by Ashlen Sandoz
Women are told far too often that we can not succeed at both accomplishing our dreams and being parents. A lot of resources are currently dedicated to the prevention of teen pregnancy, which is certainly a good thing; however, we must also ask what is being done to provide for the needs of high school and college students that do get pregnant and decide to parent?
For many, continuing education is an important step to building a career and a better life. Lifting themselves out of poverty is often cited as a reason parenting students choose to continue their education. Currently more than one in four students in a higher learning institution are parenting a child, however only 26% receive their degree within six years. Those that do most often cite having a good family or friend support system as a primary reason for being able to complete their degree. We, as their fellow students and community members have the power to create that good support system. Here are four ways that you can support your pregnant and parenting peers:
1) Have Inclusive Social Events
As a college student, I know that a lot of social events take place at a clubs, bars, or other spaces that are not welcoming to children or ideal for people who are pregnant or nursing. Planning events with this in mind can eliminate some of the implicit biases that can result in isolation. Additionally, using inclusive language in your organization’s advertising such as, “this event is open to families” or “child friendly study group” can have a huge impact.
2) Build Better Community Spaces
Are spaces like the student union, classroom building, libraries, religious centers, and greek life meeting the needs of pregnant and parenting students? A study at Portland State University showed that after adding a family space in the campus library not only did success rates for student parents increase but attitudes of goodwill in non-parenting students did as well. Advocate for the installation of family spaces, changing tables, and lactation rooms to your student government or administration.
3) Be A Good Friend
Just encourage a parenting student in a world that can be very discouraging! Check in with them, see what they need. Maybe offer to babysit for a weekend so they can catch up on studying. Make sure they know that they have value and are irreplaceable.
4) Spread Awareness About Local and National Resources
Make sure that everyone in the community, regardless of parenting status knows of these important resources to assist pregnant and parenting students.
Pregnant on Campus: Directory of support systems that exist on your campus.
Women Deserve Better: Information on balancing career, studies, children, life, and more!
The Pregnant Scholar: Information on the rights of pregnant and parenting students on campus.
Option Line: Local support for dealing with unplanned pregnancy.