Pregnancy and you blog

Teenage pregnancy: Advice for parents of teens

By Mary M. Murry, R.N., C.N.M. September 1, 2011

When my kids were teenagers, I would occasionally subject them to "the talk" during dinner. The talk wasn't about sex — it was about not having sex. They'd roll their eyes, look at each other and usually the oldest would say, "You saw a pregnant teenager today, right?" Of course that was true. Throughout their teens and early 20s, I lived in fear that one of them would get pregnant or father a baby. My fear was probably magnified by all the pregnant teens I'd encountered in my professional life.

I believe it's important to talk about teenage pregnancy with your teens and preteens — both girls and boys. Adolescents aren't known for their ability to see actions and consequences or to project into the future. They're also likely to romanticize challenging situations, such as teenage pregnancy. These tendencies might be compounded by the celebrity status of pregnant teens featured in popular reality shows on TV.

Ask your teen if he or she knows anyone who's been pregnant while still in school. Talk about how your teen's life would change if he or she had a baby. Get specific. For example, would your daughter want to go to prom pregnant? Would your son want to drop a favorite sport so he can work to earn money for the baby? Would it be possible to finish school? What would it feel like to be responsible for a helpless infant? Who would support the baby? Let your teen know that he or she can come to you with questions or concerns. Also remind your teen that it's essential to tell you if a pregnancy happens. You don't want a surprise delivery.

If you're faced with a teenage pregnancy, it's tough to predict how you'll feel. You'll probably experience a mass of emotions: anger, disappointment, fear. All of these feelings are real and you can't decide that you just won't feel them. Instead, acknowledge your emotions and work with them. If you're angry, say so. If you're caught up in your emotions and don't think you can have a productive conversation right away, let your teen know that you need to put some distance between you and the news — then agree on a specific time to sit down and discuss the decisions that need to be made.

When you talk to your teen about the options, remember that any decisions about the pregnancy are your teen's to make — including whether to keep the baby, have an abortion or place the baby for adoption. Your decisions focus on how you'll support your teen and his or her decisions. If you have strong feelings against abortion, how will you handle a decision to end the pregnancy? If you feel that keeping the baby is the wisest choice, how actively will you participate in caring for or supporting the baby?

When you talk with your teen, discuss how the pregnancy will change your teen's life — as well as how it will change your family's life. Talk finances, talk responsibilities, talk school. Talk about everything. Listen to what your teen is saying and ask how he or she is feeling. Let your teen know that his or her feelings are important to you. Above all, love your teen no matter what.

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Sept. 01, 2011