It’s certainly a huge shock to find out that your teenage daughter is pregnant, or that your son is about to become a dad. You may well feel angry or resentful as your plans for your child’s life have taken a sudden and unexpected turn.
Parents of teenagers might well be anxious about the risk of teenage and underage pregnancy. Stories in the media seem to suggest that teenagers are likely to sexually active from an early age, but the reality is not so extreme.
Keeping the lines of communication open
Parents are encouraged to show that they are there for their teenagers, ready to listen and talk when their child wants to. Once the lines of communication are opened up, it will be much easier to talk openly about sexual relationships and to give easy to understand messages on contraception and the importance of safe sex.
Sex And Relationships
Research shows that when children have been told about sex and relationships from an early age, especially by their parents, they will be more likely to delay sexual activity and when they do form a sexual relationship, will be confident enough to discuss contraception with their partners and ensure they have safe sex.
That said, teenage pregnancy is a reality.
Supporting your teen
This is a time when your teen needs your support the most. You’ll need the opportunity to adjust too and possibly help to sort out your feelings. What’s most important, though, is to stay calm and keep talking to your teen. If your child has come to you with this news, it’s important to see it as a positive step as it means they want your support and help. A young person in that situation doesn’t necessarily have to come and talk to their parent; they might just talk to the wrong person.
Unfotunately in Barbados a child under the age of 18 cannot be seen by a medical professional without a parent and this means that the child might be denied a professional source of help and go to someone who would give bad advice. If the young person cannot speak to their parent they must confide in a trusted adult and a medical professional would be perfect so they can get the help they need. The doctor can also help liaise with their parents.
Unfortunately, fear of telling anyone means some young people don’t admit they’re pregnant until very late. In some cases they are even denying it as they are wheeled into the delivery room. This can lead to all kinds of health problems for the mum and the baby.
It’s absolutely crucial that parents are as supportive as possible. Young mums and dads-to-be can end up trying to cope in very difficult situations and if a rift develops between them and their parents over the pregnancy. It will cause unnecessary strain on family relationships and possible rifts.
If your teenager has come to you for help, what should you do?
Find out the timeline. If sex has taken place in the last 72 hours, your daughter could get emergency contraception (the ‘morning after’ pill) free from a pharmacy or a sexual health clinic, if it longer than that confirm the pregnancy by allowing the teen to see a doctor.
Tell your child you’re always there to talk.
If your son has told you his girlfriend is pregnant, realise how positive it is that he has come to you and acknowledge this to him. Work out what he needs from you: does he want to talk? Does he want you to help him talk to the other family? Maybe he wants you to know but not to get involved.
Remember it’s never too late to talk about contraception and this is an important opportunity. You may need extra help in coming to terms with this new situation. You can talk to your doctor or a midwife. Please check our prenatal section for a midwife or our health section for a doctor.
Accept that you’ll experience a whole range of emotions and fears. This is completely normal. Focus on your teen’s needs, not your feelings. Remember, their welfare is priority. Try to talk to someone who isn’t emotionally involved to give you a different perspective and you can speak to us at Family Lives.
Ensure they receive good medical care, attend all their ante-natal appointments and eat a balanced diet. If the parents-to-be smoke cigarettes, encourage them to quit and get advice on the support available. It is important to ensure the mum to be doesn’t drink alcohol while pregnant.