Heart pounding, your teen sits next to you with their boy/girlfriend, they’ve asked to talk with you and your spouse/significant other. You know that it can’t be that good because they’ve never asked to talk to you like this before.
Your teen child looks at you and says, “Mom/Dad I’m/we are pregnant”. You sit there absolutely shocked and stunned. Anger or shame or maybe both begin to well up and you can feel the adrenaline starting to pump through your veins.
“How could they do this to me?”
“What were they thinking?”
“How are they going to raise this child?”
Questions start running through your mind and you struggle to collect your thoughts. You look at your child and you can see they are reading your face waiting for some kind of reaction. You open your mouth and say…
What do you say?
What would you say?
Any parent of a teen or even a child has run through scenarios in their minds about what would I do if ____ happened. How would I react to this situation? What would I do? And unlike a student coming out to their parents the odds are much higher that you may have a child come to you with this situation.
The good news is that teen pregnancy is at an all-time low with the CDC reporting 34.3 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19. That’s a 44% drop from the previous decade. In fact there were fewer teen moms in 2012 then there were in 1946 (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57411981-10391704/u.s-teen-pregnancy-rates-at-an-all-time-low-across-all-ethnicities/).
Even in that good news as parents we still need to be prepared for what might happen. Don’t go through your child’s adolescence with your head in the sand thinking it could never happen to your child. With that thought in mind here are some things to think about.
Your teen child is terrified
Whether it’s your son or daughter no teen wants to go to their parents and tell them that they are going to have a baby. No teen wants to have that conversation. Unfortunately, some have had to and others will.
Understand the emotional place they are in. Something has happened to them that they never thought would and now they are terrified of telling you about it. Not only that, but now they have to start planning to take care of another human being. What in the world does a teenager know about taking care of a baby? Nothing! And that’s why it’s so terrifying!
Understanding your child’s frame of mind will help you with these next few items
Reassure your child
Your child is waiting to see if all the times you said “I love you” were true. You might sit there reading this and think “Well of course it’s true” but we all know of families that have gone through this and the teen mom has been told to leave. If you don’t I can introduce you to a few.
What your child needs right this moment is reassurance. They need to know that you and your spouse or significant other are and will continue to be there for them. You need to help them see that life is not over but it will be different.
When they start throwing out all kinds of scenarios help them to see that they will have their family around them to help them through anything that may happen. Help keep them grounded in the now while planning ahead for a rocky future.
Understand the new norm
Things are different now. Your son or daughter has a new set of priorities, and rightly so. But you also need to help them see that some of the old priorities are still just as important. A CDC study reported that only 50% of teen moms will receive their high school diploma by the age of 22. That’s not good.
A teen mom or mom to be needs to understand that it’s going to be hard, caring for a baby and trying to finish school. But that needs to happen. Offer to babysit while she needs to do her homework. If a family can make it financially, don’t make the new mother work to support the baby. If that’s not an option then assist her in getting all the aid that she can qualify for so that the financial burden is lessened.
Be aware of the stigma that comes with teen pregnancy. While it honestly can happen to anyone that’s having sex a teen mom is often looked at differently. There is very much a double standard when it comes to gender and sexuality. And certain terms and labels can and might be thrown at a young girl who is pregnant. If this should happen, preparing your child in advance can help but won’t fix it. Nothing will totally take the hurt away from harsh words and friends leaving but making sure that you create a loving environment at home will go a long way.
Explore the options
Sitting down and having some serious conversations with your teen needs to happen. Your child will have to come to terms on whether they will keep this child or not. If keeping the child seems too heavy or unrealistic for your child then I would strongly suggest adoption.
There are roughly 36 couples waiting to adopt each child available for adoption in the US - 36 couples per available adoption…that’s a lot of people. And while you may not be able to provide for this child in the manner he/she should be, there is someone waiting to do just that very thing.
If your child does decide to raise the baby then get ready! It’s time to move forward as a family and get excited about the new addition to your family. This could be an amazing time of bonding between parent/s and child and even between the two families.
Go shopping for the newborn, pick out furniture or refurbish old ones, pick out colors and clothes, get diapers and arrange for baby showers. All of these things will create a sense of family for new mother and father and help with a transition no one planned for.
Love them in their life lesson
There will be plenty of opportunities to speak into your teen’s life about what’s happened. When those do arise, take advantage of them. Don’t think that loving and accepting your child and their situation means that you can’t speak about disappointment or any other emotion. Use the life lesson to teach and to mold.
Teenagers are notorious for not thinking! And there’s a perfectly good reason for it. They aren’t. Seriously, at this stage in your child’s brain development the frontal lobes are not completely connected which makes it very difficult for them to connect action to consequence. So they may not quite understand what you’re trying to say. But don’t stop!
And loving your son or daughter often means having these talks about life. Don’t let them wander through this on their own…speak your wisdom into them. When you start talking about the why’s or what’s they are going to hear you because they are living in it. Lovingly guide them through what it means to be a parent.
You might be surprised that a welcomed consequence of this is that your child may now begin to understand many of the things you did.
Dear parent…understand that it’s going to be difficult. Even if everything goes perfect it still will be difficult. And while this is in no way the end all on how to handle this it’s a good start. Make sure that you express your thoughts and feelings to them but do so lovingly. Always do so in a constructive way and never in a destructive way. This is a make it or break it season in a teen’s life. You can grow your bond to amazing strengths through this season or you can do damage that may become beyond repair.
As always make sure your son or daughter knows you love them. I can’t tell you how many times I did really stupid things in life only to have my mom & dad tell me they love me. Even if it came after a tongue lashing I never doubted their love. And many times it was honestly the difference between running to them versus running away from them.
If you’ve experienced this situation in your family and are willing to share your thoughts and insights we would love to hear from you. The more we talk together, the more we learn together.