Our teenage daughter just told us that she’s pregnant. Our hearts are broken. How can we show her that we still love her and give her the support she needs when we are so disappointed?

Dear Struggling,

Dave: Well, what initially strikes me is that the focus seems to be on the parents’ disappointment. While it’s understandable that you are seriously hurt by her poor decisions, a wise parent needs to address the nature of their disappointment. Is it about your needs and your image, or is it genuinely about her loss? If your frustration is more about you, you’ve got to move beyond that.

Donalyn: That’s right. Right now she does not need you to reprimand her out of your frustration. She’s already feeling bad enough about the situation. She needs to be commended for being honest with you, telling you about the problem, and not having dealt with it through an abortion. She needs your sympathy, and your love, in spite of the poor choices that she has made.

Dave: Your first reactions are critical. Choose to vent your anger and frustration alone or with another trusted adult, rather than on your teenager. As you interact with your daughter, try to restrain the disappointment you feel. It’s difficult, but understand that she is likely already stressed, scared, ashamed and possibly depressed. Now is not the time to put extra strain on her life, and on your relationship. You need to deal with the regrets (both hers and yours), help her understand God’s love and her need to repent and be forgiven, and then move on as a family.

Donalyn: While acknowledging your hurt is acceptable, causing more hurt isn’t. You need to confirm to your daughter that nothing that she has done will make God, or you as parents, quit loving her. This applies as well if you have a son who is responsible for getting a young girl pregnant.

Dave: That’s right on, Donalyn. You must convey your support through the crisis time. It has now become “our” problem, a family issue. If your initial reaction was hurtful, make amends with your son or daughter. Remember that interrogations and lectures will only drive her further away.

Donalyn: A difficult thing to try to gain perspective on is that, despite the precarious beginnings of this child’s life, the baby is still an incredible gift from God. God has allowed the baby to be conceived and born into this world at this time. It is not easy, but it’s essential that you begin to move past the disappointing circumstances and celebrate this new life. As a Mom, I would choose to use this time bond with my daughter, by telling her what your pregnancy with her was like. It’s critical that you help her understand the feelings she’s going to have, the changes taking place in her body and the anticipation of being a mother.

Dave: There’s a lot of discussion that needs to happen about the pregnancy. Will you keep the baby as a family, or give the baby up for adoption?

Donalyn: Well Dave, before you even go there, you need to affirm your daughter for not having an abortion. Make a commitment as a family that there are no options other than having the baby, so we are going to through this with you; you will not go through this alone.

Dave: Good point Donalyn. There are many different factors to consider when deciding whether to keep the baby or allow someone else to adopt the child. How old your daughter is will make a difference as to whether you might keep the baby. The older she is, the more likely it is that within a year or two she’ll be able to be in a position to properly care for the baby; whereas if she’s only 13 or 14, it’s a long, long, future ahead. Secondly, consider your position as a family. Are you willing to stand in the gap and be the parents of your child’s baby? A third factor is the likelihood of your daughter having a good marriage. Is the father of the child a candidate or not? The maturity of your daughter does come into play. Some girls, even in their later teen years are immature, and that’s part of the reason why they got into the situation in the first place. It’s important to talk to the other family if possible, and to determine what their level of interest is and the possibility of support from the father of the child.

Finally, you need to really talk through your daughter’s wishes and hear her heart. Realize that time will allow her to grow with the idea of either adoption or keeping the baby. So don’t force the decision in the first few months of the pregnancy. Work through it with her, recognize that the feelings will be up and down, and that you really need to do what’s best for the baby.

Donalyn: Those are great suggestions Dave. One I want to focus on has to do with your daughter’s relationship with her boyfriend. You need to assess that relationship. Talk about it with your daughter. Find out what her heart is on it. You need to review the nature of the boyfriend and evaluate whether or not this is a good relationship that should continue. Consult with your daughter about that. At this point, all these different factors that Dave has mentioned may need to be worked through with a good counselor. They can help you talk through the different options and the pressures you’re facing as a family.

Dave: As a wise parent, it is always good to try to find another couple that has been through this before, and talk through their experiences. Further, find out as much as you can about the different options. How does adoption work? What does open-adoption mean? What are the implications of keeping the baby? What kind of help is there for single parents? Get as much information as you can. You’ll need to talk through the school options, whether it’s going to be home-school or correspondence, as well as other aspects of the future of both your daughter and her child. If you decide to keep the baby as a family, come to an agreement as to the level of care that she and/or the family is going to be putting into this child. This will likely change through the years.

Donalyn: It’s very important to remember that God often uses these poor choices that we make, and brings something beautiful out of them: beauty from ashes. In many cases, God allows these difficult things for our own good. We don’t want to miss the blessing. Parents, don’t let your embarrassment cause you to lose the joy of caring for your daughter at this time, or to miss an opportunity that God may have for your family.

Dave: That’s fabulous, Donalyn. God does redeem difficult situations. He’s the God of second chances. He’s the God of recovery. Help your daughter see that God’s love is there for her. Remember it’s never too late for anyone to start doing things right, to start doing things God’s way. Be patient with your daughter as you pray for her, but let her know that your love and support of her is unconditional.

This article was written by: Dr. Dave Currie

Photo Credit: Biel Morro