Teenage pregnancy. As parents, sometimes the last thing on your mind is when your kids will become parents. And, especially before you expect that to happen, when a teenage pregnancy occurs. I think the very first thing we need to pay attention to is our own reaction. That's going to determine a lot of what we can do moving forward. How you respond initially is huge. Now, if you're already past the initial response, don't worry about it. There are still things that we can do to repair and get back on track. But the thing that that we need to watch out for is shock, horror, disgust, and frustration. These feelings are so common for us to feel as parents when we hear about the pregnancy of our teenager. We really need find a way to take care of and manage our own reaction to the news, because that sets us up for how we can best help our child moving forward.
Now, your teenager is pregnant. What does she not need? I already said the first thing. She does not need shock, horror, disgust, or rejection. Also, she knew before you knew, usually. She's been thinking about this. She's been worrying about this. She's been anticipating how you might react to her. So, it's not news to her. It's still new to her but it's not news to her. It's news to you when you first find out. So, the timing of that makes it really challenging for a parent as you deal with your own emotional reaction. Keep a perspective that most teenage pregnancies eventually turn into a mother who's a little older and either has kept the child and has raised the child or there was an adoption that happened or some other solution. My point is that everything eventually passes. And sometimes, the initial shock or surprise has us in a position where we're not thinking about the long term. How usually these things work out one way or another in the end. She doesn't need judgment. She's probably already questioning herself about how all this happened. She doesn't need that.
Now, I'm saying “her” because pregnancy typically happens to females directly. But there's also our teenage sons who might be involved in a teenage pregnancy. So, keep them in mind as we're having this conversation but I'm going to be focusing on the girls because that's where the immediate concern often is for the parents. What else does she not need at this point? She doesn't need lectures. She doesn't need opinions. She doesn't need sermons or discourses about what you should or shouldn't do. We're a little past that at this point anyway. Besides she already knows where you stand on this issue. If she doesn't know then she hasn't been paying attention all these years, right?
And then along those lines, let me add one other thing. She doesn't need someone to steal her opportunity. Now, what opportunity? It's a learning opportunity. It's a growth opportunity. It's a life opportunity. Look, we're not going to avoid this at this point anyway. It's too late to talk about how to prevent this. It's already happened. So, here we are with an opportunity. Now, if you as a parent can look at it that way, it's going to be a lot easier to assist your daughter or your son as the case may be, to get through this particular life experience. It's an opportunity. So, don't steal the opportunity from them. Well, that's probably enough about what they don't need. I think you get the picture.
What does your pregnant teenager need at this point? Number 1, they need love. And that comes right along with things like, support and encouragement and empathy. So, instead of the lecturing and the trying to fix the problem, let's just put our arms around our kids and give them the love and the support that they are so afraid right now they are not going to get from you. They need it, so, find a way to get there. Get past your own emotional reactions enough that you can provide that love and support. They absolutely need it.
Now, from that foundation, there's a lot of other things that we can do. Here's another thing that they need: Someone to listen. You might feel inclined to do a lot of talking right now. Just zip it long enough to listen. You have two ears and one mouth, let's keep that ratio in mind as you provide an empathic, listening, supportive, loving ear so that they can talk about what's going on. There's a whole lot on her mind right now. And she needs a place that is safe where she can express what she's thinking. Now, as this happens, you are going to feel inclined to jump in and offer advice and try to solve problems. That's natural. You're a parent. And, you're an adult who's been around for a while. Just push all that to the side long enough to provide that listening ear. As you do this, it will create an environment where she can start to wrap her head around this.
Now, typically with a teenage pregnancy, this is a first experience for her. And she's not completely ready for this. Who really is? Were you ready when your kids were born? And maybe you were already an adult. How can you ever possibly be ready for everything that comes with a pregnancy and having a child? So, it's not our goal to be completely ready for this. She is going to need a little bit of time to wrap her head around this very significant change in her life. A lot of things are going to be changing. And that takes a little bit of thought and preparation and wrapping her head around it. Your listening gives her an opportunity or a platform where she can actually do that.
The second thing that she's going to need are resources. This is a hard thing and it's almost impossible to do alone. Sometimes in a teenage pregnancy, your child will be alone. There's not a partner who is invested that's coming on board. Sometimes there is and that person is also kind of immature or unprepared for what's happening, so, they are going to need some resources. You get to be (through your relationship) the number one resource for your child as she goes through this difficult time. Keep that in mind and do everything that you can to be that stable resource. That doesn't mean that you have to jump in and solve all the problems. In fact, you remember what she doesn't need is someone to steal her opportunity. You do want to be a primary resource to her as she figures all of this out. You have been around the block long enough to know that there are other resources. There are community resources. There are church resources. There are clinics. There are doctors, there are agencies who deal with this kind of stuff all the time. Your teenager probably isn't aware of all of those. You probably aren't aware of all of those. But you are in a position that you can be kind of a broker, a clearinghouse for all of the resources that are available. Don't put yourself in a position where you are cramming it down her throat, okay? You don't want her to feel like, “Dad, wants me to do it this way. Or mom insists that this happens.” Because that puts up a little barrier. But, you are becoming a source of “Well, sweetie. There's this resource and there's that resource and I'm happy to go with you to meet with the social worker or to meet with the doctor at the clinic or whatever it is.” These resources then become a way for her to start processing this in a way that could possibly bring about some really great solutions. So, she's going to need the resources. You become a source for all of those resources.
You've got this. We are thrilled to be part of your team as you take on this challenge. If you find you or your family need some additional support, you can schedule a call with one of our Live On Purpose Coaches at www.drpauljenkins.com/breakthroughcall. We are here to be a resource to you.
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