I’m a teen mom dreaming big for me and my baby

I want to give him a lot of what I could not get as a child, such as love. Most of all, I want to be his motivator!

Lithana Stanly
Photograph of Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation student Lithana Stanly, aged 16, together with her son Tajuan, photographed at the WCJF centre in Port Antonio, Portland. (Photo: Derma Virgo)
Derma Virgo/Women's Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF)
Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation student Lithana Stanly, aged 16, together with her son Tajuan, photographed at the WCJF centre in Port Antonio, Portland. (Photo: Derma Virgo)
20 January 2022

Tajaun and his mother benefitted from a UNICEF-supported parenting programme operated by the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation, which is designed to help adolescent mothers feel more empowered and confident about themselves and the care, protection and support they give to their children. By investing in adolescent parents today, this parenting programme strives to protect the future of two generations – the young parents themselves and their babies.

Every time my baby looks up at me and smiles, that makes my day. Tajaun is one month old and so he demands a lot of my attention, but I see a lot of possibilities – one day he can become the next Prime Minister, doctor or a lawyer.

I want to give him a lot of what I could not get as a child. Most of all, I want to be his motivator because going back to when I was very small, three or four years old, my parents didn’t have much time for me and so I didn’t get the motivation that some other children got, that they can become anything they want in life.

My parents were financially unstable and so a lot of things I wanted that other children had, I couldn’t get, such as love. Every child needs love to have more confidence in him or herself. Maybe without love a boy starts bullying others because of anger.

Positive parenting practices

When he is old enough, I will talk to Tajaun about wrong and right. I wouldn’t use corporal punishment as I think that’s a hard way for them to learn. If I beat my child, he would want to go elsewhere and have the thought of doing the same thing to others, so for me it’s better to talk to him.

As mother and son, we have not reached that stage yet. Right now, things are calm. I am not getting much sleep, but then things are less stressful than when I became pregnant. I didn’t have the support because a lot of my family were disappointed in me. I felt like I wanted to give up, I thought my life was over right then.

It was at about four months that my mother came around and was the person that encouraged me to come to the Women’s Centre. Now, I come here every day to do my studies and get help as a mom.

Being treated with respect

Here I get treated with respect. The Women’s Centre programme teaches us about how to take care of the baby and how to become more positive parents who can talk to our children instead of using violence.

I want to encourage other young ladies to come here because they might also be thinking that their life is over, and I want to tell them they can always get a second chance here.

Despite my situation, being a mother aged 16, I believe that I can become anything that I want once I put my mind to it. Prior to becoming pregnant my dream was to become a nurse because I’ve always wanted to help people and so I think that would suit me a lot. I still plan to further my education and to later pursue studies to become a nurse, thus making my family proud.

What is UNICEF doing?

All parents navigate challenges as their children grow and develop. While many of these challenges are the same for adolescent parents and older parents, teenage parents will have to navigate additional challenges, such as finishing school while looking after a baby, and possibly feeling judged for being a teenage parent or overwhelmed by the responsibility to raise a child at a young age. Given these challenges, providing the right support to adolescent mothers is a key priority for UNICEF in Jamaica, where adolescent pregnancy often occurs within environments where there is a risk of violence.

The UNICEF-supported Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF) parenting programme is designed to help adolescent parents build strong, healthy, and non-violent relationships with their children. Core components of the evidence based “Reach Up” early childhood parenting programme have been integrated into WCJF’s own parenting programme. Reach Up was chosen due to its unique play- and skills-based approach using self-made or locally produced toys and books. It has an extensive evidence base, informed by over 30 years of research that started in Jamaica!


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