As a teenager, your biggest responsibility is supposed to be to navigate the maze of adolescence, reach maturity and discover yourself. **Parenthood, challenging for anyone at any age, is therefore particularly difficult for teenagers.** According to [Healthy Teen Network](http://www.state.nj.us/dcf/providers/notices/Young.Fathers.Healthy.Teen.Network.pdf), teen fathers are more likely to not finish their educations or earn a living wage than their childless peers. But this doesn't have to be your reality. **Tap into the resources available to you in your area, and don't be afraid to ask friends and family members for help.**
Adjust Your Priorities
Before you knew about your baby, going to your friend's party might have been your biggest priority. Now, it's about being responsible, mature and focused. This is no longer the time to focus on partying, experimenting with drinking or smoking and dating new people. Those things will only take your time and money, and complicate your life further. This doesn't mean you'll never have fun again or your life is over. You simply need to focus your energy on enjoying your baby and providing stability for her. Redirect your social interests toward people who support your situation and understand what you're going through and on activities your baby can participate in. After all, she's only going to be little for a short time.
Stay in School
An education can make the difference between struggling financially and building a solid future for you and your baby. Don't give up on your education. Get your high school diploma and press on to college or a trade school. The U.S. Department of Education provides a variety of grants, loans and work-study programs to help you afford school. Some of the loans don't even require a credit check and can help you provide for your baby's material needs while you're studying. If you need a job, you may be able to work part-time at the school you're attending as part of the federal work-study program.
Your family's initial reaction to the news that you were having a baby might have been negative, but once your baby arrives, they will probably soften. Let your parents, family members and trustworthy friends know that you want to be an involved dad but you may need help. You need advice, direction and occasional babysitting. You also likely need money, and if no one in your circle is able to provide that, look to state and federal services. You and your baby's mother may qualify for food stamps, welfare, WIC (Women, Infants and Children) and housing subsidies. Tip: Social workers who provide services for new parents and their babies frequently visit the mother at the hospital after she's given birth. Keep their business cards and get in touch with them.
Mommy's and Baby's Needs
Being a good dad means providing financial support to mom and baby, building an emotional bond with your baby, making sure she's safe and setting a good example. Share responsibilities with the mother, such as changing diapers, watching the baby and getting up at night to feed her if you live together. Don't waste money on unimportant things when you could be spending it on your baby or setting it aside for the future. Always show the mother respect, even if you aren't together any longer. To help you understand important things like how to hold, dress and diaper your baby and how to use a car seat, as well as how to provide emotional support, attend a parenting class.