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Once a young parent, always a young parent?


By petra - Posted on 17 May 2012

I'm not a young parent anymore, but in some ways maybe I am. I'm in my early 40's and some of my friends who are my age have just had their first baby. Whereas, my oldest kid is in her 20's. The other two are teenagers. I don't struggle the way I used to when I was young and my kids were young. Things do get easier. But at the same time, I will always be from a different generation than other parents of my oldest kids. I will always be out of phase with people my age who had their kids 15-20 years later than I did. While they are adjusting to parenting little people after decades as adults without kids, I am now finding out what it is like to be an adult without having young children for the first time in my life.

Sometimes people ask me why we serve parents up to age 29. They don't see how a 29-year-old parent is a young parent, and the truth is that many 29-year-olds are not. There are two reasons why we serve 'young parents' from age 13 up to age 29:

1. Once a young parent, always a young parent. If you have your first kid when you are a teenager, then that same kid is going to be going into middle school before you turn 30. The other parents will still be 10-25 years older than you and people will still have preconceptions about your ability to parent based on your age. Have you ever had a teacher yell at you to get back to class while standing with your kid at his locker? Or have a student ask you “what are you in trouble for?” while waiting to see your daughter's principal? I have! Parents in their late 20's who are parenting kids in early adolescence have unique needs for support.

2. An interesting phenomenon occurs in technologically complex societies. In more traditional societies, young people can reach adult status at a much younger age. They can learn the skills required to function as an adult in the society by their early to mid-teens. The more technologically complex a society is, the longer it takes for young people to reach adult status, both in the eyes of older adults and in their own estimation. We live in a society that is technologically complicated and are now seeing a delayed period of adolescence that (in many cases) seems to stretch through the 20's and into the 30's. Becoming a parent requires that you become an adult, whether that happens when you are 14 or 27. As humans, we require support & mentorship to successfully make the transition to adulthood, no matter what age we are. At YPSN, we strive to provide that support.

And what happens when you turn 30? Well, you can’t access YPSN support services anymore, but you can stay connected as a volunteer. Our board of directors is made up exclusively of current and former young parents who believe in what we do and want to support the next generation of young parent families by providing guidance and leadership to our organization.