Have you found yourself in the parenting situation of your daughter revealing that she is unexpectedly pregnant? Are you struggling with how to best deal with the situation?

These parenting moments can impact the rest of your child’s life. Your reaction, your response, and your advice will help your daughter in these undeniably crucial moments. How can you best help and not hurt the situation?

One thing to remember is you raised this child. While things may not be perfect, you have done your very best to instill the values that you feel are most important. While your daughter may not have abided by all your wishes, she is still your daughter and still craves your love and attention. The choices she makes are hers, and they are not a reflection on you as a parent, no matter what judgment may come from others.  We often forget that children are individuals capable of making their own choices, and not just small people who will do anything we say. We guide them; we do not control them. They make their own choices and face the consequences of their choices. This learning process begins when they are toddlers, and they choose to take that cup into the living room when they were told not to. They are learning independence. When you put your toddler on that time out for not following the rule, they learned that sometimes their choices will have a consequence.  These lessons continue, and if your child makes a choice you don’t agree with it is not a reflection of the job you have done parenting. It is a reflection of your child testing out her independence and ability to make her own choices and face the consequences.

It is important to remember that nobody is perfect, and everyone makes poor judgment calls at times.  Your daughter will need a bit of grace when she tells you that she is expecting a child that was unplanned.  She will need your support rather than your judgment.  She will need your assurance that despite this pregnancy, you love her, and you are there for her.

We have all heard parents who say they would kick a child out of the house if they break house rules, one of which would include a pregnancy.  Maybe you have said this yourself.  Has your child heard you say things like this?  Would your child feel comfortable coming to you and telling you that she has become pregnant?

I find that being supportive while giving advice is a better approach than making threats of potential consequences should situations occur.

I have a teen daughter.  We spoke about sex and its potential consequences from a young age. I never made any subject taboo to discuss.  I was as open as I could be while being age appropriate.  She started birth control at a young age before she was sexually active for medical reasons. However, I was sure to make her understand that being on birth control did not mean she could not become pregnant if she chose to have sex.  I was careful to explain that nothing was foolproof when it came to contraception,  and there was always a chance that a baby could be the result. My open approach helped make it easier for her to communicate with me when she needs to, or if she has questions.  She is about to enter her 20s, and we have an open dialog regarding sex and birth control that we have maintained for all of her teenage years.  She knows she can talk to me and I will answer her questions as honestly as I can.  I will give advice, but I understand she is her own person and will make her own choices.  She may not always listen to my advice.  Again, this isn’t a reflection on my parenting but, rather, a reflection of her independence.

Some parents have a hard time hearing their daughters are pregnant because they worry about what other people will say.  Will they be called bad parents because this situation happened?  Will their daughter be labeled inappropriately because she is sexually active and unexpectedly pregnant?

Parents, please do not worry about the things other people may say.  That is easier said than done, I know.  But those people really do not matter as much as your daughter matters.  Letting others influence how you respond to your child, who will need your support rather than negative judgments, could cause cracks in the foundation of your relationship that are irreparable. Please do not allow the fear of judgment and criticism from others influence the way you respond to your daughter during these times.  Instead, focus on your daughter who needs your support.

I have heard of kids who have been sent to relatives for the duration of their pregnancy to avoid their community finding out and to avoid parents or girls being shamed. However, this same shame is not applied to the boys who participated in creating the child.  Why are the genders treated differently?  How would it feel to be sent to live somewhere else in such a vulnerable time in your life? How shaming it must be to be hidden away and not acknowledged at a time when you feel most vulnerable.  Please don’t let the judgment of others interfere with your abilities to support your daughter.

I have heard of girls who have had parents make the decision about their baby.  Some parents have decided that a pregnancy was too much to deal with, and they pressured their daughters to end the pregnancy with abortion.  Yet, other parents have refused their daughters wishes to get an abortion, citing religious or moral reasons.  Should a girl be forced to carry a child she isn’t prepared to raise because her parents say she must?  Should she be required to place her newborn child for adoption if she isn’t ready to parent? Should she be forced to parent a child even if she feels she is not capable of doing so? Should she be forced to end a pregnancy because her parents say so even though she is prepared to do her best to parent the child? Who should be making these decisions, especially if your daughter is underage?  Do you have the right to make a decision if she is still technically a child? Or is this decision hers because the child is hers?

These are some questions that surround this topic. This topic can turn into a very heated debate. While you may lean passionately to one side of this argument, friends and family may disagree and have an opposite opinion. Who is right?

In my opinion, the one that is right is the one who is being supportive of their child. I am certain your daughter is frightened enough. She has made a life-altering choice, one she didn’t fully consider the consequences of. Chances are, she has a good idea of how she wants to proceed but may be scared to tell you. She may want to hear what you have to say, hoping your advice lines up with her plan, so she doesn’t disappoint you further. What if you disagree? Will she feel pressured into following your advice, or is your relationship strong enough that she will be able to assert her own wishes without fear?

Would you approve if your daughter chose abortion? How would you react?

In my home, I have been clear with my children that I don’t believe abortion should be used as birth control. I believe it should be a medically-necessary procedure only.

But, does my daughter feel the same way? Would she carry a baby to term because I would want her to do it rather than ending a pregnancy she isn’t prepared to deal with?

Should she be forced to carry a child for nine months and go through labor and delivery, and then place the child in an adoptive home because that is what I believe is right? Or should she be able to make her own choice without fear of my reaction?

I believe she should be able to make her own choice. This is her life to live. Parents cannot control their children or make their decisions for them. We can do our best to guide them, advise them, and encourage them to live with values we have instilled. But our children have a choice. They deserve to feel supported in their lives, even if they choose to live differently than we did.

Would you allow your daughter to create an adoption plan?

What if your daughter wants to create an adoption plan for her unborn child and wants your help and guidance throughout the process? What if you think that she will regret this decision and want her to just end the pregnancy immediately, saving her from the trauma of pregnancy, labor, birth, and placing a child with someone else? Or what if you long to be a grandparent, and you want your daughter to just parent the child? Again, the choice is not yours to make. Your child must make this life-altering, monumental decision on her own. She needs you to support her with any decision she makes. She needs your support even if you disagree on what should happen.

What if your daughter wants to raise the baby?

If your daughter wants to raise the baby, does that mean you have to participate in helping her? Should you take on the financial burden of your grandchild? Should you be responsible for helping with this child’s day-to-day care?

Is it possible to be supportive without being responsible for the baby? Yes, it sure is!

As a parent, you are not responsible for your grandchildren. Many grandparents enjoy helping out, providing daycare, or assisting where they can.  But what if you were unprepared for the grandparent role at this time? What if you have plans to travel as you retire, and you cannot take on the extra responsibility of your grandchild or helping your daughter raise her child. There is nothing wrong with having your daughter raise her child on her own. You can still be supportive, while not enabling her and allowing her to put the responsibilities on you. You can still be helpful without losing the life you planned for yourself and without taking on too much of her responsibilities.

If you disagree with the choice your daughter makes, how can you be supportive of her? Listen without judgment. Do your best to acknowledge her choices and feelings even when you disagree. Try not to pressure her to make the choice you think is best. This is a choice she needs to make, and it will impact the rest of her life no matter what her choice is. This situation is not easy for anyone involved. It is important to recognize and be supportive of your daughter and to be open to discussion that doesn’t result in anger. It may be hard to let go of the control you wish you had and realize that your daughter must make this choice herself. She will need to feel comfortable talking to you if you want to be able to participate in the discussion at all. It would be heartbreaking to discover your daughter had dealt with this situation without speaking to you first because she was afraid of your reaction. What if your reaction is not what she feared, and she could have chosen differently without worry and with your support? I never want my daughter to feel like she can’t talk to me about a major decision for fear that I will judge her too harshly. We don’t have to agree with all of our children’s decisions. You can disagree and have been doing so since they were very young. Remember that awful outfit she liked to wear that made you cringe? Remember the hairstyle she had that you absolutely hated but approved of anyway because you recognized she was asserting her independence? What about the friends she chose as she matured that made you question her judgment a bit? Did you let her make these choices, or did you forbid them? Did you give her your opinions yet allow her to live and learn by making her own decisions and sometimes mistakes? I am sure you realized that even if you forbid some of these choices, she secretly did things her own way when she could.

I will be the first to admit that I haven’t loved every choice my daughter has made. It is hard to watch your child grow up and make adult decisions. Where will she go to school? Where will she work to afford the extra things that I don’t feel are needed? Where will she live when she is ready to move out of the house? Is it a good idea for her to share an apartment with friends while trying to go to school, or should she be on her own? Should she stay up late the night before that big final at school? All of these things are decisions you will want to make, but you have to leave them up to your daughter.

And if the situation occurs where your daughter comes to you and reveals she is pregnant, try your best to allow her to make the decision herself too. The best thing you can do is hug her and say that you love her. You may discuss what you would like to see happen, but in doing so, make it clear that the decision is ultimately hers to make. And that whatever she chooses, you will be there for her to lend a shoulder to cry on or to give advice without being judgemental or hurtful. Please, tell your daughters that you love them and want them to feel happy and successful in their journey through life. The decisions they make to accomplish this are their own. You are there as a supporter, an observer, and an advisor. This role isn’t one of control but of support and acceptance.

If your daughter makes a decision that is difficult for you to handle, consider seeing a counselor to work through your feelings, while trying to maintain a supportive and loving relationship with your child.

 

Jennifer is a mother to 3 children (one biological, two adopted). She is also a mom to numerous pets. She enjoys volunteering in her children’s classroom, reading, and crafting in her spare time. She has been married for almost 15 years.