An unplanned teenage pregnancy can be a difficult situation for parents to handle. Perhaps the hardest part is sharing the news with the family. This isn’t a surprise you unexpectedly unload like news of a last minute vacation. It’s a delicate topic that requires tact and planning.
When it comes to teenage pregnancy, it’s easy to make an already precarious circumstance worse by haphazardly sharing the news. Take the time to choose your words, keeping in mind the sensitive nature of the subject, and the teetering emotions of your teen. With some careful thought, you can make the process as painless as possible.
Avoid an ambush
Rather than spring this information on your family, tell them you’d like to have a serious discussion and ask them to carve out some dedicated time. Establish a calm atmosphere devoid of distraction. Try your best to pull your own emotions together and keep the focus on your teen. Stay calm and emphasize the fact that your child needs all of the family encouragement and support that she can get. Talk about the reality of today, not about the decisions or events leading up to the pregnancy.
It’s not about you
As a parent, you may immediately condemn your parenting skills when you hear your teen is pregnant. The resulting inner turmoil will make it almost impossible to share the news without somehow belittling yourself. Dr. Neil Cannon counsels couples in the Denver area. He says, “Try not to think about an unwanted teen pregnancy as a reflection on you as a person or a parent.” While it’s tempting to wonder if others will judge you when they hear the news, remind yourself that you are not the focus of the discussion. “Put your ego and pride aside,” advises Dr. Cannon. “This is about supporting your child, not worrying about what Aunt Martha might think.”
Don’t expect a specific response
Each family member will process the information through their individual filters. Don’t expect everyone to be thrilled right away. But, it doesn’t help to expect the worst either. “Recognize the reality of the fact that family and friends will feel and react differently,” says Dr. Cannon. “To some people, sex outside of marriage is a sin. To others it is the norm.” Allow the emotional flood gates to open, rather than trying to slam them shut. Doing so will provide the family with an opportunity to share rather than immediately argue or shut down when they hear of the pregnancy.
Allow the family to process
Of course, you are primarily concerned with the well-being of your child and your grandchild. Your hope is that the rest of your family will share this concern, but know that they may not be 100% on board from the start. It may take time to process the news. Dr. Cannon advises, “For some people, including the parents, there will be a sense of loss. Grieve the loss of a virgin white wedding, your child’s innocence and, essentially, her teenage experience. Then, move on.” Never forget that the end result of this circumstance will largely depend upon the support system around the pregnant teenager.
Before ending the conversation, let them know where you stand and what you expect from them. Emphasize your dedication to your child and the importance of a strong support system. This may not be how you planned your life, but negativity won’t create a positive outcome. “This is a great time for some perspective,” says Dr. Cannon. “No, this isn’t an ideal situation, but you can still take joy in your upcoming grandchild.”