If you're like many parents, you've dreamed of the day when you'll help your daughter buy her first car, when you'll attend her college graduation and walk her down the aisle. But ever since she said, "I'm pregnant," you feel your dreams slipping away.
When she confessed, you may have wished you could rewind time, and go back the days when she was out playing hopscotch in the driveway. But life marches on, and you're compelled to figure out where to go from here.
It can be tempting to yell, to alienate her. To kick her out of the house, tell her to go live with her boyfriend, and to accuse her of disappointing God and not living the way you raised her. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is simply love her, even though you may disagree with what she's done. While love, God's greatest command, is easy to talk about, it's often difficult to demonstrate. Here are some guidelines to help you love and support your daughter while loving yourself and honoring God.
The first step to help your daughter is to move from denial to acceptance.
At first, you may not be ready to face your daughter's pregnancy; but denying her condition will not make it go away. Supporting her when she most likely already feels shame, means that you recognize what’s happened and wish to reassure her of your love and concern.
Acceptance doesn't mean that you condone what your daughter has done, but it does mean she may experience Christ's faithfulness and forgiveness through you.
Listen and be respectful of her feelings.
Listening to your daughter when she expresses her thoughts and feelings will provide you with a platform to show compassion when your daughter is afraid. Most importantly, it will make her feel safe, which will give you the authority to lovingly guide her in crucial decisions.
For example, because your daughter is afraid, she may see abortion as a quick fix.
You can validate her feelings by saying, "I imagine that you're afraid. What is it that makes you most scared?" After listening patiently, you can offer your strength and parental support by saying, "I'm here for you. Let's walk through this together." You can schedule an appointment with your local pregnancy center to meet with a qualified counselor to discuss the ramifications of abortion. Your understanding patience will encourage communication with your daughter and guide her to make a godly choice.
In the book, I'm pregnant…now what?, Windsor, daughter of author Ruth Graham, shares how she felt about her relationship with her mother during her own unplanned pregnancy:
"She [my mother] was trying to teach me the lesson of tough love at the time when I just needed to be held. She didn't realize that the lesson she was trying to teach me wasn't nearly as tough as the one I was beating myself up over. I was dying inside; I was so disappointed in myself. In my mom's story, she mentions getting counseling from pastor's friends and family, but she never came to me. I was 16 and pregnant; I did this on my own, so why couldn’t she ask me what I thought we should do? Why did she exclude me from some of the biggest emotional decisions of my life? …a pregnant daughter doesn't need to be taught lessons of ridicule, shame or anger. The rest of the world is already doing a good job with those things. Besides, the pregnant girl herself is already being the hardest of all on herself."
Address your daughter’s practical needs.
After you meet your daughter's most basic needs of acceptance and love, move on to more practical needs. Find a doctor and a counselor to walk with you, your daughter and other family members, if needed, through the coming months.
A good way to find a trained counselor specializing in unplanned pregnancies is to contact your local pregnancy resource center. Many centers also provide free ultrasound services and may provide you with the name of a qualified physician.
Finally, schedule a meeting with the baby's father and his parents to talk about options for the baby's future. Keep in mind to sensitively handle your trial by not blaming anyone, which is counter-productive.
Additionally, carefully communicate with your daughter as each of these steps are being planned so as to not alienate her.
Help your daughter develop a support group.
Your daughter won't be able to walk through her unplanned pregnancy alone. She’ll need a support network of friends to cry with, talk to and who will hold her accountable to caring for her unborn baby. According to Dr. Sara Dorman, co-author of I’m pregnant…now what?, if possible, the baby's birthfather also needs to be included in this group.
To young women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, Dr. Dorman writes:
"No matter how the two of you [you and your boyfriend] feel about each other, you have created a new life, for whom you are now responsible. For that reason, working together on the important decisions and developing a good relationship (for the time being) need to be important goals for the two of you."
Because your daughter's pregnancy will affect you emotionally, physically and spiritually, you may also want to find a counselor and support network for yourself. Feelings of disappointment, responsibility, guilt, shame and anger are a normal part of grief that you may grapple with. Be careful to vent your frustration, anger and other negative feelings alone or in the presence of a safe adult.
Remember that even though this is a difficult time for everyone involved, that your daughter's pregnancy is about life. Because God promises to walk you through your most difficult trials (Isaiah 43:2), there is hope!
Your response to your daughter's pregnancy will create positive or negative memories for her in the future. She'll see this as a time of love and grace or rejection and pain, depending largely upon your response. Lean on God during this time and allow His love to shine through you as you comfort and support your daughter—no matter what.
Shana Schutte is a freelance writer, author and speaker living in Colorado Springs, CO and the founder of Run to God Ministries.
Related Resources I'm Pregnant ... Now What? Wild Child, Waiting Mom How to Love Your Pregnant Teen Kit
Ruth Graham & Dr. Sara Dormon
You're young, single, pregnant – and scared to death. As you face an unplanned pregnancy, this expert advice will strengthen you with hope and a workable plan – from those who've been there.
Karilee Hayden & Wendi Hayden English
In this intensely personal and jolting book, Wendi Hayden English and her mother Karilee Hayden chronicle the story of Wendi's ten-year pursuit of "freedom" at all costs. In the midst of it all, God brought Karilee an unshakable gift of hope that enabled her to pray for and love her daughter until Wendi came to the end of herself and learned the power of redemption.
There is no greater time to express unconditional love than when your unwed teen is pregnant. This kit provides hope and support for the hurting parents and information to help the teen maintain a healthy pregnancy and to make the best choice for her baby.
I'm Pregnant ... Now What?
Wild Child, Waiting Mom
How to Love Your Pregnant Teen Kit