Meet Ciara, Grace and Laticia, Young Parent Ambassadors!

Ciara, Grace and Laticia on being young moms.

STEPS in the Boston Globe!

 

JESSICA RINALDI/GLOBE STAFF
JESSICA RINALDI/GLOBE STAFF

“When Jakira Gibbs became pregnant in high school, she had the support of family, friends, and her boyfriend in her decision to have the baby, a daughter. Now, at 21, Gibbs is reaching out to help other young parents who might not be so fortunate.

Gibbs, who is set to graduate from Bunker Hill Community College and continue her studies in human services, has been volunteering for Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s program for teen parents, where she has found solidarity. And she is expressing her gratitude — and her determination not to lose sight of her own ambitions — by contributing a moving essay to “Growing Together,” an annual anthology of young parents’ creativity, produced each year for a Boston summit that connects teen parents with the social services that will help them thrive.”

Read the full article in the Globe here!

How To Be An Ally To Young Parents

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Getting Started on Your Anthology Submission

Our current culture is often having discussions about young parenthood without including the voices of young parents. We’re often told what should motivate us, why we should be happy, and our dreams are defined for us – without our input. As we advocate for respect, autonomy, support, and recognition, our viewpoints have often been considered unconventional.

I know how frustrating this can be.

The idea that all young parents need the same things is inaccurate and unjust. We all live different lives with different stories, backgrounds, and histories. The one thing we do experience is feeling like way too many people are trying to narrate our lives from their perspectives.

The annual young parent anthology is an opportunity for young parents to share stories, views, opinions, art, and creativity through their lens. This anthology is a collection of honest and genuine pieces created by young parents for young parents. Our mission is to publish and distribute these anthologies to other young parents and continue spreading positivity and empowerment throughout our communities.

If you are interested in submitting a piece, the submission guidelines are simple. There are 3 themes (motivation, happiness, and making your dreams a reality) and all submissions can be in writing or art form and in any language!

If you need help getting started, here are 10 prompts to think about:

1. Share a story about a time when you felt the happiest.

2. How would you define success as a young parent? Does it differ from others’ definitions?

3. What are some of your dreams and how are you achieving them?

4. How do you find and maintain your happiness?

5. If you could create an ideal environment for young parents, what would it look like?

6. What are some of the amazing things you have learned about yourself through struggles, obstacles, and hardship?

7. What motivates you? Write about the good, the bad, or the weird things that have motivated you to keep going.

8. Tell a story about a time when you challenged someone else’s definition of happiness or success.

9. Describe your epic journey. If your child wrote you a letter to you in 20 years, what would you hope he/she would say about your journey?

10. Write a letter to a younger you. What motivating and inspiring things would you tell yourself?

Comments? Ideas? Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram! More details about the anthology can be found here: BeProudToParent.org/Anthology.

Getting My Daughter Ready for School

Summer vacation is just about over and it’s time for me to face the bitter truth: I have to get my daughter ready for the school year. It’s a process and it definitely isn’t easy, but in the long run, it makes your life as a parent so much easier.

My first tip is to focus on getting your child on a school schedule a week or two before school starts. Since most kids aren’t going to bed as early and their days aren’t as structured throughout the summer, transitioning into the school year schedule can be tough. If your child is going to bed late, start by putting them to bed 30 minutes earlier each day until you get to the time you want them to fall asleep during the school year. So if your child is going to bed at 10, put him or her to bed at 9:30 the first day, 9 the next day, 8:30 the next day, 8:00 the next day, and earlier if you need to.

To help figure out what time your kid should be in bed, keep in mind children under the age of 3 need at least 12-14 hours of sleep and children over the age of 3 need at least 10-12 hours of sleep.

My daughter is 7 years old and entering the 2nd grade so I like to tuck her into bed no later than 8:00 PM so I can make sure she gets at least 11 hours of sleep. Being in elementary school is tough and their little brains have a lot of work to do. Making sure she gets enough sleep helps her excel and focus the next day.

For moms who work or go to school, it can sometimes feel like the only time you get with your children is during the few hours in the evening. I know how that feels because I get home at 6:00 and she goes to bed at 8:00. There are a couple of ways I keep our relationship strong throughout the school year and maximize our time together:

  1. I let her help me plan the dinner menu for the week every Sunday. We sit down and write out what we will eat everyday so we don’t waste time on weekdays trying to come to an agreement. My daughter feels so proud when she sees that our dinner plan was designed by her and rarely complains about dinner anymore.
  2. My daughter likes cooking so when it’s time to make dinner, I give her some responsibilities to help me with in the kitchen. But if your kid is too small or not interested in cooking, it’s an awesome time for them to be in the kitchen working on an art project or “pretend” cooking some awesome concoction.
  3. I read with her every night and tuck her into bed. It’s important that she reads and I enjoy being a part of that. And since she loves reading with me, it’s an awesome way to encourage her to get into bed. We read after pajamas are on, teeth are brushed, and her little body is under the covers.

Now I realize this will not work for every parent and child but I thought I’d share what works for me. Do you have any back-to-school tips for young parents?

5 Celebrities Born to Teen Moms

1. Dr. Dre’s mom was 17
Dre

2. Justin Bieber’s mom was 17
Justin

3. Barack Obama’s mom was 18
Obama

4. Oprah Winfrey’s mom was 17
Oprah

5. Selena Gomez’s mom was 16
Selena

Emergency Contraception Will Be Available Over the Counter!

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Yes! It’s true! Emergency contraception, also known as Plan B or the morning-after pill, are going to be available over the counter!

What is emergency contraception?
Emergency contraception is backup plan that helps prevent pregnancy from happening after unprotected sex or birth control failure. It contains levonorgestrel, the same ingredient used in many birth control pills but you only need one pill!

When can you use emergency contraception?
You can use it within 72 hours after sex, but works better if you take it as soon as possible.

Can only girls buy emergency contraception?
Nope! Guys can also buy emergency contraception.

How much does emergency contraception cost?
It depends on which one you want but if you choose Plan B, you can get it at the pharmacy for $30-$60 or at Planned Parenthood for up to $35. If you want to save $10, you can download this coupon! Some family planning clinics offer free emergency contraception too.

Looking for more information on emergency contraception, the types available, and how to use it? Check out Bedsider for comparisons, stories, and details. 

My Life Has Just Begun…

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[Recap] Live Twitter Chat with Nicole Lynn Lewis

Nicole Lynn Lewis is a former teen mother. As statistics show, many teen parents will not finish college by the time they reach 30 years old. However, Nicole found a way to push herself through education and help motivate other teen parents to do the same. A few years ago, Nicole founded a nonprofit organization, Support Generation Hope.

Support Generation Hope helps young parents overcome some of their college obstacles. Aside from providing students with scholarships, the organization connects young parents with each other, eliminating isolation and fostering a sense of community. As a young parent, I know these types of programs are much needed. Without having someone to talk to (who understands your lifestyle) and someone to show you the light at the end of the tunnel, life can feel rough.

Last night, STEPS hosted a live twitter chat with Nicole and asked ten phenomenal questions related to teen parenthood and education. If you would like to read the entire discussion, click here!

 

Join us for our next young parent chat

on Tuesday, October 23rd at 8:00 PM EDT.

Follow us on twitter!

My Community and My Health

Over the past 24 years, I have lived in 4 different communities. When I was born, my family and I lived in a 3 family home on a busy street in Somerville. We were walking distance to my elementary school and some amazing restaurants and cafes in Inman Square. I always felt it was a safe neighborhood and many of my neighbors were Portuguese. Being a Brazilian family, we spent a lot of time chatting outdoors with them and visiting each others’ homes.

When my parents divorced, my mother moved us into a one family, 4 bedroom home on the other side of Somerville. It was a much more suburban area and there was plenty of backyard space for us. Frankly, I loved it. Having space, having access to outdoor playtime, and being able to have lots of friends and family over made a huge difference. Except, we barely talked to the neighbors now. There was definitely a sense of community on a safety level (everyone watched over the street and each other’s property), but I never went into my neighbor’s home for tea like we used to. However, it was always quiet, peaceful, and extremely safe. Of course, we were the only minorities in the area too.

When I became a teen parent, my mother kicked me out and I was forced to live with my boyfriend. He lived in East Somerville. Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to hang out in East Somerville because that part of the city was always on the news. This section was primarily occupied by immigrants and the cost of living was much cheaper than any other part of town. It didn’t occur to me that I was in a danger zone until I woke up at 3 am one night to gunshots on our street. Someone was killed. I no longer felt that safety from the previous 17 years of my life. I began to stress a lot and was even too afraid to fall asleep at times. I saw a lot of alcoholics roaming the streets and knew that I couldn’t live like that much longer. It was physically beginnning to affect me. The thought of worrying whether I’d survive the walk from the front door to the car was one I couldn’t handle. There were times when drug addicts or gang members would randomly walk down our street and start picking on my boyfriend, even as me and my infant stood beside him. It was terrifying.

At 18, I moved to Newton where my father was living. I felt peace again. It was an all white neighborhood and once again, we were the only minorities. I could walk down the street at midnight and not feel threatened. I was able to sleep again. Finally, I was comfortable in an environment and I could start to de-stress. I have lived in Newton since and am glad I can raise my daughter in a community where safety isn’t a concern.

While the changes in the communities are obvious, I still can’t help but feel as though just moving to a safer neighborhood isn’t a solution. Yes, you can pick up your things and leave your community for another but not everyone has that option. And honestly, not everyone WANTS that option. Where you grew up, where your family lives, where you learned to ride your bike becomes a part of you. When you’ve been facing those issues from the beginning of your life, they don’t feel like issues anymore – they feel normal. That stress of wondering whether or not you’ll be safe is one that many of us have to live with everyday.

It’s not up to me to dictate what your community is supposed to look like and vice versa. We all have to determine what we want our communities to look like and push for that change. Whether we realize it or not, they do affect our health. The exposure to violence, the stress from not having enough money, the pollution around us, the lack of green space, the overpopulated buildings, the racial segregation, the discrimination, the quality of schools, and the social support around us effect our health. We can’t all just pick up and move, leaving the communities behind in tatters. We need to advocate for change and let people know that we are facing these issues and that these issues effect our ability to live. It’s not fair and it can’t stay silent.