The ability to create and raise a child is a great gift, and one that should be met with responsibility. As soon as young women and men reach child-creating ages, they need to be well aware of the responsibility their actions hold for their own lives and the lives of the children they create.
I tell my own children, once you have a child--you come second, and that child comes first. I encourage them to take care of their own needs and desires before embarking on creating a family, and I urge them to create a situation that will be optimal for a family before starting one.
In our country, I've read about and noticed many situations where young people jump into parenthood before preparing the "nest" or fulfilling their own needs and desires. Some are able to put themselves aside and focus on the child, but others are not, and the children suffer.
As a nation, we don't want to tell people when to have children and how many to have, but we need to find a way to educate young people about their responsibility and potential with respect to the privilege of parenting.
For some, I believe that parenting becomes a way out--a purpose. If you're young and have nowhere to turn for hope or promise, having a child might seem to be an answer. Pregnancy and birth are celebrations, and babies are so cute. It's a way to be a part of something and to be recognized, but rarely do we see the same celebrations when a parent is raising a challenging 13-year old in a climate with few supports. For others, it's an act without thought or responsibility, and that's really sad.
As we think about our nation's schools and our desire for every child to succeed, we have to look deeper. We have to look at every aspect of child care from prebirth onward.
How can we foster a sense of responsibility towards parenthood? How can we help young people to see parenthood as a privilege and a gift, a time in life to look forward to and prepare for? Should we educate young people about what children need, and how to create a home that will nurture children well? Should this be a part of education in the early years, before the challenges of adolescence begin?
This is not my area of expertise, but I know it's an area that needs attention and holds potential for a stronger, more educated population. What do you think?