A young girl in Texas took her parents to court to prevent them from forcing her to have an abortion. Whether or not to have an abortion is one of those decision that has be legislated out of the parent’s hands. The very need for such a lawsuit illustrates the complexity of and emotional ties connected to this choice. Emotions run high for more than just the girl. This is a life altering decision that affects many parties.
You don’t want to cause any irreparable splits in the family by trying to control the outcome. In the end her emotions will determine her response to you. As adults we feel we have the experience to give the best advice to our children. But when it comes to pregnancy, her feelings are going to override any logic you may have. If she agrees to follow your advice and her heart is not in it, she will resent you and trust will be lost.
I t is important for parents to curtail their emotions and try to start an open dialog. First realize that your child is more shocked than you are. Teens go into the sexual experience not expecting to get pregnant even though they may have been given all the correct information. Even in the 21st century where everyone is spouting tolerance and acceptance, teen pregnancy still has a stigma. Your teen will feel shame and guilt whether you express your shock and disappointment or remain quiet. And if this pregnancy was forced on her the level of shame she feels is multiplied.
A rollercoaster of emotions are assailing her at this time not to mention hormones going into overdrive. She needs your support and understanding. Ultimately, she will be the one making the final decision. Under the law and in her heart, the choice is hers.
Punishment is not the best choice
The parents in the lawsuit made the wrong call in their handling of the situation. Pregnancy is not something you punish in the same way you do bad grades and breaking curfew. There are more dynamics involved, and it is important to be careful how you handle each one.
Condemning words such as “I can’t believe you did this,” never take the conversation in a good direction.
Because emotions run high in a crisis like this, it might be appropriate to get a third party involved. PIC (Pregnancy information Center) in Aurora, Illinois has trained client advocates on staff to help your whole family. They can help your child in a loving environment understand more fully what she has gotten into. With coaching, parents can then become the support team working with the client advocate.
Parents need support too
Parents need emotional support at this time as well. Seeking out others to help you deal with this shocking development is much healthier for all involved. You can vent all your fears and emotions to a counselor or friend. Talking through things ahead of time better prepares you to talk rationally with your daughter.
Choose your words carefully
Our past experiences can color our words. The mother of the Texas teen felt abortion was the only choice based on her own experience and saw no reason her daughter should not do the same. She was projecting onto her daughter all the hardships she foresaw in her future. Parent’s life experiences should be shared with their children, but the bottom line is they are not you and won’t do everything your way. And the future has yet to be determined. Many a teen parent has been very successful in raising a child and accomplishing other goals.
This girl had a strong conviction that she wanted this child. Although she is only 16, she has a support system in place with her boyfriend, his parents, and her own grandparents.
Support your child
Be that support system for your child. There are many decisions that will need to be made over the course of the pregnancy. Her changing body will shout to the world she was promiscuous. There will be snide remarks made to her at school. Her antenna will be up to catch every real or imagined look coming her way. Some of the activities she was involved in at school may need to be curtailed. Deciding who to tell and how, is a big hurdle you can help her with. Be there when all these things bring on tears.
Dialogue with the whole family
The whole family will be affected by this pregnancy. Don’t use her as an example to her siblings of what not to do. Rather discuss things openly and allow other family member to express their feelings. This may be another time that a counselor or client advocate can step in and help with the dialogue.
Discuss together all the health needs of pregnancy. Find a good doctor who is able to give your daughter the best care possible. Teen pregnancy is classified as high-risk. There are lifestyle changes she may need to make to stay healthy. Be there to encourage her in those successes.
There is time to discuss whether she will keep her baby or give it up for adoption. There are many childless couples who would jump at the chance to care for her child. Open adoptions are becoming more common, allowing birth mothers to receive pictures and updates on their child or in some cases to visit.
Keeping the Baby ????
If your daughter or in some cases your son wants to keep the baby, get them as much help and information to prepare them for the task. PIC offers classes for teen dads along with parenting classes for expectant mothers.
Once the decision is made to keep the child, more decisions must be made. This baby is going to be a part of your family whether you are ready for it or not. Take the time to discuss and plan. Who will babysit while your daughter finishes school? Create guidelines regarding her responsibilities and what you as parents are willing to do. Be prepared—the best laid plans may still go astray.
Don’t be ashamed to throw your daughter a baby shower. There are always going to be those people who think that it is inappropriate to shower an unwed mother. But most will feel it is an opportunity to help make her burden a little lighter.
Your child’s future will be brighter when she feels she has made the best possible decision for herself and her baby.