Handling a teen pregnancy

While some things change, and quite dramatically over the decades, some things, such as human nature, are timeless. There are just variations on a theme, parenting columnist Ian Munro writes.

One such issue that pops up probably daily around the country in one way or another is the conversation or announcement that begins something like either "My girlfriend's pregnant'' or "I'm pregnant''.

The parental response can vary across a range of reactions.

Often that first response is one of anger, which can be compounded by a stated intention to leave school.

Words fly about being realistic; about a ruined future; about how she wouldn't listen when they warned her that boy would get her into trouble and vice versa; and on and on.

Then, somewhere along the way the word "abortion'' might be mentioned and another round of angry exchanges takes place.

There follows a long night without much sleep and, just maybe, a realisation that the situation had not been handled at all well: the anger and the blaming of the other teen.

This sort of initial denial of the reality of the situation is a common response from parents who, despite their anger and disappointment, want to shield their children from taking full responsibility for their actions.

This is partly because implicit in this is a sense that if the child has done something wrong then they, the parents, are somehow at fault too; that they have failed at being good parents.

In a situation such as this particular one, all that has to be put aside.

It will never be easy but parents need to listen, to help their youngster work through the implications and the responsibilities they have or to help them acknowledge them if they haven't yet.

Ideally, both parents-to-be and both sets of parents will be able to talk through any decisions about termination, adoption or raising the child, bearing in mind that it is their son and daughter who will have to live with any decision made, so their feelings should be paramount.

Most likely these teens will be making what will be the first truly important decision of their lives.

Apportioning blame should be avoided.

It will achieve nothing.

Life has changed for everyone.

It's far healthier and more productive to acknowledge that this is the situation; this is what we need to deal with and to take it from there and move forward.

Hopefully, the parents-to-be can make a decision together.

Although they might end up going against their parents' advice, the parents need to accept that decision and provide support.

It doesn't mean that they agree with it or condone what has happened, but there's certainly nothing to be gained by tearing their respective families apart.

- Ian Munro 

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