Advice Male Perspective

Raising a Child in Your Teens and Early 20s

Raising a child at any age can be difficult as no matter how much you prepare it is impossible to account for every scenario that you might encounter.  However, raising a child when you are only in your teens or early 20s is fraught with additional hurdles that make the situation even more complex.  Some of this comes from the fact that you are still at an age when you’re learning about yourself and the world around you; some it comes from still being at a period in your life when you are developing your maturity; and some of it comes from not having reached a financial to support a child on your own.

Consequently, to be able to raise a child at such an age is going to require enormous sacrifice, hard work, organization, and dedication.  In order to properly raise a child you need to make them your top priority in your life.  Also, there is little doubt that your social life will be severely curtailed.  There will be times where other matters will need your attention, but the focus will always go back to your child and ensuring that they are cared for and have the best chance at a good life.

First, you and the father of the child need to sit down and make an agreement about the division of responsibilities and the financial support for the child.  If the father and you cannot come to an agreement on your own, that both of you will stick to, you may need to seek legal counsel and have the matter brought before a family courtfor resolution.  Remember, it’s preferable if the two of you can figure out a plan on your own as it will lead to a better relationship for raising the child together.  So try to be as calm as possible when discussing matters as it will be the best approach for coming to a resolution.  The two of you must avoid anger, yelling, blaming, and volatile emotions, which while perfectly justifiable, will not help you solve matters.

Secondly, you need to sit down and make a list of all the money you have coming in, and all the money you have going out to pay for expenses and bills.  If you can, get an electronic spreadsheet program like MS Excel, Quicken, Quattro Pro or Lotus 1-2-3 as they are very useful tools for organizing financial information.  Being that most salaries and contracts are paid on a two week basis break the information into two week periods.  For the first week pick the one during which you’ll next be paid.  Next, take all of your bills and review when they are due.  Place each bill under the two week period it belongs to.  Now record any other expenses you may have during each two week period.  Common expenses are groceries, clothes, dry cleaning, childcare, babysitting, and other odds and ends.  To figure out how much an expense will be over future two week periods review how much you spent on them during the last couple weeks and then calculate an average.  Now take the amount of money you have coming in under each two week period and subtract from it the bills and expenses.

Do you still have money left over or are you spending more money than you have?  If you have money left over you can either put it into savings for your child, pay down a recurring bill like a credit card, carry it forward into the next two week period, or save it for some other purpose.  If you are spending more money than you have you will have to either eliminate or reduce some of your bills and/or expenses, or find a way to increase your revenue.  No matter what, this exercise is absolutely necessary because in order to maintain custody of your child you need to remain financially solvent.  This sort of exercise requires a great deal of patience, but it will show you what your current situation is, provide with options and allow you to make decisions to improve your financial solvency.

It is vital that you complete your education and try to obtain a college/university degree.  The higher your education the better the job you will be able to get to support your child.  Many schools have childcare support programs for single parents.  However, keep in mind that you may have to reduce the amount of courses you take per semester as you may find the workload between school, work, and raising your child too demanding.  The key though is to continue taking your courses even if it’s on a reduced basis.

Seek out help from family and friends.  This is no time to be proud.  Due to the unlikeliness that you will have a high paying job at this age you’re going to need financial help in order to support your child, especially if the father isn’t providing child support.  So ask your parents, grandparents, or siblings for whatever help they can give.  A family that truly cares will be there to help.  Though, be aware that they may want some say in the raising of your child, so this will be something you need to negotiate with them.  You also need to reach out to friends to help wherever they can whether it’s babysitting or picking you up some groceries.  It is at times like these that you’re going to find out who is truly your friend.

Seek out programs within your city/community for young parents.  Many city/community/government websites list the various available resources that may be able to help you to raise your child.

An important aspect that is often overlooked is a healthy diet.  The healthier you are the more energy you’ll have to be able to raise your child.  So start eating healthier foods and try taking at least a couple minutes each day to exercise.

Get an organizer or a day planner so you can make a list of all the different things you need to do each day.  The more you organize the better as raising a child, going to school, working, and any other activities you may do will require good judgement and scheduling.

Finally, you need to be honest with yourself about your ability to raise your child.  If you do not believe you have the necessary means of support to raise a child you need to be honest with yourself because what is most important is the child’s welfare.  This doesn’t mean you have to have all the answers right away, but at the very least you need to have the money, time, energy, emotion, and desire to give your child the best life you can.  If you don’t feel that way you may want to consider the possibility of giving your child up for adoption as heart wrenching as such an action might be.  There are various government programs you can seek out that may be able to help you figure out what the best thing is to do.

The hardest part of raising a child is always at the beginning when you’re first trying to figure things out.  Your first couple efforts may not be how you envisioned, but it will get easier over time.  Eventually you will move from the transition period when you first become a parent to one that is more regularized.  Thus, over time you will find newer and better ways to raise your child that are less demanding and stressful.

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