They are phrases you hoped you’d never have to say:
My daughter is pregnant.
My teen is pregnant.
My child is pregnant.
However, if you’ve found your way to this article, this is likely the situation you are currently facing. Whether you have a pregnant teen daughter or a teenage son who is expecting a child, you probably don’t know what to do next. You may be angry, disappointed, worried and confused. You may wonder how your teenager got here and what you could have done differently as a parent.
It’s easy to beat yourself up for what you see as failing your child or your child failing you. However, dwelling on what could or should have been is not helpful. From here on, you will need to be there for your pregnant teenager, whatever choice they decide to make.
In this article, you’ll find teenage pregnancy advice for parents like you — resources for everything from understanding exactly what this means for your family to talking with your child to supporting them through whatever unplanned pregnancy choice they make.
Whatever disappointment you feel in your child you will need to overcome. While your child has made an adult choice and must deal with the adult consequences, they will still need their parents very much during this time in their life.
What is the Impact of Teenage Pregnancy on Family?
No matter what choice your pregnant teenager makes, it will not just affect her — but your entire family as well. An unplanned teenage pregnancy is a life-changing situation, and your child’s pregnancy will leave an impact on you as her parent and any siblings she may have.
First, know that emotional effects of teenage pregnancy on the family can be devastating. It’s understandable for both parents and teenagers to have many confusing emotions during this time. But, when you take those emotions out on each other, it can have lasting effects on your relationship. It’s highly unlikely your teenager planned for this to happen; she or he is feeling just as disappointed and scared as you are. You will need to work together to get through this journey and keep your family intact.
Even though it is your daughter’s pregnancy, the financial consequences of her pregnancy will likely fall on you as her parent. Whatever choice she makes — whether to raise her child, place her child for adoption or terminate her pregnancy — she likely won’t be able to afford her decision on her own. If she does choose to raise her child, the financial effects of teenage pregnancy on your family will likely be felt for the next decade or so as she becomes independent and works to be able to support her child on her own.
One of the biggest effects of teenage pregnancy on the family is the way it requires all members to reevaluate their personal goals for the best interest of the expectant mother and her child. For example, if your daughter chooses to raise her child, she may not be able to continue traditional schooling. Instead, she may need to attend night classes to obtain a GED and enroll in online college courses rather than have the traditional college experience. Even if a teenager chooses adoption, her pregnancy can derail short-term goals like family vacations.
It’s crucial to be as flexible and understanding as possible about your pregnant teen daughter’s situation. Remember that what is affecting your whole family, she is likely feeling even more intensely. Communication and cooperation is the key to moving forward in a positive manner.
What to Say to a Pregnant Teenager
Whether your pregnant teenager has already come to you, or you’ve thought, “I think my teenage daughter is pregnant,” having an open, honest, non-judgmental conversation about her situation is necessary. Although she has made the adult decision to have sex, she is still a child — and she will be looking to you for support and possibly guidance. You’ll want to express that support and understanding to her in a positive, calm manner.
You’re probably wondering what to say to a pregnant teenager. When you are ready to have a productive conversation with your pregnant teen daughter, there are few rules to follow:
1. Let her speak first.
If your daughter is pregnant, give her the chance to explain herself. In most cases, teenage pregnancies are the result of consensual sex but, in case hers is not, automatically shaming her for her pregnancy in the case of rape or assault is the last thing you want to do.
It’s likely that your daughter has been preparing for this conversation for a while, and she may have certain things she wishes to say to you. Give her that chance. Try to avoid interrupting while she explains her situation and her choice, and try to avoid becoming overly emotional. This is not the end of the world; your child is still alive and healthy but has just made a poor decision in her life. Think about how she is feeling and be empathetic.
2. Stay calm, and ask non-judgmental questions.
After she has explained herself, do not jump straight to judgement or telling her exactly what to do. Remember this is her choice, not yours. Take a deep breath, reassure her of your love and support, and ask her what she plans to do next.
At the same time, you may also be wondering, “My teenage daughter is pregnant. What are my rights?” Perhaps she is considering an unplanned pregnancy path you don’t agree with. While her pregnancy could mean a potential grandbaby for you, remember that this is her choice to make. Do not try to force her into a certain decision. This could severely backfire and put her in danger as she tries to get her way and avoid yours.
As a parent of a pregnant teen, consider asking her these questions when she explains her choice:
If she is considering abortion:
- Do you know how far along you are? If not, have you made a doctor’s appointment?
- Do you understand the laws on abortion in our state?
- Do you understand the medical and emotional risks of abortion?
- Do you need my parental consent or assistance in this process?
- Have you spoken to the baby’s father about your decision?
Many states do require parental consent to be given if a minor seeks an abortion. If your daughter is considering abortion and you do not support her choice, first give her the chance to explain why abortion is the best option for her. If you cannot support her choice even after that, consider how you will support her in either adoption or parenting. It may be a good idea for the two of you to speak with an objective options counselor.
If she is considering parenting:
- Will the baby’s father be involved in the parenting?
- How will you afford the costs of raising a child?
- How do you expect us to help with your pregnancy and parenting, and how long do you expect us to offer that help?
- How will you continue your education during your pregnancy and after delivery?
- What is your plan for childcare after you go back to work or school?
- What is your plan for childcare when you want to hang with friends or attend social events?
- Have you considered how your life will need to change while raising a child?
While parents are not responsible for teenage pregnancy, it’s unfortunately common for parents of a teen mother to take on more responsibility than they originally planned when their child decided to keep the baby. Therefore, it’s important that you make it clear what kind of support you will offer your daughter — and for how long. Explain to her the realities of raising a child and what she needs to expect moving forward. She cannot live the same teenage life she has grown used to; help her comprehend the sacrifices she will need to make as a teen parent.
If she is considering adoption:
- Do you understand how the adoption process works?
- Are you comfortable with continuing your pregnancy? How will you continue attending classes and events while pregnant?
- Have you spoken with an adoption counselor? Have you contacted an adoption agency?
- Have you considered the emotions you will feel after placement?
- How can we support you through your adoption process?
If your daughter is considering placing her baby for adoption, know that you will likely have no right to stop her from doing so. Adoption is very different from what it was decades ago; your daughter will have the right to choose an adoptive family for her baby and be able to stay updated on her child’s life as they grow up. Because adoption can be a complex emotional process, she will need your support during this time.
3. Create a plan moving forward.
Once you and your pregnant teenager have discussed her unplanned pregnancy options and you are ready to support her choice, you will need to create a solid plan moving forward. Make sure you reiterate your support and love for your daughter; she will need that as she goes through the physical and emotional effects of her unplanned teenage pregnancy.
Whichever path she has chosen, make clear to her how you will be involved in the process. Do not take care of every step for her. She has made an adult decision in having sex, and she will need to take responsibility for the path she has chosen. For example, let her schedule her own doctor’s appointments — but be there if she needs someone to drive her there or attend the appointments with her. Parents dealing with teenage pregnancy should always be available for support but should also let their child make the important decisions for their future.
If your daughter is pregnant, consider these resources available to you:
- Planned Parenthood (not just for abortion but for options counseling and prenatal care)
- National Council for Adoption
- American Adoptions
- Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
- Office of Child Care
- Local alternative schools or GED programs
These resources can also be helpful to you as a parent of a pregnant teen — to better understand your daughter’s situation and the options available to her.
Remember, it’s normal to feel all kinds of emotions when your teen tells you she is pregnant. She is likely just as scared and confused as you, so your calm support during this time will be invaluable to her. By working together and accepting the consequences of her decision, your family will get through this situation in the way that works best for you.