When a teenage girl becomes pregnant, both she and her male partner will need an exceptional amount of support from their parents and friends. However, a teen pregnancy puts so much stress on family relationships that those closest to the expecting couple could find it difficult to know how to help.
Even though the rate of teen pregnancy is dropping in the United States because of the increased availability of contraception, as many as 750,000 young women under the age of 18 could become pregnant this year. If you happen to know one of these girls or her partner, you may be in a position to offer the guidance and assistance that they need. The following suggestions may help:
- Remain Nonjudgmental.
If you are a close family member, the pregnancy may affect your life so much that it's hard to remain nonjudgmental. However, try to remember that most teenage couples do not intend to become pregnant. Teens are fully aware of the social stigmas and financial problems that the pregnancy will cause, and they know they need to make choices that could affect them for many years. Both the girl and her boyfriend will need help to sort out the possible options, so they can consider all available alternatives with an open mind.
Historically, girls married soon after puberty - in biblical times a girl would be married when she was 12 years old or soon thereafter. Marriage (and pregnancy) are now discouraged before a young woman has finished her education and begun her career. Our society's expectations have changed because of the financial costs of becoming a parent too soon.
Most teens are deeply concerned about how their families will react, whether or not they will still be accepted by their family and friends, whether or not their boyfriends will stick around, and whether or not they'll be able to afford to raise their child if their education is cut short.
Since the father will also be expected to assist in the financial support of the child, he will have natural fears about his future. If he clearly understands all his options, he will be better able to make a responsible decision. You can help by remaining objective and letting him talk about his fears and concerns without judgment.
- Get informed.
If the teenager you know is considering all the options to her pregnancy, you can help by learning more about those options.
A call to your state's Medicaid office or Prenatal Care Assistance Program (PCAP) will let you know if your teenage friend will be eligible for financial assistance from these agencies. It will also help to find out how much financial assistance the father of the baby will be required to provide. If the pregnancy was unintentional, as most teen pregnancies are, the young woman may be reluctant to ask the baby's father for assistance. However, the state will probably have strict rules about parental support that cannot be ignored.
If your teenage friend is considering other options, such as terminating the pregnancy or giving the child up for adoption, you will be able to find information from the Planned Parenthood office near you, or from a local adoption agency. These are very emotional decisions for any couple to make, so your loving support and guidance will be truly appreciated.
- Suggest counseling.
No matter how carefully you attempt to stay non-judgmental when talking to the pregnant teen and her partner, and no matter how much research you do to stay informed about any options they may choose, it is still a good idea to suggest counseling. A good counselor will be able to hear all the young couple's concerns from a completely objective point of view, and will be well-versed in all available local resources.
The parents of both the young woman and her partner should also consider counseling, since the pregnancy could have a huge impact on their lives.
A counselor is specially trained to help teens make the best possible choices for their future. Laws protect the privacy of the client if the counselor is licensed as a social worker, counselor or psychologist, so the teen will be free to speak her mind. The counselor will be one more person who cares about the teenager at a time when she needs all the support she can get. Unless the counselor is associated with a church or association with its own specific agenda, the expectant mother will be encouraged to take an objective look at all ramifications of her situation. The counselor will help the young couple decide if they're ready to be parents, and point the couple to all available resources. Teens can find counselors through their school, or by calling their local Planned Parenthood office.