I can still remember the look of devastation on my mother's face when my grandmother told her the news. I was 13 weeks pregnant. And I still had to finish my senior year in high school. My mama walked out of the room whispering, "I thought I raised you better than this."
The first question shocked parents usually ask themselves is, "Could I have done something different to prevent my son or daughter from becoming a teen parent?" The answer is, probably not. While parents are responsible to teach right from wrong, decisions about purity ultimately belong to their kids.
Television shows like "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" and MTV's "Teen Mom" are desensitizing teens to the idea of adolescent sexual activity and parenting at an early age. Our culture has never been more inundated with sexual messages and images, which contribute to the carefree attitudes about teen pregnancy. And there's no question that teen pregnancy affects both young women and young men — as well as teens from all ethnicities, all income levels and all faith backgrounds. Although parents cannot take responsibility for a teen's unexpected pregnancy, they can walk through it with her. Regardless of where you find yourself today, there is hope, and there is help.
How do I cope?
Having a pregnant teen can feel devastating. Remember that coping is a skill needed by both parents and teens. You may need some time to process this new reality in your family, but don't forget that your teen still needs you to be a support as she reconciles her choices with the consequences in her life.
Consider seeking godly counsel. This can include speaking with your pastor or to a Christian counselor — someone equipped to provide wisdom and instruction as you deal with the emotions and disappointment you may be experiencing. Professional counsel does more than just help you process; it also provides mediation between you and your teen as you clarify the decisions she will need to make.
How do I respond?
One day your daughter is sacking groceries, studying for tests and deciding what to wear to a party. The next day she finds herself in the bathroom, staring wide-eyed at a positive pregnancy test. You can help your teen come to terms with this life-changing event, lovingly coaching as she plans the next step.
For your daughter, applaud her for not taking the quick and culturally acceptable way out through abortion. Next, pray with her, asking God to guide her as she makes decisions regarding this baby. As this new reality settles in, keep in mind that your girl is hurt, frightened and needs your acceptance. Assure her of your love and your commitment to helping her through this difficult time.
For your son, encourage and applaud him for stepping up as a father. Pray with him about his unborn child. Help him understand his role in supporting the mother of his child. Make yourself available to discuss both his fears and his responsibilities. Find godly counsel for your son and assure him you will be available to support him.
Remember: The feelings of disappointment and embarrassment are not limited to a parent; your teen is feeling them, too.
How do I offer support to my teen?
Provide personal counseling options and educational resources on fetal development, adoption, financial assistance and childrearing. Introduce your daughter to the help available through your local pregnancy resource center, and consider finding a Christian support group for teen moms. Over time, your daughter may feel confident in her new role as a young mother — she may even begin planning steps to a brighter future for herself and her child. Support groups such as MOPS are equipped to provide resources on taking care of a baby, tips for balancing baby care and school responsibilities, and encouragement for navigating relationships. These groups can offer the practical tools and emotional support your teen needs as she interacts with you and the father of her child and as she grapples with her relationship with God.
My mother moved past the initial disappointment and although my teen-mom days may be far behind me now, I know that without the support of my mother and grandmother, I would not be where I am today. Their encouragement reminded me that my life wasn't over simply because I was pregnant — it would just be different.
Thirteen years later, I am still married to the father of my child, I graduated from college, I have three wonderful children, and I've become an author. Teen parents can be successful when they're blessed with the support of a loving parent and the guidance of the Lord. Teen pregnancy may be a shock to the whole family, but don't miss this opportunity to work through the disappointment and assure your teen that he or she will not walk this road alone.
Heather Riggleman is the author of Mama Needs A Time-Out.
If you are dealing with a pregnant teen, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-A-FAMILY (232-6459) weekdays from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Mountain time) to find the resources you need or to speak with a licensed counselor.
For more answers to your questions, visit: Our Teenage Daughter is Pregnant
Copyright © 2013 by Heather Riggleman. Used by permission. ThrivingFamily.com.
Did you enjoy this article? Read more like it. Subscribe to Thriving Family, a faith-based marriage and parenting magazine!