From One Dad to Another: Tips From a Teen Dad (Ombudsman Chicago)

Ombudmsan Chicago Fatherhood Support Group

I was 14 years old when I found out I was going to be a father. I was nervous to tell my mom, I was scared of what the future would hold and I knew there would be a lot of things in my life that would change – whether I liked it or not. Now that my daughter, Nalaya, is nearly 4 years old, I have learned many life lessons that I hope other young dad’s will find helpful:

Make a Schedule – When you have a baby, your life will change. You will have new responsibilities and your time is no longer just your own. Although change can be hard sometimes, making a schedule before the baby comes will help you balance your priorities, focus on what is important and find time to spend with your child.

Finish School – Please hear me when I say that finishing school is the most important thing you can do for yourself and your child. It can be easy to fall off-track when you are getting used to your new routine as a parent. For me, traditional high school offered too many distractions and too many bad influences. When I started taking classes at Ombudsman Chicago, things changed. At Ombudsman, they have flexible schedules that help me balance life and school; and, the teachers and staff help me stay focused on earning my diploma and planning for life after high school.

Model Good Behavior – Being a father also means being a role model. Your child will pick up on the things you say and the way you treat others. Try not to swear in front of your child, be accountable, keep your promises and treat your child’s mother with respect.

Listen and Learn – Find a support system of others who have been in your situation. Every week, Father’s Families & Healthy Communities holds a meeting with the young fathers at Ombudsman. During the meetings, we talk about what we are going through, we take advice from one another and we try to learn from each other’s mistakes.

Enjoy the Simple Things – Becoming a father at a young age can be scary, but being a meaningful part of your child’s life is a wonderful thing. I did not have a father in my life growing up, so for me, just being able to take my daughter to the park and play catch with her is one of life’s simple pleasures.

(Zeek Spann is an 18- year-old high school student at Ombudsman Chicago’s West Side Options School)

Published by: Truth B Told

Special Correspondent: Zeek Spann

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