Hearing that your teen daughter is pregnant can feel overwhelming. You might feel sad, angry, hurt, disappointed, embarrassed, and ashamed. And she is feeling all of those emotions, too. While you probably want to give her a lecture on how disappointed you are, a tirade dissecting all of her wrongdoings won’t help either of you. The most important thing you can do for your teen daughter is to get a handle on your emotions and provide the important emotional support that she’ll need.
Here are 5 ways you can support your daughter through her teen pregnancy:
5. Listen. Telling you that she is pregnant is one of the most difficult things your daughter will do. She likely senses your feelings of disappointment and sadness and/or anger. While it may seem justified and necessary to you, the last thing your daughter needs is a lecture, or to hear the words “You should have known better! What were you thinking?!” What she does need to hear is, “I love you, I am here for you, and I will help you get through this.” Listening to her talk through her feelings is one of the most important things you can do for her. And knowing that she has someone on her side can make all the difference in her life.
4. Empathize. Empathy is the ability to feel or relate to what another person is feeling. It is different than feeling sympathy. Sympathy says, “I feel sorry for you.” Empathy says, “I feel sad/scared/afraid WITH you.” It will go against your parenting instinct—you’ll naturally want to impart your adult wisdom to your teenage daughter. A more effective way is for you to remember back to a time when you were a scared teenager who didn’t know what to do, and then feel those feelings along with your teen. Empathy is the key to connection.
3. Validate. Your daughter is going to experience a lot of heavy emotions that most adults aren’t prepared to handle. You can validate her feelings without validating the situation: “I can see how upset and afraid you are” or “You have some really important, life-changing decisions ahead of you—I’ll be here to support you and to listen.” When you validate, you communicate the feeling of “I see you, I hear you.” Validation is one of the most important aspects of communication.
2. Support. Your daughter’s teen pregnancy will affect her life now, and have an impact on her future. In addition to your emotional support, seeing a counselor can help her work through some of the important decisions she’ll be making in relation to her pregnancy and her future. Will she parent or place the baby for adoption? Is she more comfortable with an open or closed adoption? How will parenting affect her college goals and life plans? Does she have adequate support at home and socially to move forward with her plan? Having a trusted counselor or mentor as part of her support team to help guide her in making these important, life-changing decisions is essential.
1. Love. Show her unconditional love and support. No matter what your daughter decides to do, whether it is the decision you want her to make or not, you can show her unconditional love. We all hope as parents to keep our teens from having to experience anything as difficult and overwhelming as teenage pregnancy. And yet, life happens. And a new life is always something to celebrate.