Exactly one week before my 17th birthday, my high school nurse confirmed I was pregnant.

The walk home that day was heavy, and I spent it going over what I would tell my mom. She was a teen mom herself, and I knew that she never wanted the same for me. 

Isabella was born in the early morning of August 30th, two weeks into my senior year of high school. I found myself going from being worried about exams and homework to what is the best brand of diapers to buy. The moment she was placed on my chest, I was met with so many emotions. What was a happy moment for a lot of new moms was a moment of panic for me.

At 19, I graduated high school. Bella was almost two years old, and occasionally I would bring her to school as I sat through finals and study groups when I had no one to watch her. After graduation, I got my first job as a server in a breakfast restaurant. When I received my first paycheck, the first thing I bought was a Thanksgiving outfit for her. 

After saving some money, I bought my first car and taught myself to drive. Bella was in the back, strapped in her car seat, as I drove down the street to the grocery store for the first time. To this day, she loves to tell people to “buckle up because my mom is a self-taught driver.” Over the yearsthe moments we have shared in my car have become some of my favorite memories. 

As the years went by, we grew older. I watched her go from pre-k to middle school, and she watched me go from being a teenager to an adult. Now, at ages 11 and 29, our conversations consist of everything —  from the latest TikTok trends to sexuality, from the struggles of being a middle schooler to my recent adjustment to life after a divorce.

When she was born, I knew I wanted to have a relationship that was open, honest, and judgment-free. This has encouraged Bella to ask me questions that naturally come with growing up in today’s world without worrying about my reaction. And it has taught me that young people know a lot more than we think they do. 

Our most recent conversation happened after she got back from her spring break trip. We spent hours sitting on my bed, sharing a bag of Hot Cheetos and talking about whatever was on her mind. She opened up about her recent struggles at school and asked for an update on my life. We spoke openly about safe sex and my struggles as a teen parent. Today, pre-teens and teens are learning a lot through social media. As much as we try to shield them from negativity or false information, it still trickles through. I want to make sure that I am a source of information for her, not just social media and young friends. 


Taking time out for a good conversation with your teen is one of the simplest yet best ways to show them how much you care. Check out our tips for getting the conversation started and practicing good listening

Growing up with my daughter has allowed me to establish a friendship on top of our mother-daughter relationship. We openly share our experiences as they happen, and more importantly, I have a chance to share my mistakes in the hope that we both learn something from them. 

Being given this opportunity to share my story has allowed me to look back over the years and everything we have overcome together. The day I told my mom I was pregnant, she told me something important:

“You’re not always going to be a teen parent. One day you’ll just be a parent.”

 Today I now know how true that is. 

Forward Together Tip: Growing Stronger Together

Start with the time you’ve got, even if it’s just a few moments, and prioritize casual check-ins.

Support them through new experiences

Young people encounter many new life experiences such as big social events, rejections and mistakes. Try relating to them through your own experiences in life. Ask how you can help while being careful not to rush into solving problems for them.

Take note of some of their interests and try to join them.

Don’t forget about the little things

 Teens really value the small stuff that shows you care, which can add up to big gains in your relationship.

Mariela Carbajal

Mariela is a 29-year-old single mother currently based in Denver, CO. She was born to teen parents in Acapulco, Mexico, who immigrated to the United States when she was a baby. She now shares the lessons she and her parents have learned from their experiences as teen parents with her own daughter who is approaching the teen years.