I have talked to my kids about what has happened in my life and while I wouldn't change any of it, there are things I would have done differently. For instance, they know I wish I would have finished college and gotten a degree in education like I had wanted.

As the mother of three, yes, three teenagers, I have had a lot to learn and am still learning. I am not perfect, but I am very proud in how my kids have started to grow into wonderful young adults. We talk about everything in their lives. My kids always know they can talk to me about anything and everything, and they have never felt awkward in doing so. Some things I do not want to hear, but I know I need to listen and be open to what they are going through because, we are all learning. We talk about sex and abstinence often and my daughter informs me daily that she will be making different choices than I did. She wants a different kind of life, as she puts it. My oldest son pretty much feels the same and as he gets ready to go to college, I can only hope that the many talks we have had will be put into effect and I will be the little voice in his head reminding him to make good decisions.

I have taught my kids to think for themselves and never conform to what others think they should be or how they should act. They think for themselves and make their own decisions-and they make some great ones, I am proud to say. But as a teen mom, I am always wary- I do not want them to take the road I took.

Other parents wonder what I did to get my kids to open up to me. It is so simple that you will not believe it-Just talk WITH your kids. You have to get down to their level and leave the lecturing “mom/dad speeches” behind. Be sure to listen to them. The more you talk with your kids, the more they will open up on their own.

My kids come to me every day after school and tell me everything that happened. It might take an hour to get through the talk, but they know I will sit and LISTEN. Are there days where I may not have a lot of time to listen, sure. We all work and are tired and just want to drink a cup of coffee and watch that show on the DVR. However, if you act like you don't care, or don't have the time, teens will pick up on that and stay in their rooms. So, we might talk while I cook dinner or while I fold clothes, but if they are willing to let you in to their lives, isn’t that what we are asking for-them to share their lives?

I have often wondered what I did to get three great kids. I still don't really know, but I think that the fact I have always treated my kids with a level of respect might have helped. Talking to your kids is a start. Let them roll their eyes at first, but the more you talk to them, the more you open up, the more they will as well. It takes time-I should know, I‘ve been doing it for 18 years.

By Karleen Spires, Guest Blogger, Let's Talk Month, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

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