There are cultures that treat marriage and pregnancy among teenage girls as part of the norm. In fact, for most of these cultures, the earlier a daughter gets married and bears children, the better and the more fortunate for her and her family. However, for many countries – undeniably countries that are more progressive – teenage or adolescent pregnancy is a significant social issue.
Teenagers undergo rapid changes emotionally, physically and sexually. At this time, young people want to explore and try to get their own taste of freedom by doing things that they know are risky. Not to mention a lack of education about safe sex and contraceptives. This is the reason why a significant percentage of girls in countries like the United States gets pregnant in their teens.
Girls who have unprotected sex and end up getting pregnant most often become confused about what to do next. Most of them get scared, especially at the initial task of telling their own parents about the situation they are in. These feelings are normal, considering that most girls below the age of 20 are not yet done with school, don’t have well-paying jobs, are not yet financially stable, have not yet made plans about their future in general, and are in very volatile relationships. This is the reason why teenagers who got themselves into this kind of situation need all the guidance and support parents can offer them.
After learning that your young daughter is pregnant, or that your teenage son has fathered a child, it is normal to feel overwhelmed, angry, shocked, disappointed, frustrated, worried, and a whole spectrum of various emotions at first. Some parents feel guilty about not being able to guide and protect their children, while some are embarrassed and worried about how the people around them will react. One thing is for sure, though, you can right away expect many changes to take place in your family, and it is important for you to be able to set aside whatever negative feelings you have about the situation as soon as you can.
The first thing to do is to accept the situation. Recognize and work through your emotions, and don’t waste time. Know that even if it’s one thing you probably did not expect to happen, it is also something that a considerable number of parents had gone through before you. Do not treat it as if it’s a rare disease. Know that your child needs you now more than ever. Turn the situation into something positive for your family.
After acceptance, you should be asking these questions: How do I support my child? How do I help her or him through the challenges of teenage pregnancy and childbirth?
It is a must that you communicate with your child. Assure your daughter that she is forgiven, and that she is not going through the pregnancy alone. Helping her feel secure is an important key to her having a healthy pregnancy.
Both families need to talk about their plans and see whether these plans meet. Although it is the girl and her family that really make the decision, it is best if both parties agree on a plan of action. Do not pressure your teenagers to enter marriage. You can offer them your advice, but let them decide on their own. In fact, decisions need not be made regarding marriage right away. Let them know that it is best if they think about it and weigh the pros and cons.
In case marriage is out of the question, both families need to address questions like: What will be the living arrangements if the boy decides to remain involved all throughout and both girl and boy decide to raise the baby together? How about financial support? These things are essential and need to be talked through, because it prevents problems in the future. Whatever gets agreed on, just be sure that everything remains friendly or civil, so as not to cause any emotional distress to the young mom-to-be.
The next step would be to make sure your daughter gets the medical care she needs. You have gone through pregnancies, and you know how physical and hormonal changes can be difficult to handle. Give her the tips she needs to make sure she remains healthy and fit, and to make sure her baby is doing fine as well. Take her to pre-natal check-up as she may not be comfortable going to hospitals or clinics alone. Let her feel that she does not have to be uncomfortable about telling you if she needs something. In fact, take her shopping for maternity clothes and baby needs. This would help her – and you – get excited about the new member of the family.
Teenage pregnancy need not be a scary experience all throughout. Learn to take it as a blessing. Let your kid know that everything will be okay in the end.