If your daughter is pregnant and this wasn’t in her plans (or yours,) then you’re both going to need an extra helping of support.
You’re both going through a lot right now, even if you don’t know how to talk about it.
Maybe you suspect your child is pregnant and you don’t know how to bring it up? Think about leaving a pregnancy test in a private place. Add a handwritten note that reads “I’m here if you need me. I love you, no matter what.”
An unwanted pregnancy is not any parent’s dream for their child, of course. We want our kids to be free to enjoy life, and to build a future for themselves before becoming parents themselves.
No parent ever stood over a crib and said to their newborn “I can’t wait for you to have a baby!” Parents struggle with the “sex talk” because we don’t want to think about our children becoming sexually-active. Even when we know our kids are exploring sexuality, we try to give them privacy and not talk about it. As Nancy Friday, author of My Mother, My Self wisely wrote: “Children have a right to their own sexuality and parents have a right not to be made party to it.”
But an unplanned pregnancy changes everything. So whether you just learned your child is expecting, you’re dreading the news or you’ve known it for awhile, we get it. You are likely struggling with a lot of mixed emotions, and you’re not alone.
How to React & What Not to Say
Most young women who contact Abrazo for help without having told their parents of their pregnancy have their own reasons for keeping things quiet. Usually, they’re terrified of disappointing their parents. Sometimes, they’re afraid their parents will try to force them into a decision not their own.
It’s normal to feel upset or angry or scared or disappointed, but remember: this isn’t about you. Your child didn’t “do this” just to crush your dreams for her. There’s nothing you can say to her or about it that is going to fix it. So take the high road and hold back any dramatic displays of emotion, if you can. Your child will never forget how you respond, so breathe deep and count to ten, if you have to. Be strong. Show empathy.
What should you say? Try out these reactions, for starters:
“Oh, honey, I’m sorry… how are you feeling?”
“Well, this wasn’t expected, but we’ll get through it together, okay?”
“I’ve been waiting for you to tell me. Thank you for your honesty.”
Please try not to pry. It’s alright to gently ask what options she’s been considering. It’s not your duty to tell your child what to do; whatever her age, treat her like the parent-to-be that she now is. This approach will do more to help her begin to understand the responsibilities she’s now facing. It’s okay to ask how far along she is, but there’s really no point in asking how/where the conception occurred. It’s all right to ask if the father knows, but she may or may not feel ready to talk about who the father is. What the baby’s race will be, who’s going to pay the medical bills, and who’s going to raise this child are all discussions for another time.
And please, don’t feel guilty for not having known sooner, or for your child’s hesitation in telling you. The best of parents sometimes have no idea their child ever even conceived, so if you are privileged to know, consider it a vote of confidence. (Whenever and however you found out.)
Often, loving parents may feel inclined to take over, in an effort to help. Your child has to be encouraged to take the lead, though, whatever she eventually decides to do. As a parent, you probably have your own preferences. Your job now is to help outline all your daughter’s options and give her room to explore them– whether or not you agree with her choices. (In Texas, curiously, abortion does require parental consent for minors, but adoption does not. Parents do not have the legal right to force their child to parent or not parent in any state, however.)
Avoid the impulse to become your daughter’s counselor. Why? Because you both need to be free of that sort of complication in your relationship. However close you are, you need not be burdened with all the intimate details. (Likewise, you’ll want to avoid future blame for any choices she makes that she may later regret.) Most pregnancy centers, adoption agencies, doctors’ offices and hospitals can provide ample information on pregnancy alternatives and free parenting resources in your area.
If your child is a minor, check whether your insurance coverage provides maternity benefits for a dependent? If not, have your daughter apply for public assistance, as needed. The baby’s father also has potential rights and responsibilities. Consult a family law attorney about the laws of your state.
Some grandparents feel they have to offer to raise the grandchild, if their child is unready. If this is truly your greatest retirement goal and doing so will not compromise your health, stability or family relationships, then explore a kinship arrangement. But if starting over with diapers and bottles is the last thing you need, please consider alternatives, such as open adoption, instead.
Open adoption can be a beautiful thing, when it preserves family ties and enables new future possibilities. Abrazo provides free options counseling for expectant moms, and resource referrals for birthfamily memnbers, as well. If we can help you or your daughter, give Abrazo a call.