As a parent, you receive news and updates from your son on a regular basis. “I got a ‘B’ on the algebra test you helped me study for.” Or, “I made the team! I can’t wait to play this year!” News that they are happy to share and you are excited to hear. So if your son recently shared with you the news that they got someone pregnant, it may be a difficult time for you both. You are not alone. There will be thousands of teen pregnancies each year. (1) Thousands of families face this challenge successfully. This article will discuss ways to support and guide your son through this experience and to a healthy future.
Processing The News
This news is bound to be disappointing and have far more gravity than a low test score or missing the team roster. A parent’s first instinct may be to adopt a “you got yourself in the mess, get yourself out” approach to the situation. But that’s not best. As Drs. Bailey and Wilson-Wilborn of the Teen+ Project comment:
“Rather than debating whether teen pregnancy/parenting is wrong, which does nothing to help teens who are already on a path towards parenthood, let’s agree that teen parenting/pregnancy is not a lifestyle designed for teens to successfully handle.” (2)
If you want your son to successfully handle the reality of the pregnancy and beyond, he'll need your support. You as a parent will need to recognize and process your feelings so that you will be there to support him. You and your son need to build or maintain good communication skills. Your son may not fully grasp the situation. Possible thoughts teen dads may need to process are:
- They may not want their babies.
- They may view the creation of a child as an achievement and not recognize the serious responsibilities.
- They become overwhelmed by guilt, anxiety, and fears about the future. (3)
It is important to remain calm and remember that your parental role is to love your son and provide guidance during this delicate time.
Don't Forget the Other Half
It may seem too late to explain to your son how he gets someone pregnant, but it is a good time to remind him that he is not alone in this experience. Some young men may feel trapped or cornered by the pregnancy. They may have instincts to ignore the reality of the situation. As a parent and responsible adult, you may have to remind him of his role in this situation and direct him to consider the experience of the mother too.
The mother-to-be is processing her own thoughts and reality. She has a lot to consider and it would be vital to everyone involved if your son were to educate himself on her side of the situation. Helping the mother have a healthy pregnancy (4) can be a great way for your son to be an active participant in the pregnancy and process many of his own thoughts and emotions. He is not alone in this pregnancy, and if he is willing to be a helpful healthy part of the process, then the mother will not be alone either.
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Teens may face many issues and problems daily. The transition from childhood to adulthood is a perilous time. Every adult has experienced their own gauntlet. Today’s teens face similar trials you may have faced as a teen. These are amplified through social media and access to a worldwide ocean of opinions. You will need to help him navigate the pressure of regular teenage maturation plus the pressure of parenthood. Below are a few of the challenges your son may face if he gets someone pregnant.
Feelings are a storm for teens on a normal day. Add to the mix the news that your son got someone pregnant, and the result can be a hurricane. The negative feelings such as depression and increased anxiety can be destructive. Teen fathers experience significantly more anxiety and depression than their older counterparts. (5) He needs to know that you love him, that you will love his expected child, and you will be there to support them both.
You will have a range of emotions to contend with as well. Frustration, disappointment, anger, and other negative feelings may come in waves. Other emotions, such as excitement for being a grandparent, love for this growing baby, and other positive feelings will be present as time goes on. Communicate your feelings - positive and negative - with your son.
Teenage fathers are less likely to graduate from high school. (6) It is well known that completing a high school diploma or GED is a fundamental building block to a financially secure future. Your son will need your help and possible help from outside resources to remain in school and complete his education.
There have been numerous social research projects over the years which have led to the development of many support programs for teen mothers. Unfortunately, there have been very few support programs developed for teen dads. That is all the more reason why it is essential for you to support and guide your son. Cornerstone is also working to bridge the gap.
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Every parent can tell you that children mean an increase in expenses. Even before they arrive and go through diapers and formula on a daily basis, there may be expenses related to the pregnancy. Depending on the age of your son and the age of the mother, you may need to be part of discussions about the responsibilities of medical expenses, transportation costs, and other pregnancy-related financial changes. The mother and her family will be discussing these issues and more as they prepare to speak with your son about the pregnancy.
When your son gets someone pregnant, you now know that they are sexually active. You will have to have a talk about whether he and she were monogamous in their sexual activity or if they may have had many sexual partners. It is wise to have your son and the mother submit to STI testing for their health and the health of the baby.
In some situations, a father-to-be may believe that ending the pregnancy is the best course of action. He may even discuss this idea with the mother. Your son needs to understand that he cannot pressure or force a woman to have an abortion. Coercing someone into abortion is illegal - state laws may vary, but why risk it? (7)
Instead, you can direct your son to resources in your local area that will promote the healthy pregnancy and birth of your future grandchild. A wonderful place to start is at your local pregnancy resource center. Many PRC locations offer ultrasounds, parenting classes, counseling, and employment referrals. Ultrasounds can be a significant moment for young fathers to connect to their child. (8)
When your son gets someone pregnant, they both embark on what many hope to be a lifetime journey. The nine months of pregnancy will have their challenges. But even now you must help your son prepare for the post-pregnancy period. In many cultures throughout history, a couple would get married if they were pregnant. Today, 8 out of 10 teen fathers do not marry the mother of their child. (9) Almost half of teen fathers will have a child again by his early twenties, although not necessarily with the same mother. (10) Whether your son and the mother marry or not, they will be responsible for the care and upbringing of a new baby soon. Discuss with your son about parenting. The challenges and the joys. Encourage him and the mother to work on communication, because communication will be key to a successful co-parenting relationship. This may mean taking classes or attending seminars. A local Pregnancy Resource Center can be just the place to start! Cornerstone is a great resource to help a young father prepare for the joys of fatherhood. We also have help for you as a pending grandparent, so come with your son to visit us today!
- Trends in Teen Pregnancy and Childbearing; https://opa.hhs.gov/adolescent-health/reproductive-health-and-teen-pregnancy/trends-teen-pregnancy-and-childbearing
- Anxiety and depressions in fathers in teenage pregnancy; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16168019/
- Preidt, R. (2014, April 30). Pregnancy ultrasound a big bonding moment for dads-to-be. WebMD. Retrieved October 28, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/baby/news/20140430/pregnancy-ultrasound-a-big-bonding-moment-for-dads-to-be