Question: How should we respond to our teenage son who has gotten his girlfriend pregnant? He's seventeen and she's sixteen. It's difficult to admit this to anyone. What does he most need to hear from us?

Answer:

You’re facing a difficult challenge, but handled in the right way it can become a valuable teaching opportunity. There’s nothing like a healthy dose of "reality therapy" for a young man in your son’s position. He’s clearly made a serious mistake, but you should bear in mind that mistakes of this kind can be important stepping stones to maturity and adulthood.

Parental support is crucial

Your whole family can play an important part in guiding the expectant mother through this frightening new experience. She needs to be reminded of the value of the precious life she’s carrying within her womb. In partnership with her mom and dad, you can help her weigh and balance her options and determine what her personal goals and objectives ought to be at this point in her life. She won’t be able to do this effectively without the assistance of wise, caring and life-affirming adults.

Depending on your son’s and his girlfriend’s attitudes, you and the girl’s parents may want to check out Margie and Greg Lewis’ book Hurting Parent: Help and Hope for Parents of Prodigals (Zondervan, 2010). Additional resources and referrals to local pregnancy centers are available from the Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services (CAPSS).

Help him face the consequences of his choices

Meanwhile, your son also needs your understanding. At his age he’s trying very hard to become his own person. Whether he realizes it or not, he's trying to say that he's no longer dependent upon you. He's moving deliberately away from your control. Unfortunately, his bid for independence has put him in an awkward position. He desperately needs you to help him respond appropriately. You can’t necessarily "parent" him or "discipline" him at this point in his life – not as you did when he was six or seven years old. But you can come alongside him and provide him with sound guidance.

Unlike the girl, who has to deal with the presence of a growing life inside her womb, a teenage dad can find it relatively easy to dissociate himself from the situation. Part of your role will be to see that this doesn’t happen. Hold his feet to the fire. Gently but firmly, compel him to face the implications of his choices. Talk to him about the sanctity of human life. Help him think about the tremendous and awesome responsibility of bringing a child into the world. Encourage him to discuss these issues openly and honestly with his girlfriend and her parents. Urge him to explore ways in which he can take a more active role in the pregnancy, the birth, and the crucial decisions that lie ahead. A new day is dawning in your relationship with him and the template is shifting from "parent-child" to "adult-adult."

Speak to a counsellor for expert help

We’d strongly suggest that all of you seek professional counselling as you attempt to navigate these tricky waters. Our staff counsellors would be happy to talk with you, your son, his girlfriend, or her parents over the phone. They can help you in your efforts to set boundaries, establish expectations and clarify the consequences of your son’s failure to abide by them.

You can reach them Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Pacific time at 1.800.661.9800. The counselling assistant who answers the phone will arrange for a licensed counsellor to call you back. One of them will be in touch just as soon as they’re able. In the meantime, never forget that the Lord is with you. He will not fail to lead and guide you as you place your trust in Him.


© 2010 Focus on the Family (US). Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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