Your teenage daughter has come to you and uttered a phrase that will change both of your lives: “I’m pregnant”.
It’s a situation that many parents try not to think about, yet something that they worry every time their daughter walks out the door, goes out with friends, or gushes about a new boy that she’s met. Although teen pregnancies are much less common than they once were, they still do happen. So, we’ve created an action plan for you to follow if you both wish, just in case. This is a time that your daughter will need your full support.
She will need you now more than ever, so it is important to put your thoughts and feelings aside – because she will be feeling them a thousand times over!
1. Confirm The Pregnancy
Once your daughter has told you that she either suspects she is pregnant, or has taken an at-home pregnancy test, you need to confirm that this really is the case. Get your daughter in to see a GP or the family planning clinic, and explain that you would like to have the pregnancy result confirmed by them. It’s important to keep your emotions in check at this point, and be there to support your daughter.
There’s no guarantee she really is pregnant just yet, and it’s important to be absolutely sure before moving on.
In saying that, most pregnancy tests these days are 99% accurate. So not only do you need to confirm the pregnancy, you want to make sure that there are no outlying complications with your daughter’s health or pregnancy. For example, you want to make sure she doesn’t have an ectopic pregnancy, which could endanger your daughter’s life.
Make sure she gets a full health check to make sure she is all okay, and find out how far along she is. Pre-natal care is very important – so have her take folic acid and any other vitamins suggested by the doctor to ensure a healthy pregnancy, regardless of her future decisions.
2. Don’t Let Your Emotions Get The Better Of You
Once the pregnancy has been confirmed, you’re going to be in the middle of a tsunami of emotions. It’s so important, for your relationship with your daughter and her own mental health, that you take care what you say. At the end of the day, this is your daughter’s situation – and you need to be there for her – and any decision she makes.
She can’t shoulder all the blame here, and blame really gets you nowhere. If you have a partner, this is the time to tell them and doing so in private is a good idea. The two of you need to take a moment to regroup and figure out how you’re going to deal with this as a couple and as a family. Exploding in anger and disappointment at your daughter is definitely not the answer, so you’re better off avoiding that course of action.
3. Discuss The Three Options
When your teenage daughter falls pregnant, communication lines must be kept open. What does your daugther want to do about it? If she doesn’t know about her options (and there is a good chance she already does) – discuss these with her – but remember that these are her decisions – not yours.
Whatever your views are on the matter, she has three options in moving forward: keeping the baby, terminating the pregnancy, and adopting the child out. Each one is an emotional rollercoaster for her, especially if she’s at the younger end of the teenage scale. These aren’t decisions to be taken lightly, so you need to give her some time to consider what she’s going to do next. At this point, although your advice is probably something she’s definitely looking for, you can’t force her hand. The pregnancy is her responsibility and she has to own the decision, whatever that might be.
Ask her if you may go to any appointments with her for support – she may deny this, don’t take it personally. Any financial help you may be able to give her for appointments will also show support.
4. Counselling Considerations
One thing that might help your daughter in making her decision is to talk to a counsellor. Counselling is available through a number of organisations in person, as well as over the phone. This will also be invaluable as it is ‘third person’ looking from the outside in. Encourage your daughter to talk to a counsellor even if she believes that she’s already made her decision.
A counsellor can be incredibly helpful in working through the emotions attached to each of these decisions, and encouraging her to think about how she might deal with those emotions now and in the future. If you want, you could also attend a family counselling session with your partner and daughter. This can be helpful to work through your own feelings towards your daughter, with a mediator on hand to keep things under control.
5. Teach Her About Caring for a Baby
If your daughter decides that she wants to either keep the baby or give the child up for adoption, it’s important that you let her know what she is getting herself into. Have her watch birthing videos and do some research about different kinds of adoption, and have her babysit a child if she wants to keep her baby. All of these are intended to give her a taste of what might be coming for her. It’s easy for teenagers to ‘gloss over’ the details of big decisions, so making her aware of the realities of carrying a baby to term and then keeping it, or giving it to another couple, is a must.
If she decides to keep the baby, start teaching her about the responsibilities she will have in-store for her after the birth. Sit down as a family and discuss how the new baby will fit into your family home. Also, discuss how she will finish or continue her education after the birth.
6. Long term Future
Should your daughter decide to keep the baby, you need to sit down with her, and your partner, and have a serious discussion and think about what her long term future is going to look like. Are you and your partner able to support her? What are her plans for finishing school, supporting the child, and moving forward in the future?
Check in your area for schools that run educational programs for teenage mothers, and for programs like BUMP that offer mentoring and community support for pregnant and parenting teens. It’s important to frankly discuss finances, her independence, her dreams and plans for the future, and your own abilities to support her and your grandchild. Don’t sugarcoat anything, she needs to be aware of what’s coming.
7. Dealing With The Baby Daddy
You might notice that we have left the father out of the discussion until now, and with good reason. This is a massive decision for your daughter to make, but at the end of the day, the bulk of the responsibility and life changes will fall on her. Her body, her decision. She’s the one who will deal with a termination, or be pregnant and give birth to the child to keep or give up for adoption.
The baby’s father may play a role if your daughter decides to keep the baby, although the statistics are not in her favour. However, if your daughter decides that she wants to give the baby up for adoption or terminate the pregnancy, she shouldn’t be having pressure from the father of the child to change her mind. They might be pro-life or against adoption, but it’s your daughter’s body and ultimately her choice.
However, if the father wants to be a part of the baby’s life, you need to respect that. If reasonable, even inviting the father over (with his family, if he is young too), so you can all discuss it together.
8. Always Support Her
Through the entire process, the most important thing that you can do is support your daughter. At the end of the day, you can’t turn back the clock on her decisions, however questionable they might have been.
All you can do is be there for her through the journey that she’s on, supporting her when she needs it, educating her, and helping her come to grips with her new reality. Regardless of what option she takes, her life will be different. She’ll have lost a part of her childish innocence, but hopefully, she’ll be more experienced for the future, and more understanding of how a single decision can really change your life forever.