A lot has been written over the last few days about the baby born to a fifteen year old mother and allegedly fathered by a thirteen year old. Most people, quite rightly, find the whole scenario rather shocking.
Teenage pregnancy is nothing new of course. I can well remember the scandal in the very small town where I grew up, when one of my classmates dropped out of school at fifteen to have a baby. The UK currently has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Western Europe, so something is going wrong somewhere.
What I have found so scary about this particular case is that the girl's parents apparently allowed boys to sleep with her, in their home, when she was clearly legally under age. Not just one, but allegedly at least three.
Now we can't always control what our teenagers are doing outside the house, but we can within our own walls. I don't claim to be a perfect parent, indeed I doubt that one exists. But parents need to know how to set and enforce boundaries, otherwise how else do kids learn to be responsible members of society?
There are many parenting courses available, in fact before Christmas I attended one on parenting teenagers, run by a local voluntary organisation. The sad thing was that everyone who attended the course was in fact already a good parent, simply striving to be even better. The sort of parents who really need such help wouldn't attend, however much social workers or other agencies refer them.
Next week I am going to be speaking to parents on a course based around understanding autism. The same thing applies, the parents who attend the course are the good ones, who want to learn how to understand and help their child. But what about the others, and how might a young teenager cope with a child with autism?