Each year, more than 300,000 babies are born to teenage mothers between the ages of 15-19. While this represents a historically low teenage pregnancy rate, that is likely of little comfort to parents who learn their teenager is pregnant. You may feel scared, anxious and even sad; know your teenager has felt all of these emotions – and many more. It is difficult to know exactly what to say or do, but here are some tips to consider as your prepare to navigate this delicate situation.
Accept the Reality of the Pregnancy
While the news will most definitely come as a monumental shock, you must not waste valuable time and emotional energy in denial. Accepting this reality might be the most important step in being able to handle what may come in the future. Time spent asking, blaming, yelling and denying is time that could be much more productively spent on understanding this new reality and having a loving conversation about it with your daughter. This will not be easy, but keep your eyes on the goal: to comfort your child and help them through an emotional and uncertain time.
Listen Before You Offer Advice
Regardless of her age, your daughter is your child – your baby at one point – and you will feel compelled to immediately offer solutions, advice and opinions about what she should do. Resist this urge in favor of active listening – remember, your daughter has known about this for days or weeks before you have – she will have her own thoughts, questions, and ideas about options. Listen to her, and give yourself time to process the pregnancy news before you jump to whatever comes next. Your daughter must feel loved, heard and supported at a time when she may feel very alone.
Discuss Every Option
You will need to be prepared to discuss every option – even those you may be strictly opposed to – with your daughter, your spouse, clergy, doctor or others with whom you have confidence and trust. Even an option you deem as “unthinkable” will need to be addressed. You do not have do condone the option, but you must allow your daughter the space she will need to talk about it. If you and your family are strongly religious or spiritual, there’s a reasonable chance that your child is too, and that she will not go against these beliefs. You are absolutely free to express your opinion – you are also completely allowed to try to guide and persuade for or against any of the options. But you absolutely must do so in the context of a loving, supporting and empathetic parent and confidante. In other words, you have to come to terms with the fact that you are not in complete control of this situation. Forcing any course of action will have consequences; just as every choice will come with ramifications. Instead, be prepared to offer insights, perspectives, options, alternatives and things to consider with any planned action.
Help Her See Everything
In the shock of realizing an unplanned pregnancy, your daughter may be unable to maintain her perspective. For instance, she may see her pregnancy as a “black and white” issue: that she must choose whether to terminate the pregnancy or have and raise the baby. We all know that there is an option to have the baby and give the ultimate gift to perspective parents through adoption. That option also carries its own implications: her life will be interrupted, to say the least. News of the pregnancy will come about, and the process of adoption will require several steps. These may seem like insurmountable challenges to your daughter, so being there to support her and frame these challenges against the consequences of a different choice will be essential. She may be relieved at knowing there are more options than she realized.
While you may, out of frustration, feel otherwise, the fact that your teenager is pregnant will not change your love for her. You will feel every emotion during this journey. She will, too. Be steadfast in your love; it may be the only thing she will truly be able to depend on in the coming months and for the rest of her life. Your teenager is pregnant, and she needs you more than ever.