When 16-year-old Jenny called her big sister Sarah to tell her she was pregnant, she was floored, mostly because she did not know how to help her. But Sarah remember how proud she was that Jenny called to tell me, rather than letting the news work its way to her through the family grapevine.

All women with unplanned pregnancies go through the same dilemma. “How do I break the news?” “Whom should I tell?” and “Whom should I tell first?” The idea of telling those closest to you probably sends shock waves through your nervous system, but here are some tips that could make it a little easier for you.

Go for it

First and foremost, do not let your fears stop you from breaking the news. Your situation may not draw immediate smiles, but with confidence on your part, those you tell will respect your courage. They will come to understand that there is nothing they can do right now to change your situation. Most likely, they will offer to help you think through your next move. Not telling them only postpones all the decisions you will eventually have to make.

The first person you need to tell may be the hardest one to talk to. It may be your parents or the father of the baby. Your friends may be easy to talk to, but friends may not be in a position to help you.

Who and Whom?

Deciding whom to approach first is usually a matter of support. Who, of all the people closest to you now, has been most supportive in the past? Let’s say it is your aunt. Even though the thought of telling her that you are pregnant is unappealing, do it anyway. Once you tell her, you will have an understanding friend to support you. She will probably be able to help you decide who else you should tell. Not everyone needs to know, not at first, anyway. Those closest to you should know first.

While it is hard to gauge how people will react, it may soften the blow if you plan how and when you are going to tell them. Let them know that you have something important to discuss after dinner, for example.

Then prepare for any reaction. People do not always react well to this kind of news, even though they love you. During their initial shock they may get angry, cry, say things they do not really mean. Let them react, and then give them time to cool down. Reacting to their overreaction would be like overcorrecting when you are driving—it only makes the situation worse.

Eventually, you will also need to tell your partner so you can know whether he will support you emotionally or financially. Then you can plan your future accordingly. You will need to decide whether you are going to parent, create an adoption plan or look into abortion. It is important, though, to understand that you may offend him or other friends because of the decision you make. But if it is the best decision for you, make it anyway.

Telling others requires great inner strength. Once you muster it (even if all you do is blurt out “I’M HAVING A BABY” over mashed potatoes and gravy) that strength will be with you for a long time. After you pass that point, you can get on with your life. It all starts with thoughtful choices and well-made plans.

If you do not feel that you have anyone who should be the first to know or if you are afraid to tell your parents, you should discuss this with a counselor. Most counselors can help you decide who to tell and in most cases are even willing to help you tell them.

Finally, though you may feel discouraged now, once you have opened up to someone, you will find that it becomes easier to talk about your situation and to research your options so you can make plans to best deal with your situation.