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It can be embarrassing when it happens. You’re standing in the cashier line, waiting for your turn, when your child begins to squirm and fuss. Before you know it, their irritability has turned into a full-blown tantrum, and nothing seems to be working to calm them down. You feel as though all eyes are on you. A part of you wishes that you could drop everything and leave, but it took so long to pick up these items, and you really need them.
For teen parents, the experience of a public tantrum is twice as uncomfortable because they are often already coping with the stigma that comes with having a child at a young age. The stares from onlookers often feel even more piercing because they have been made to feel unequipped to be a parent so many times before. It can feel like their child’s tantrum is their fault. But in many situations, this isn’t the case.
“My daughter very rarely throws a bad tantrum. On the occasional time that she does, I try to refocus her attention to something else. That usually works. However, there are times when you just have to let them get it out of their system.” – Rochelle, Terra participant.
“It’s hard not to feel embarrassed when your child is having a public tantrum, even though you shouldn’t be. When you can hear people whispering and you see them watching you, you immediately feel judged.” – Rebecca, Terra participant.
“When your child is having a tantrum, people only see that tantrum. They don’t see how early you had to get up to catch the bus to go to school, or the fact that your baby is just getting over a cold. There are so many reasons that it could be happening. You’re being judged based on one minute of parenting and that’s what is frustrating.” – Kaitlyn, Terra participant.
“I think that more people need to realize that even parents can’t be in control of everything all of the time. There are good days and bad days and that’s okay. Also, it could help to remember that everyone was once a child and we’ve all probably thrown a tantrum at some point in our lives.” – Rochelle, Terra participant.
“One tantrum doesn’t reflect a person’s parenting abilities. Don’t be so quick to judge us.” – Karlie, Terra participant.
“Try to give parents space by not staring while their child is upset. It’s easy to have an opinion about what should be done, but you don’t know what that parent is going through. They most likely already feel bad that their child is being a disruption.” – Samantha, Terra alumna.
90 per cent of those who participated said their child has a tantrum less than once per month. So the next time you witness a public tantrum, remember that it could be an unusual occurrence for that child and there are many factors that could be contributing to their mood.
Lastly, a little compassion ALWAYS goes a long way! Offer to help a young mom unload her groceries, tell her she is doing a good job, be sympathetic. It could turn their entire day around!
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The Standards Program Trustmark is a mark of Imagine Canada used under license by Terra Centre for Teen Parents.