Parenting at any age can be difficult, but parenting as a teenager is particularly challenging.
At least that is the lesson learned each semester in Elkin High School’s Teen Living class, taught by Robin Hooper. While the class offers students experience in many real life situations, the opportunity to take home the baby simulator for a weekend is one of the most memorable.
Cayla Leonard, an Elkin High student who recently took the simulator home, was surprised by the amount of infant care required during the time a person would normally be asleep. “It woke up at 11:30 every night!” she commented.
As a requirement of Teen Living, each student takes home a simulated baby which looks like a plastic infant doll. However, the doll is remarkably similar to an actual newborn in that it requires care and handling. Since the simulator is only a doll, it is also impossible to entertain or distract like one could do for a real baby.
Although the experience may be frustrating for teens, accountability is part of the project. The student receives a grade based on how well the infant simulator is cared for, and each student and his parent are required to sign a document that holds them accountable for any damage caused to the $850 simulator while in the student’s care.
When the simulated baby starts crying, the student has to slide a bracelet containing a computer chip over the baby so the “parent” can discover what the baby needs. At times the baby needs to be fed, it has a diaper to be changed, and, sometimes, it simply needs to be held. Doing all of this takes quite a bit of time and can happen up to five times, if not more, per night.
Students learn how a newborn affects the entire household as well. Will Altemueller, another Teen Living student, said, “Your family members don’t like you because the baby won’t shut up.”
Teens learn through the project how important it is to have a responsible partner to share the burdens of parenting and how difficult it is to place the needs of the infant above their own.
Many of the students were nervous about taking the baby home because of past horror stories. However, most who participated said that it was not as bad as they expected it to be, and they benefited from the assignment. Most said that it interrupted their social lives over the weekend and showed them that they are definitely not ready to become parents yet. One student, Mckenna Major, said that it was quite the learning experience.
“Doing everything with a baby really teaches you how hard it is to have a newborn,” she said.
Teacher Robin Hooper also said she believes that this is a very beneficial experience for the students.
“It gives them a more realistic view of what parenting is like,” she said.