So your teenage daughter walks up to you and asks you to sit down. Your stomach drops as you imagine what she is about to say but there’s a chance you already know. Maybe you noticed she was getting sick in the morning, or refusing her favorite foods. Perhaps she had grown more distant. Whatever it was, you know what she’s going to say, or at least you think you do. When she tells you it feels so much worse than you imagined. You imagine her carefully planned future going down the drain. What will she do? What will you do? What will your friends think? A teen pregnancy? How could she do this? Ok. Now stop. Just stop. Take a big, deep breath and listen to her as she explains. Here’s what you cannot do or you will risk alienating your already (probably) nervous daughter.
1. Do not, under any circumstances, say any variation of “How could you do this to us?” It is most assuredly not about you or your feelings. It is not about doing something to you or throwing something in your face. If she is telling you, she is asking for your help, your support, and your love.
2. Do not assume to know how she got pregnant or by whom. Don’t threaten her significant other (if she has one) and do not go down the trail of “my poor little daughter.” It takes two to tango. Unless she was raped, in which case, there is due process and you threatening to kill someone is not going to help either way.
3. Do not tell her how it is going to be. She has potentially made some very adult decisions already without your help. You are there to guide and help her, but ultimately it is her body that she has made a choice with. Lay out her options. Perhaps you can suggest she start receiving prenatal care, have the baby, go back to school while you take care of the baby and support her through this transition, or start receiving prenatal care, look into adoption agencies to place the baby with a loving family. She may have other options and opinions that can be talked through. Every family is different and has different ideas.
4. Do not talk down to her or give ultimatums. Pregnant woman are known to be emotional, teenagers are known to be emotional. Pregnant teenage girls are going to likely be emotional. Treating your beloved daughter with unkindness over a lapse in decision-making will not bode well for you.
5. Don’t throw her out. Teen girls on the street do not fare well. Teen girls who are pregnant less so. People can and will take advantage of girls in desperate situations. She may have broken your family rules and expectations. Alternatively maybe she didn’t and feels ashamed to say she was raped. Either way, she will need a home, a soft place to land, and all the love that you can give.