Having just learned that your teenager is pregnant you may find yourself running the gamut of emotions. You may be feeling shock, grief, disappointment, and even shame. While this life-altering news is certainly not what you expected to hear, and certainly not what you wanted for your teenaged daughter, it is something that occurs almost daily in the United States. With an estimated one million teenage girls giving birth in the United Stated each year, your daughter is definitely not alone with the predicament she currently finds herself facing.
How can you best provide support to your daughter through all of the challenges she is facing? How can you best support her as she embarks on the emotional rollercoaster that is teen pregnancy?
Facing your own emotions
Your emotions are likely going to be all over the place, even if you had been suspecting your teenager was pregnant; the moment the pregnancy is confirmed can be a complete shock to your system. It can be tempting to dwell on your own feelings, but it is essential that you recognize this moment is not about you. This is the time that your daughter needs your strength, your love, and your support more than ever.
Regardless of how you are feeling, this is going to be a challenging period for your whole family. While you should not shelf your emotions and ignore them, it is important to remember that effective communication is key in any successful relationship. Emotions will run high. However, the more rational and level-headed you can be the better communication you will be able to share with her, and the sooner you can all come to an agreement regarding options.
Pregnancy can be a tumultuous event for your teenager. If she knows she doesn't have to face it on her own she will be able to make the best decisions for her future, and her baby. Identify your emotions and your feelings about her pregnancy, work through them with the help of a counselor, and be there to provide the acceptance and support she needs.
Helping her cope with her emotions
Until a few weeks ago, your teenager may have had nothing more serious on her mind than picking out the perfect prom dress, or spending time with friends. Now she is faced with a body that is undergoing rapid physical changes, and the reality that the life she'd planned for herself is about to change drastically.
Your daughter may be feeling horrible shame, guilt, and overwhelming sadness at discovering she is pregnant. She may be concerned that she will be the subject of ridicule at school, or that her boyfriend may leave her. Above all, she may be terrified that her parents may turn their backs on her.
It can be immensely beneficial to allow a neutral third party to provide counseling and guidance to your pregnant teenager. Counseling will not just help her work through emotions, but it can also help her be better mentally and emotionally prepared to face the challenges that lie ahead.
Considering her options
Your teenager is going to have a significant number of decisions to make. It will be difficult to allow her to make some of these decisions herself, but it is essential that you do not push her into making a decision that she will regret for the rest of her life.
To ensure that her pregnancy continues on a healthy track, your daughter will need to have appropriate prenatal care. While you are facing your own flood of emotions, keep in mind that, for the sake of your daughter and the baby, you need to ensure both of them remain healthy. Some teenagers keep their pregnancies hidden as long as they can because they fear the disappointment and anger once the pregnancy is revealed. They may even take steps to try and terminate the pregnancy on their own. This can lead to a host of complications, including infertility later in life and life-threatening consequences.
The sooner you are able to get her health evaluated, the sooner you will be able to start helping her make decisions.
The father of the baby should be involved in many of the decisions as he will be legally and financially responsible for the child in every state. However, this does not mean you should pressure your daughter into marriage. Forcing your opinions or using threats on your teenager is only going to backfire and potentially result in her turning away from you at a time when she really needs your support.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The key is to explore all of her options, get her healthcare needs taken care of, and offer advice when she asks for it.
The responsibilities of pregnancy
There are a number of responsibilities that your pregnant daughter will need to accept. The practicalities of bringing a child into the world need to be decided upon before the baby arrives.
Will your daughter keep the baby?
Will she consider adoption?
Will she raise the baby on her own, or will the father be involved in the baby's life?
Where will they live?
Who will shoulder the financial responsibilities for the baby?
Will your daughter pursue her education?
If so, who will pay for childcare while she is at school?
What type of assistance are you able to provide to her?
Will you help with the financial responsibilities?
Will you allow them to live in your home?
As a parent, you need to give serious thought to the level of commitment and involvement that you can afford to offer to your daughter. You have limitless levels of love and emotional support to offer, but the reality is you may not be able to shoulder the full financial burden of caring for the baby.
The reality is that it is best for pregnant teenagers to do their utmost to finish their high school education so that they can pursue a college degree or certification program later on. The more education that your teenager is able to get under her belt, the better life she will be able to create for herself and for her little one. More than 60 percent of pregnant teenagers drop out of school, and it can be all but impossible to return later on.
Working with a counselor or social worker can help you and your daughter work through these types of issues so that you can find a solution that works best for all of you. There are often school, church, and community programs that offer services for teenage mothers so that they can continue to pursue their educational goals.
As a parent, you are in a position to have a positive impact on your daughter's life, and on the life of her baby. Certainly you may wish that things had gone in a different direction for her. But by offering the support she needs, and by being the best source of strength and wisdom in her life, you may just find that the result is you are both better parents for it.