Young parents

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There are lots of good things about being a young parent as well as lots of new things to learn.

Being a parent is one of the most important roles anyone can have and it can be both hard work as well as fun.

Sometimes you might feel like you just want to be free of the responsibility of being a parent and have someone look after you.

Having a partner, family or friends who provide practical support can make being a young parent a bit easier. Without a good network of people who can help out, you might feel like you are doing it all on your own.

It is important to look after yourself as a parent so that you can look after your family. When you have a new baby and as your child grows up, it is also really important to know where to get help with all the things you need to know and do.

Looking after your child

  • Children need love and affection. Give your children lots of cuddles and tell them you love them many times a day.
  • Children are eager to learn and need lots of things to do to help their brains develop properly. When they are very young their parents are their best playmates. They like you to:
    • talk and read lots to them
    • sing to them
    • take them for walks
    • lie on the floor and let them crawl over you
    • play with them and their toys
    • dance with them.
  • Children need your time — they want you to be around them and to take notice of them.
  • This might mean giving up things you want to do. It might also mean pretending you are interested in what they are doing, even when you don’t feel like it.
  • Giving your time and attention helps your child to feel loved.
  • You need to keep a close eye on young children.
  • It is important to make your house and outdoor area as safe as possible as children are curious and can get into lots of things.
  • Washing-up detergents, laundry powders and medicines need to be kept in a high cupboard and locked.
  • Watch them near water (even nappy buckets).
  • The best toys for young children are often ones you don’t have to buy.
  • Children love:
    • saucepans and saucepan lids
    • pegs or lids to put into containers
    • home-made playdough
    • jugs and water to pour
    • cushions on the floor to crawl over
    • cardboard boxes of different sizes to crawl into, and to make into cubby houses.
  • Change the toys occasionally to give variety and keep a special toy for a treat.
  • Join your local library (and toy library) to borrow books and toys at no cost.
  • Take them to a playground or join a playgroup.

Looking after yourself

Children need you to look after them but you can’t do this well if you don’t look after yourself.

  • You may drift away from old friends because you don’t share the same interests any more. Join a young parents’ group to make new friends. Your children can play with other children and have fun while you share ideas and ways of coping.
  • All parents need a break and it’s okay to need your own space. Get someone you trust to care for your child so you can have a night out, go shopping or do something special for yourself.
  • All parents have times when they get really busy and times when they get upset. Take a break, go outside, ring a friend or someone who understands and talk about it. Always make sure your child is safe first.
  • Being outside can make you feel more relaxed so take your baby for a walk in the pram or take your toddler to the local playground. Have a picnic in the park.

As a young parent it is important to plan for the future and to have skills that can help you get work when you need to. Young parents who keep on learning, either through school or training programs, have a better chance of getting work they really enjoy.

  • Some schools have programs designed for young parents and usually have a crèche on site.
  • CIT also has courses that may help you.

It can be a bit scary for anyone trying to return to school or CIT but they have counsellors who can help you with information about lots of things. They can help you with getting Centrelink benefits, subsidised childcare and finding ways to get financial and other practical support.

Getting help

All parents want to be seen as coping well and being good parents. This means that sometimes they are afraid to ask for advice. But the truth is, parents of any age need information and support to do a good job.

As a young person, you are becoming independent and learning to do things for yourself.

When you become a young parent you may think you need to do everything yourself without others interfering.

However, we all need to say, ‘I don’t know’ sometimes without feeling ashamed, and this is really important when you are a parent.

What many young parents have found is:

  • Other young parents are a good source of information about where to get support.
  • They sometimes feel they’re being judged when going to an agency, a doctor or a clinic for help. It is important to look around until you find someone you feel comfortable with.
  • If you have problems with health workers not understanding what you want:
    • think about what you want from them
    • write it down
    • practice saying what you need and why, without getting frustrated or upset
    • ask if there is a worker at the agency who works with young parents
    • take a friend with you if you feel worried
  • Be willing to listen to family members when they give advice. The more ideas you get the more ideas you have to choose from. It doesn’t mean you have to do it. Choose what feels right for you.
  • Ask health workers you trust for referrals to people who will be able to help you.

Reminders

  • Be wise enough to learn from others.
  • Be smart enough to say, ‘I don’t know’.
  • Get lots of information so you have plenty of ideas to make good choices.
  • Everyone is allowed to make mistakes —mistakes are to learn from.
  • Find support for yourself and use it.
  • Don’t be ashamed to ask for help.
  • Make sure you care for yourself so you can care for your family.
  • Spend lots of time doing things your baby loves —  it helps them develop.

Looking for more information?

ParentLink — for other parenting guides, online parenting information

Child and Family Centres — for parenting information and support

Raising Children’s Network — covering topics for parenting newborns to teens

This guide’s content was produced by Parenting SA, Women’s and Children’s Health Network.

© Department of Health and Ageing, Government of South Australia (revised 10/12). Reproduced with permission and adapted by the ACT Government to reflect Australian Capital Territory laws (11/14). Important: This information is not intended to replace advice from a qualified practitioner.

Published by ParentLink, Community Services Directorate
GPO Box 158, Canberra ACT 2601, telephone 13 34 27, email parentlink@act.gov.au

ACT Government Publication No. 16/1363 (December 2016)

The text for this topic is copyright Department of Health, Government of South Australia.