Unexpected: The Role That Champions Can Play for Teen Parents
We know that young people want to hear from their parents and other adults in their lives about sex, love, relationships, and how to navigate it all. That’s why for the fourth consecutive season, we’re partnering with TLC to help viewers use Unexpected to spark meaningful conversations about unplanned pregnancy.
According to young people, champions and parents—not pop culture—most influence their decisions about sex, love, and relationships. A champion can be a trusted friend, aunt, uncle, cousin, sibling, grandparents, teacher, or any adult who is willing to have these important conversations with the young person in their life and be there for them in the tough moments.
With the reality of teen parenthood setting in, the couples in “Unexpected” this season have relied on the champions in their lives for guidance and support. Whether they are part of a biological family or not, champions have stepped up in season four and shown the impact that supportive, trusted adults can have in the lives of the young people that they care about. All young people deserve and benefit from this kind of love and support from the adults in their lives.
Jenna & Aiden
Although Jenna may still have some maturing to do before her baby arrives, she is very lucky to have a strong system of support. Jenna and her boyfriend Aden have relied on Jenna’s dad to help them through the pregnancy and stay on track for their post-high school goals. Aden comes from a big family, and his mother is also supportive of the pregnancy. She is already a grandmother and was a teen mom herself. Although an unplanned pregnancy wasn’t their ideal situation, both sets of grandparents were able to accept it, show support, and help Jenna and Aden navigate this new challenge.
Tyra & Alex
With a 9-month-old to consider, Tyra and Alex’s relationship evolves this season. The biggest change for the couple is that Tyra is attending college a few hours away and is a part of their cheer team. Now that she’s a teen parent, Tyra has to set her life up for success to be the best parent to Layla. That means that in addition to being in a long-distance relationship with Alex, Tyra must also grapple with the fact that she isn’t with her daughter for most of the week.
“Me going to school, that is me focusing on my child and our future.” -Tyra on Unexpected Season 4 Episode 4
Like Jenna, Tyra has a strong foundation of family that’s helping her towards her goals. Even though they didn’t have a great relationship before Layla was born, Tyra has been able to build a connection with Alex’s family, staying with them in their house when she’s not away at school. Alex’s mother and grandmother step up as champions to help him care for Layla while Tyra is attending school. Without them, Alex would have to struggle with teen fatherhood alone. Although the family has their challenges throughout the season, they uplift and support Tyra’s education, and help the teen parents give their child the best life possible.
Myrka & Ethan
Although young people may prefer open support from their parents, Myrka’s story proves that a champion can be somebody who they wouldn’t have expected.
Even before her unplanned pregnancy, Myrka had a strained relationship with her mom, Liliana. Growing up she was often responsible for her younger sibling and a lot of housework. When she got pregnant, Liliana told her that she wouldn’t financially or emotionally support her pregnancy or the baby. With nowhere else to go, Ethan’s family welcomed Myrka with open arms and truly makes her feel included in the family. Ethan’s parents, Michelle and Charlie, show Myrka more love and support than she has ever experienced. As Myrka says:
“I couldn’t deal with being pregnant if it wasn’t for Ethan’s parents. I would be on the street right now.” -Myrka on Unexpected Seasons 4 Episode 5
Michelle and Charlie choosing to take up the financial and logistical aspects of Myrka’s life, such as taking her to and paying for doctor’s appointments, is a powerful move by unexpected champions. They even go the extra mile to plan an extravagant gender reveal party for the young couple in the season’s fourth episode. When Myrka is stressed or worried, Ethan’s parents remind her that she has love and support from them and that they consider her family. They’re aware of how important it is for Myrka to know that she has people who care about her.
“We want Myrka to know she’s a priority and that we support her 100%.” - Ethan’s mom, Michelle, on Unexpected Seasons 4 Episode 6
A Power to Decide survey showed that 9 in 10 young people say it would be much easier to avoid sex and postpone pregnancy if they were able to have more open, honest conversations with their parents about these topics. Relating to popular TV shows might help parents and champions to begin a conversation with a young person in their life.
We all have the power to be trusted champions for young people in our lives. Having systems of support and the power to decide increases young people’s opportunities to be healthy, to complete their education, and to pursue the future they want. For everything you need to start a conversation about sex, love, and relationships with your young person, check out powertodecide.org/unexpected.