How to respond to a teenage pregnancy in your family
When your teenage daughter tell you she's pregnant, you may feel a roller coaster of emotions. While this isn't good news, it's not the end of the world either.
When your teen daughter first breaks the news to you, you may feel shock, disappointment, despair, or embarrassment or all of those feelings at once. You may think, “All of her (and our!) hopes, dreams and plans are over.” It may not be good news, and yet, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world either. You can make it through. Other families have walked this road, too. Here are some guidelines to help you through this unexpected time.
At the beginning, listen
Stay calm. This is an important time to listen. Avoid assigning blame or condemning, and focus on the positive. Remember, it’s a blessing that she is talking to you and including you in this decision.
Step into her shoes
Try to understand her fears. She is probably overwhelmed and scared. She could be feeling alone and wondering what her options are. Feelings of shame and losing your love could be clouding her thoughts. This is a future she may not have planned and many of her friends may not be sympathetic. Be there for her.
Step up and help
Be an asset to your daughter by reassuring her of your unconditional love and concern. Tell her you will be with her. It may be tempting to say, “Whatever you choose, we’ll support you.” But this could make your daughter feel that she has to chart her course alone. Sharing wisdom gently, gained through your life experiences, can be a valuable component in your daughter’s decision-making process.
Support your daughter by offering to tell close family members or friends about the pregnancy. This can give them an opportunity to express their genuine concern. Siblings may offer her unique sympathy too. Any one of the friends or family members may have good suggestions regarding resources that you haven’t thought of. Ultimately, the goal is to unite everyone in support for her. In addition, when she is ready, you can help her understand the journey ahead of her. Talk through the options available to her such as marriage, adoption, single parenting, evening college courses, etc.
Simply say it
She can’t read your mind and may even doubt that you care. Remind her of your love. This is a time for grace and mercy even though it is tough; therefore, consider saying some of the following:
- “I still love you. No matter what.”
- “I’m here for you and will help you in whatever way I can.”
- “You do have options for you and the baby.”
- “Some people may judge you; however, many more will extend their compassion.”
- “You are ultimately accountable to God, not other people.”
- “Many people have found ways to make this work.”
Be her advocate
Be willing to listen as she talks about her feelings and then listen some more. Talk through options so she can make rational, thoughtful decisions. Respect her privacy. (Allow her to ponder personal thoughts.) Respect her feelings about the baby’s father (whether the relationship continues or discontinues). Offer to assist the baby’s father into responsible co-parenting, if appropriate.
After sharing the news
Remember to respect everyone’s opinion. That doesn’t mean, though, that you are obligated to act on every suggestion made by others. Some family members, friends or even church members may strongly disagree on some decisions. Ultimately, though, it’s your daughter and the life inside of her who are affected by the decisions. Face this situation together.
There is help for you too
You need support, too! You can best help your daughter when you are strengthened and healthy. Look for trustworthy places and people that can help you and your daughter out such as:
- Focus on the Family’s free consults with trained, professional counselors (Call 1-855-771-HELP (4357) weekdays from 6:00am to 8:00pm MST.)
- Pregnancy resource centers have a wealth of information and can refer you to other parents who have “been there”.
- Church members such as pastors, youth leaders, Sunday school leaders and Bible study groups.
- An existing parent support group (or be willing to start your own!)
- Other agencies in your area working with single pregnant women.
The spiritual lives of both you and your daughter have been catapulted into unknown territory. Regardless of spiritual maturity or how well you think you’re handling things, don’t ignore this critical part of each other’s well-being. Take action by:
- Remembering that God is big enough to handle your doubts and questions.
- Resting in the fact that God’s love is everlasting and unconditional.
- Realizing that sometimes God’s plan may not make sense at the time.
- Don’t shy away from asking for and receiving help and hope.
- Requesting that your pastor or other mature Christians help you and your daughter grow through this situation.
The bottom line – remain clam. Don’t burn bridges by saying something today that you might regret tomorrow. More than likely, your family is facing a future none of you had planned. However, that does not mean your world is coming to an end. Though it is hard to imagine right this minute, good can come from this. Live one moment at a time.
Writer: Holly M. Duncan