"Mom, I'm pregnant." You probably hoped you wouldn't hear those words until your daughter was financially stable and mature, but now that she has uttered them as a teenager, it is up to you to make the most of the situation. Navigating your teen daughter's pregnancy can be an emotional roller coaster -- for you, for your daughter, and for the baby's father and his family. Every situation is different, and the best ways to deal with the questions and concerns that come up along the way are largely dependent on your relationship with your daughter and her relationship with the baby's father. In general, however, you will benefit from adhering to these three tips.
If you truly think adoption is the best choice, let your daughter come to that conclusion on her own.
The decision to give up one's baby is never easy, whether a mother is 16 or 36. If you tell your daughter straight out that you think adoption is the best option, the emotions that she feels as she even first considers adoption are likely to make her feel resentful of you for even daring to suggest it. However, if you simply provide her with the resources to explore adoption as an option and let her come to a conclusion on her own, she will feel empowered by the choice she makes -- no matter what that choice is.
Some ways to provide your daughter with information about adoption without making her feel like you're making the decision for her include:
- Signing her up for informational seminars on options for teen mothers. (These are often offered at local hospitals and usually cover adoption in a positive light.)
- Arranging for her to meet with any adoptive parents you know. Tell her that you'd just like her to keep her options open and that you think talking to someone who has adopted a baby will give her a more realistic perspective of what adoption is like.
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Make sure the father and his parents are informed -- and include everyone in the decision making along the way.
The longer you put off discussing the pregnancy with your teenage daughter's partner and his parents, the harder it will be. Ask your daughter if the father of the baby knows. If he does not know yet, emphasize to her how important it is to tell him. Provide her with a safe environment in your own home where she can tell him, if needed.
Once the baby's father knows of the pregnancy, you should make a call to his parents to arrange a meeting. But do not discuss the situation with them right then and there -- this may make your daughter feel like you're intruding. Whenever you discuss the baby and your daughter's options, you should make sure the baby's father and his parents are there, in person, as well. This way, nobody will feel left out -- and the whole process will go more smoothly.
Be there for your daughter emotionally. Understand that this is traumatic for her, too.
All too often, parents take a "well, you're getting what you paid for!" attitude when it comes to dealing with their teenage daughters' pregnancy. They use phrases like "this is why we told you not to have sex" and "what did you think would happen when you had unprotected sex?" Language like this will only make your daughter feel more alone and guilty. It's okay to be angry at the situation, but do not take that anger out on your daughter. She's probably angry enough at herself already.
Let your daughter know that while you're not exactly pleased that she got pregnant so young, everyone makes mistakes and you will be there for her to offer support. Let her know that if she wants to talk about her worries and feelings, you will listen. Consider setting her up with a therapist, too, so she has an independent party to talk to throughout this process. It is better for her to get emotional support from the get-go than to wait until she is a wreck later on.
Finding out that your teenage daughter is pregnant can be traumatic and life changing in so many ways. With the tips above, you'll be off to a solid start in terms of handling it properly.