Nothing is quite so guaranteed to create an emotional reaction in parents than the news that your teenage daughter is pregnant, or that your teen son has gotten his girlfriend pregnant. Most often by the time I hear about it, a family is in crisis, saying, “What can we do?”
Well, its not like there’s anything you can do to “un-do” a teen pregnancy! But no matter how well you get along with your teenager, or how much of an antagonistic relationship you have with each other, there are plenty of things you can do now to take your family out of crisis mode and into what I call “Joy-mode”.
Parenting Through Teen Pregnancy.
Having a teen son or daughter who is pregnant may not have been your first – or last – choice when you envisioned how you wanted your child’s life to unfold. But absolutely nothing is served by blaming, finding fault, or reminding your son or daughter of the dangers of having sex or not using birth control. And this is not the time to unload your own emotional baggage on your child! More than at any other time, your son or daughter needs you to be their parent. And by that I mean you now need to step up, stifle your instinct to judge, and provide information, emotional support, and real-world solutions in collaboration with your teenager.
Here are some ways you can help take this experience out of crisis mode, and create ”Joy-mode” for all of you.
- Listen more than you speak. Your son or daughter is likely already quite sure they know what you think about the situation. Rather than spout your ‘superior wisdom’, ask questions, then pay attention to your teenager’s answers.
- Create safety. Your son or daughter will likely go through wildly changing emotional reactions to the pregnancy. Create a place where its really okay not to always hold everything together.
- Get practical. Subjects like high school, whether or not the relationship will continue, and child support considerations are all things you need to discuss, on your teen’s time schedule.
- Be okay with other-adults in your teen’s life. Your son or daughter may be more comfortable discussing this pregnancy with someone besides you. The important part is that they’re getting support.
- Get support for YOU. You’ll have your own fears, frustrations, and ‘old issues’ that come up. If you were hoping to help your daughter avoid some of the mistakes you made when you were her age, welcome to the real world of “teens make their own mistakes”. If you were hoping that your son would pay attention to your warnings, or stop believing he was an exception, welcome to reality. You may feel guilty, angry, ashamed. While all those feelings are perfectly normal and understandable, they’re not something to share with your teen. Find another adult you can be real with.
- Start planning now for the joy of grandparenting. Your teen may be expecting you to help with child care so they can finish school, or expecting a place to live for them and the new baby. Talk about options. Open your heart bigger than you thought you could.
- Let your child be the parent, when and as they’re able to. This is a tough one for many parents, as you’re considerably older and more experienced than your teen. Don’t deprive your teen of the amazing experience of parenting just because you think you know best.
I was a teen mom. When I was barely 18 I found out I was pregnant, and had to figure out a whole lot of life very quickly without much help. I’ve been talking with parents of teens as young as 14 who are struggling with this issue, and am convinced that even though its not your first choice of things to deal with, you can create joy.
Were you a teen parent? Do you have a teen son or daughter who’s expecting, or who became a mom or dad younger than what you were hoping? How can you practice being the parent you wish you’d had?