Your teenage daughter tells you she’s pregnant. What do you do?
You’re not alone. According to recent studies by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, although teen sex rates have decreased, teen contraceptive use has increased, and teen abortion rates have decreased over the past decade, teen birthrates are rising. In an age where feminism sometimes seems to be going out of style and $1.5 billion dollars has been spent on abstinence-only sex education programs that have proven to be ineffective, your teenage daughter is looking to you for advice.
You need to be there for her.
You might feel guilty about your daughter’s pregnancy, or embarrassed, worried, angry, or disappointed. You might be happy about becoming a grandparent. It’s first and foremost important for you to recognize your feelings and work through them so that you are able to support your daughter through her own emotions during her pregnancy. If you’re angry at your daughter, this will set the ground for more potentially irreparable damage to your relationship with her. If you need help working through your feelings, talk to a trusted friend or family member, or consider talking to a therapist.
Understand that your teen is most likely not ready for her pregnancy and the baby. She’s probably not only feeling terrified, but she might be embarrassed, worried, angry, guilty, or disappointed, just like you are. Despite your emotions, try to talk openly with your daughter about her situation. You’ll need to help her:
- Decide what to do with the baby
- Receive the proper medical care
The three most common options your daughter will be considering for the end of her pregnancy are parenting, adoption, and abortion. This is undoubtedly the biggest decision your daughter has made, so it’s imperative that you help her evaluate her options.
If your daughter decides to parent the baby, you’ll likely be helping her do this. Although your involvement in the parenting is between you and your daughter, if your daughter is going to finish school or need to work and can’t afford daycare, you’ll likely be the one taking care of her child if she lives at home.
If your daughter chooses adoption, you should help her figure out exactly what is required to do this, as it varies by state. There are different types of adoptions as well, including situations where the biological mother can see her child and others where this is not allowed. You’ll need to help your daughter figure out the best situation for her and the prospective parents.
If your daughter chooses abortion, you’ll need to help her not only arrange for this, but also support her through the intense emotions and physical pain of having an abortion. Although abortion seems scary, it’s a last resort that might be the best option for your daughter and it’s important for you to be there for her as an emotional rock.
Helping your daughter get the proper medical care. This includes helping her schedule the appropriate medical appointments and ensuring that she is leading a healthy lifestyle. Make sure your daughter is:
- Not smoking, drinking alcohol, or using drugs
- Avoiding caffeine
- Eating healthfully, paying particular attention to protein, calcium, iron, and folic acid intake
- Not engaging in sexual activity
- Exercising moderately (walking and swimming are best)
- Managing stress levels
Whether or not your daughter is pregnant, if you have a teenage son or daughter, there is never a better time to start talking with them about relationships, intimacy, and sex. Studies of teens show that they want their parents to talk to them about sex. If you need help, consult there websites:
- The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy
- Planned Parenthood
- Life Choices SHARE Program
- Sex, etc.