By Paige Whipple of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy
"Teen Mom OG" has finally returned, and the long-running MTV show is already providing a slew of invaluable life lessons.
One thing the series has already taught us over the past seven years is how difficult teen parenthood can be for young moms. Sleepless nights, missing out, falling behind, family turmoil, relationship drama -- we’ve seen it all and more with Maci, Amber, Farrah and Catelynn. But teen pregnancy isn’t just hard on the teens themselves -- it’s actually harder on their kids. And now that the children are more grown up, we’re starting to see it from their perspective.
Take Bentley, for example. When Ryan flaked on the mud run with Maci and Taylor, the young boy knew what was happening. When he was first born and Ryan wasn’t around much, he couldn't tell that Maci had to handle almost everything -- schoolwork, sleepless nights and poopy diapers -- solo. Now that he’s growing up, he’s old enough to be aware of Ryan’s absence and tension between his parents.
Meanwhile, as we saw after her trip to Disney with Gary, Leah is caught between two households and struggles to decide if she wants to spend time with her mom or her dad. It’s awesome that both parents want to be with her so badly, but a custody battle could create tension between Amber and Gary -- and Leah is now old enough to pick up on it.
Sophia is searching for a father figure in Simon because she doesn’t have Daddy Derek around, which, of course, makes both Farrah and Sophia sad. Now that she’s old enough to verbalize what she wants, it’s clear that Sophia wishes for a gentleman that makes both her and her mom happy. Although Sophia and Farrah are in a different set of circumstances, these stories aren’t unusual. Kids of teen parents everywhere go through similar challenges.
When a couple isn’t ready to start a family, which is overwhelmingly the case when they are teenagers, chances are high that their children will grow up apart from their fathers. Nearly nine out of 10 teen moms aren’t married when they give birth, and only about one-third are married by their child’s fifth birthday. And even if a teen couple is married when they have a child, they’re nearly twice as likely as other married couples to split up within five years. Among unmarried teens who are living together when their child is born, close to half split up in that same time frame. And all of this can be terribly hard on the kids.
Waiting just a few more years to have children can make a big difference -- not just in the parents’ relationship but also the child’s well-being. We expect to see proof of that this season courtesy of Maci and Catelynn -- they had both Jayde and Nova under much more stable circumstances than the show’s other parents. Will parenting be easier this time around? Stay tuned to "Teen Mom OG" Mondays at 10/9c!