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How Sarah Palin Can Help Bristol Now

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Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston have split up, just months after their baby was born. What's the best way to comfort a daughter when her "baby daddy" bails? A psychologist gives us pointers.

Sarah Palin, Bristol Palin

The news that Bristol Palin and fiance Levi Johnston have broken off their engagement once again focuses national attention on teens' expectations about marriage when there is a pregnancy, the proportion of teens who get married after having a child, and the viability of teen marriages themselves. Research suggests that the experience of Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston is far from rare.

• At the time of their child's birth, more than half of unmarried teen mothers say they are either "certain" or chances are "good" they will marry the biological father of their child. However, 8 out of 10 fathers don't ever marry the teen mother of their child.

• Despite high expectations for marriage, fewer than 8% of teen mothers marry their baby's father within one year of the birth of their child.

• Teenagers who have a non-marital birth are also significantly less likely to be married by the age of 35 than those who do not have babies as teens.

• Marriage among teens is rare -- in 2002 only 2.5% of teens had ever been married, compared to 11% in 1975.

• As recently as 1980, the majority of teen births (52%) were marital births. By 2002, only 20% of teen births occurred within marriage.

• Teen marriages are twice as likely to fail as marriages in which the woman is at least 25 years old.

• It is also the case that most single mothers of all ages who have a child as a result of an unplanned pregnancy remain single and most cohabiting mothers either continue cohabiting or break up with their partner.

"Marriage and birth patterns among teens have changed over time, shifting from a general trend of marrying before pregnancy, to marrying as a result of pregnancy, to becoming pregnant and not marrying," said Sarah Brown, CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "Even though many unmarried teen mothers have high expectations for eventually marrying the father of their child, few ever do."

How do you comfort a daughter who has been dumped by her "baby daddy"? Here are some tips from psychologist Michelle Golland for Sarah Palin, and other moms in her same boat:

1) Encourage Bristol to focus her efforts on the well being of the young child. Encourage your daughter not to infect the child with the anger at her lost love. This anger will be guaranteed to come back and haunt you in the not so distant future.

2) Bristol should accept how truly painful the breakup is. She should honor her feelings instead of trying to stuff them down, and cry if she needs to. But she should express these feelings of anger and devastation to a safe person (like loving family and friends), NOT to her ex-boyfriend.

3) Encourage your daughter to examine what happened and how the breakup occurred. Remember, it is always a two-way street ... and exploring her part in the ending of the relationship is key to having healthier and happier relationships in the future.

4) Advise her to move with grace and dignity as much as possible. Keep the fond memories and discard the painful ones. This will help when dealing with her ex regarding the child. A healthy detachment is required.

5) Seek professional help to get through the breakup if she is feeling depressed for a long period of time.

What's your advice for Sarah Palin? Comment below.



next: Is Your Pediatrician a Perv?
8 comments so far | Post a comment now
jen March 13, 2009, 7:50 PM

You ask; what’s MY advice?? To Sarah Palin - stop using your children as political pawns, as a means for ingratiating yourself into the moral-majority “mainstream” (as if that really exists). To Bristol my advice is; quit listening to your mother, who is only using you as a pawn to advance her political career.

CATINA March 13, 2009, 8:51 PM

SARAH PALIN IS A GOOD MOTHER AND IF WE ALL WILL LEAVE THEM THE HELL ALONE. MAYBE ALL OF US CAN LEARN A LESSON FROM BRISTOL.

Holly March 13, 2009, 10:09 PM

Oh yeah, Sarah Palin is one hell of a mother. She teaches her children the fundamentals of right-wing hypocrisy including abstinence that Bristol Palin herself said in an interview on Fox News was unrealistic. Maybe if the Palins incorporated some real education in with their failed ideologies, Bristol (who the only lesson we can learn is how not to get pregnant while you’re still a child) would not be in her unfortunate situation.

Sara March 14, 2009, 11:40 AM

Bristol seems to be a nice young lady who is in the same situation as so many other teens in this country. I do not look down on her in any way for getting pregnant as a teenager. Even though she probably would have thought twice if she could go back in time, at this point I’m sure she loves her baby and is only trying to make the best of her situation. I DEFINITELY commend her for defying the usual beliefs of viewers of one of the nation’s largest news networks by saying that abstinence didn’t work for her. That is something that needs to be said more often. If abstinence works for you, that’s fantastic. I’d never put anyone down for choosing that method. It is the best way to prevent pregnancy. However, if you choose not to be abstinent you should be able to get the resources you need to protect yourself without being put down by someone else for the method YOU choose. That is why it’s called YOUR choice. I am not a fan of her mother in any way, shape or form but at this point I hope Sarah can put aside her pride and whatever picket-fence future she imagined for Bristol, and accept that her daughter is going to be a single teen mother. Shame on Sarah for not being open to discussing her daughter’s personal choices with her. If Bristol hadn’t been so terrified for her mother to know she wanted to have sex, she would have been able to get the birth control methods she needed.

Sandi March 15, 2009, 10:55 AM

I think an important thing Sarah can do for Bristol is not harp on any ill feelings(if she had any) of Levi. If she had a feeling that Levi might do this, please don’t tell Bristol about it all the time. Bristol is dealing with enough coming to grips that she is now a single mother and the feelings that are there because of heartbreak. She doesn’t need that extra junk. She needs to encourage Bristol to realize that she is a strong woman and she can do this!

Gail Cooke March 17, 2009, 7:10 PM

It’s not like the girl is going to be on welfare if she doesn’t marry the father of her baby. She comes from a wealthy and influencial family. The girl and the child HAVE IT MADE! So don’t cry too hard for her.

Linda March 17, 2009, 7:49 PM

In response to Holly, Bristol only said that abstinence was unrealistic in that one interview because SHE didn’t abstain from sex! Lots of teenagers practice abstinence.

It’s not Sarah’s fault that Bristol had sex and got pregnant from it. It’s BRISTOL’s fault because she did it. None of Sarah’s other children have babies. You can have one child in a family obey their parents while the same child’s sibling rebel. It’s the CHILD’s personality to decide if they want to follow their parents or rebel against them.

That is too bad Bristol and Levi broke up but it’s the norm amongst teen pregnancy.

Dflahyqq June 23, 2009, 5:44 AM

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