designed with younger mums and dads: key messages, support and guidance
Getting the support we need Encouragement from professionals to you Write yourself a letter... How we feel about our children Where to go for more information


This website shares the experiences and life stories of young parents. It draws upon a range of material, including recent participatory and co-produced work with young parents, as well as the experiences of those involved in research that has followed young parents' lives over time (WENHAM, 2016). Throughout our work in this area, we have met so many inspiring people who have dedicated their lives to helping others, and through their dedication and drive provide invaluable support that simply ‘makes a difference’. Some of these individuals also share the experience of young parenthood themselves, and have contributed reflections on being a young parent and advice to other young parents as part of this website.

We hope that this website provides stories that are uplifting and empowering, allowing a space for those with the experience of teenage pregnancy and parenthood to collectively share their stories and reflections. One of the most striking findings of doing research in this area is not only how young parents value the opportunity to come together, but how through their shared experiences they find creative and innovative ways to support one another. We hope that the advice and guidance provided in this pamphlet might make a difference to other young parents' lives at a time when they might need this the most. In the words of one participant, “Keep looking up, it gets better, we’re all there for each other and we can do it... We can get through it all, we’re a lot stronger than we think”.

If you would like to learn more about our wider research in this area, please contact: or

Getting the support we need

“[Youth workers] are just easy to like open up to....I’ve never spoken to anyone like I have with them...I just can open up” – James

The young parents who took part in our research often had lots of experience in working with professionals from health, social care and voluntary sector services. Mums and dads spoke about both positive and negative experiences of interactions with professionals and identified some key messages that they would like practitioners to take on board when working to support younger parents.

“People need to remember that like your age doesn’t affect your ability to be a parent” Sara
“I think [going to group] helps with confidence because you’ve always got people around you to ask questions to and get advice from, and like reassurance as well... They can reassure you that you are doing what’s best for your baby, you know your baby best. Even if it is just getting together and talking it does help a lot with the confidence of, well I am a good parent.”Aimee
“It’s not really about age, it’s about whether you’re capable”Aimee
My midwife was amazing, she was absolutely amazing, but she got down on a level with you...It didn’t feel like I was speaking to a midwife, it felt like I was speaking to a friend.Sara
My leaving care worker is really good, she sits there and listens to me rant like hours on endSara
I’ll always remember [Healthcare assistant]...[My partner] was crying, they’d just given him this baby, and then [Healthcare assistant] comes in, she hugs him and says, ‘You can do it, you’re alright’...It was lovely...”Aimee
If we’ve got any questions about literally anything, [youth worker] will help us as much as she canAimee
I’ve had the same midwife through all three [pregnancies] and she was absolutely lovely...She never once sort of looked down at me being young.Rachel
[Early help worker] was just... supportive... with my partner working so much she came on like his days at work and she just helped me...she’d even just sit there with the kids so I could have five minutes. She was really supportive and she was really nice.”Stacey

Encouragement from professionals to you

“Age does not define you as a parent. You will be amazing. Believe in yourself. You can do it." – Lynn

Whilst doing research in this area, we have spoken to a number of professionals who have also been young parents themselves. We asked them to reflect upon this experience, to think about what they might say to their former selves, and what advice they would give young parents today:

If you could go back and speak to yourself as a young parent, what would you say?

I would have quite liked someone to say,‘I’m walking with you on this’. I think I’d whisper in my ear...put an arm around me and go, ‘We’ll do it, you’ll do it'.Mandy, Youth Worker
“You are enough, you can do this, be brave, be bold, be proud, asking for help and telling people when you are finding it tough is not a weakness it is a strength. Grab every opportunity you can to enjoy your time with your baby, it is such a precious time. It is so easy to worry about getting everything right, especially as a young parent as you can feel like people will judge you but any new parent will have very similar worries to you, you will learn as you go”.Phillipa Sellstrom, Health Improvement Manager

If you could give one piece of advice or encouragement to a young parent living in Scarborough today, what would it be?

I think I would just like to say that you’re not alone. There’s another tribe, we are a tribe and we’ll get through this. Get yourself plugged into something, find other people like you...Just put one foot in front of the other, teeny tiny steps. Make sure you find something that gives you sparkly joy.Mandy, Youth Worker
Make sure you connect with other parents, get out and about with your baby as parenting can be a lonely experience but it doesn’t have to be, I went to local playgroups 4 times a week and this really helped me to battle through the tough times.Phillipa Sellstrom, Health Improvement Manager
Don’t just go by what people tell you - whether it is about your baby or things to do with housing or health - always do your research and check it out as you may be missing opportunities for support that you didn’t think were there. Get out of the house every day- even if it is just for a walk with the pushchair – it will just give you a chance to reset yourself. Keep in touch with others and ask for help before you get desperate!Colette Gray, founder of ‘Baby Gap’ (2004-2018) - a project supporting young parents back into education, employment and training
Being a young parent does not alter the choices or opportunities you have in life, because with the right support and information, you can achieve anything. Be proud of being parents and watch your little one flourish in a happy, secure and loving home.Alison Langdale, Former Young Parents Programme Health Visitor and Family Health Nurse
Age does not define you as a parent. You will be amazing. Believe in yourself. You can do it. The journey will be tough at times, accept help when it's offered, make plans for your future. Enjoy the precious new life you’ve created. They will fill a place in your heart you never knew was empty.Lynn, Former Young Parents Programme Health Visitor and Family Nurse Partnership Nurse

Write yourself a letter...

"If I could go back and speak to myself 18 years ago I would say... "
– Lisa

As part of this research project, we asked parents to write a letter to their past self. If you could go back in time and speak to yourself as a young parent, what would you say? How did you feel at that point in time? What things did you need? What did you need to hear? What reassurances would you give yourself? Think about what you wish you had been told by someone else back then.

By collectively bringing together our stories, we hope to illuminate shared experiences, and through doing so, provide valuable support, reassurance, and guidance to other young parents[c].

Dear Aimee,

I am proud of you because: Even though multiple people told you that you were too young, and that you ruined your life by getting pregnant at 17, you proved them wrong and became the best mummy to your baby. You had a scary birth and a rough first few weeks with a fussy/colicy baby, as well as being diagnosed with postpartum depression. But you never gave up and got the help you needed to be the best form of yourself you could be for you and your little family. You were, and still are, fighting for your baby to get the diagnoses they deserve in order to get them the support they need. Even though life has thrown multiple hurdles at you since you found out you were pregnant, and these have absolutely crushed you, you still got up and were the best mummy you could be at that time to your baby.

Be kind to yourself because: You are the best mummy to your baby even though you were worried you wouldn't be. She loves you so much and shows you this everyday. Even on her rough/emotional days she always looks for you when she is upset.

You mean the absolute world to your baby.

I wish that: You knew how much your baby girl would change your life for the better and that you wouldn't stress about being a bad mum like you do. You would stand your ground with the doctors, even now, to get your baby the help she deserves. You would have gotten help earlier rather than putting it off and soaked up the newborn stages of motherhood more so maybe I could remember more now.

Advice would be: Stand your ground with anyone who says you ruined your life or that you're too young, even if it is doctors and midwives being funny about your age. This will make your motherhood journey so much more enjoyable and more stress free.

Surprised to hear: Your baby looks more like you as a baby than her dad (as much as people say she looks like her dad). We think she might be autistic and are currently trying to get her the help she deserves but doctors say she's too young to tell. It does get easier and everything you stressed about got sorted and is so much better now.

Things you worried about turned out to be: Some things you worried about turned out to be true but you no longer worry about them, you embrace them and work with them which has helped a lot. Other things you worried about turned out to be nothing and you were so relieved. Looking back now nothing that you worried about mattered as much as you thought it did. You do get a mothers instinct,
trust it!

Research Participant, 19 years old, became a mum at 18

My letter to the new mam Mandy

Oh my goodness me, at the time I felt so many complicated emotions that engulfed me and because of lack of sleep would be magnified. One minute feeling alone because my family lived in another town, or watching my friends getting on with their education and dreams. Next minute, gazing in the pram as you snoozed thinking I have been truly blessed.

You will get through this Mandy- you will find amazing friends ready to hold your hands through the highs and lows we all get thrown at us. In time you become a youth worker and walk through a tiny part of life’s journey with those other people. Thank you.

Mandy you would never believe it but you will have another three children and survive the millions of hormones that were flying around especially during your teenage years, phew! Twelve grandchildren followed in rapid succession, a magical magical existence. You will love it all. A big thankyou to everyone who travelled this bumpy road with me.

– Mandy

Youth Worker, 66 years old, became a mum at 17

Dear young parents,

If I could go back and speak to myself 18 years ago I would say that I was what he needed, more than anything else. I spent too long worrying about what could go wrong to enjoy him in the early months. Throughout his life he has faced challenges I never anticipated and we got through it. The anxiety didn't help any of it; we just lived day to day and dealt with what came up. I think I knew he was the most important thing that would
ever happen to me along with his sisters and brother, but I didn't see the gift, just the responsibilities initially.

To you, the young parents now, ask for help from the community and other young people, please don't do it alone. There are people out there who will support without judgement. And finally, enjoy your babies, they grow up far too fast.

With love, – Lisa
Youth Worker, became a mum at 21

Dear Colette,

I remember when you first found out you were pregnant. You were so excited but terrified because it all seemed so complicated. You knew you would have to find somewhere new to live that was suitable and try and work out what your finances would be, and I was really impressed by how you did all your research and found out about all the things you would need to have in place.

Coming home from the hospital after giving birth can be scary, nobody has a clue what they are doing and you can feel very isolated if none of your friends have children so it can sometimes feel pretty lonely. in the middle of the night if your baby is awake it can feel like the whole world is asleep but you! It can seem endless but you will make it through I promise!

Remember to stay in touch with the women you meet at the antenatal class- swapping stories of teething babies and sleepless nights will help you to feel better when you hear that there are other people going through the same things as you.

Try to not overthink it- some of the things you are worried about will seem trivial later. Stick to your guns if people give you advice that doesn’t sound right for your baby- they are all so different and you know yours better than anyone else- what works for one won’t always work for another and you have a good instinct!

You will be surprised to hear that your baby will grow up to be a lovely young man, and you will be as close to him now as you were when he was a newborn. He will say how much you help him which I know you will be happy to hear.

You also won’t believe that although your baby is the fussiest eater in the world, he now eats anything and everything and is a great cook!

Don’t wish those early days away- you may be always willing your baby to get onto the next stage but the parenting journey is for life, and different stages will need different skills. Some of these stages will feel intuitive, others less so but always keep talking to others to keep a sense of perspective.

Finally – get some time to yourself and don’t worry if this feels selfish! With practice you will realise it makes you a better mum!

– Colette

founder of ‘Baby Gap’ (2004-2018) - a project supported young parents back into education, employment and training

Dear 14 year old me,

First things first, this isn't going to be easy!! But the satisfaction you are going to get from succeeding and showing all the people who doubted you and told you your life was over how very wrong they were.

Next, be kind to yourself. You don't have to be the best parent every minute of the day, you don't have to always be doing something to show people you're not a lazy teenage parent (they will think that anyway so give yourself a break). The stigma of who and what you are (yes it sounds like a disease) will always be with you but you can use this for good, you can use it as the motivation to push you through the hard time that will come.

I wish that I had taken more time enjoying “normal things” rather than watching other people’s reactions to me and my bump/baby. I regret this even now 20 years later. Do not miss out on baby groups/classes just because you are so much younger than them all.

If I could give you one piece of advice it would be to look after you as you need to be ok to be able to look after everyone else. Have some self care time and time to have a good cry. Do not bottle up your frustrations; this is really not a good idea.

The days will feel like they might never end but try and enjoy each one, you are going to blink and your baby will be at school and then leaving school, leaving home and getting a job. You can read all about bringing up these small people but no one teaches you how to watch them grow into their own people and leave you. This also hurts like hell. So embrace the million questions (that is per day), the tantrums and all the mess, you will miss it when it has gone.

So you are prepared, people will always judge you, it doesn't matter how good you are doing in life someone will always pick fault, do not listen to them, they will make you feel bad just to make themselves feel better. Then when you start to overtake those people who didn't "ruin their lives", enjoy that moment because you have worked hard for what you have and do not let anyone tell you different! Also if you're not qualified for something but think you can do it then go for it. You might get knocked back but you might not!

You will be surprised to hear that you’ve become a CQC registered manager for a dental practice that you helped set up (including construction) from scratch. You have a beautiful family with 3 children and a husband of 14 years. You own your own home and have a nice car. All of this has taken a very long time and hard work to achieve but you were never going to give anyone the satisfaction of being right, you were always going to do well and I am proud of who you are now and who you are going to become.

Keep your head held up high and be proud of who you are

– Lois x

35 years old, became a mum at 15 - QLR Study

Dear Keeley,

Those things that you worried about turned out to be the most amazing life you could ever imagine. You have become a single mum of a happy, energetic, most perfect little boy. You begin to love yourself, be proud of yourself and although everything changes which is scary, you have the most amazing people around you. Don't take life for granted, time goes by so fast from having a little baby in your arms, to an almost toddler running around. He is the best thing that's happened to you. I do wish a few things would have been different for you, but you are doing amazing and nothing can change that.

I’m proud of you because no matter how hard it was you got back on your feet and started working again. You started to live your life and meet some amazing people. Although you wish you had that certain person, you are better off without her. One thing you needed to hear was that everything was going to work out alright, all the worries from first finding out you were pregnant are not a problem today, two years later.

Finally, don't think you need the fanciest pram or expensive clothes/accessories, all you need are the essentials because your baby will be happy as long as you are. Some nights will be stressful - they will keep you up, scream with no reason, and you will be so tired. But for them, just knowing you're there, they will feel safe, and soon settle. Just be patient with yourself and soon things will work out, all the worry and stress will soon fade.

– Keeley
Research Participant, 18 years old, became a mum at 17

Dear Naomi from twenty years ago,

You are younger than you feel like you are. I look at you and can see how you were still a kid really and had to change your whole life so quickly. While you watched your friends and family spend their twenties focused on themselves and having fun, you dedicated yours to being a mum – and you did good, I promise, even though you sometimes felt low and questioned yourself a lot.

I’m proud of you because you have loved your son and he is secure and happy – you put him first and no-one taught you how to do that. I am proud because you have also achieved so much – he was your wake up call and you have worked so hard and been a good role model to him. Now, age 40, you have friends with young children and you are the one with the freedom.

Be kind to yourself because your happiness matters too. You being happy is good for your son and it is ok to take time for yourself sometimes – to spend with friends or on your own – without needing to feel guilty for that.

I wish that you knew that you didn’t have to stay in a relationship that makes you unhappy, where your needs aren’t met, and where you are being brought down. I wish you could have left sooner, the first or even the second time you tried. I wish you knew you were strong enough to not be in a relationship and you could learn to know and love yourself better that way.

If I could give you one piece of advice it would be that other people's judgements shouldn’t matter and that some of them will judge you whatever you do. Some of the people whose opinions you worry about don’t love you well enough for you to be so anxious about what they think of you. Their judgements are not about what is right or best for you because that is not their priority.

You will be surprised to hear that your own life and education and career does not end when you become a young parent. Some people have told you that it does and you will prove them wrong. In fact, being a mum made you more determined to succeed – and you will.

Those things that you worried about turned out ok in the end. Your son was a good kid, he is so different to how you were when you were young!! He works hard, doesn’t argue with you or get into any serious trouble and is now at university. He is your friend, he loves you – and he misses you now he lives away. He appreciates all the things you did for him and he tells you that now he has grown up – he didn’t always at the time! He is now the age you were when he was born and you are so incredibly proud of him and who he has become. Young parents are not bad parents and you need to worry less about what the other mums think of you because your son is smashing it and so are you.

Lots of love,
Naomi now.

– Naomi
University Lecturer, 40 years old, became a mum at 19)

How we feel about our children

I love my daughter to the moon and back. I do everything for her and everything with her – Dave

One of the most important themes which came out of our work with young parents was the overwhelming sense of love and commitment that mums and dads felt for their children. Despite many challenges, young parents were dedicated to doing their best for their children and spoke about the many warm, enjoyable and fun everyday moments involved in caring for them.

I got to meet [my daughter] earlier...As cliché as it sounds, she did save my life.Sara
You get to grow up with your child... If you’re a young parent, you get to like... have that adventure with them as well.James
Work is so stressful and just seeing [my son] smile is...the best.James
I look at [my daughter] and instantly it’s like my heart wants to explode...I don’t specifically know what it is that...makes it so amazing. It’s everything, like even being so’s worth it.Aimee
I think having him is helping me towards the future. Because I've had him so early, I get to bring him up in an environment where I grow as much as he grows, and we can learn together new experiences.Keeley
Now I feel like I’ve actually something, like a purpose in life.Holly
I love it; he’s completely changed my world around... Since having him and starting my own family I’m absolutely thriving, like I’m, I’m starting to actually enjoy life again and all the kinda little memories and doing them family things and going out, I absolutely love it. Waking up every day, this little life like that I created depends on me, it’s incredible.Jess

Where to go for more information

Being a young parent can be challenging and the mums and dads who took part in this project told us how important it is to have a good support network in place. Your midwife, health visitor or local Children’s Centre will be able to provide you with a list of baby groups and activities in your area. Some areas have groups intended specifically for young parents which have received very good feedback.

Family Rights Group is an organisation which provides free and impartial advice to parents who have social workers involved with their children. They run a free telephone helpline and have lots of resources available online.

The YMCA have branches around the country and offer advice, housing support and services for families and young people. You can find your local branch here.

The Citizens Advice Bureau offer free advice relating to benefits, employment, debt, housing, family and the law.

Special thanks to all the young parents who shared their letters and advice and made this pamphlet possible. Other key contributors and thanks go to: Aniela Wenham; Emma Geddes; Jean McEwan, Sidewalk Youth Project; Tom Maynard; Colette Gray; Phillipa Sellstrom; Alison Langdale; Mandy; Lynn; Naomi and Lisa.

If you would like to learn more about our wider research in this area, please contact: or

Project from the