You’ve done the test.
You’ve done the test again.
You’ve done the test for a third time and thrown up.
Yep, you’re 16 and pregnant. You didn’t plan it. You thought you’d taken precautions but you’re pregnant. Oh boy, now what?
For some teenagers this may be a happy moment, yet for others it can seem like the world is about to end. The future you thought was unfolding before you comes screeching to a halt.
A multitude of emotions will compete for attention and then you realize there’s one thing you’re going to need to do. A cold blanket of dread envelops you. The words stick in your throat and you want to throw up again.
“How am I going to tell my parents?”
For many teenage girls, this seems like an insurmountable obstacle, but sure as night follows day, this is something most will have to face. (This also goes for teenage fathers.)
Guilt and shame can be the primary unhealthy emotions felt at this time, driven by irrational beliefs such as, “I shouldn’t be pregnant, and because I am, I’ve done something really wrong and I’m no good” (guilt) or “I can’t have my parents think badly of me. I must have their approval because if they think badly of me it means I’m worthless” (shame).
These emotions can then trigger a secondary emotion of anxiety based on thoughts such as, “If they do think badly of me, I couldn’t stand it;” “What if they do reject me, and I won’t be able to cope;” This is the end of the world.”
The combination of these thoughts and feelings are potentially paralyzing to a young person and it can make the process of talking to parents so difficult that often parents aren’t told until it becomes too obvious to hide the pregnancy anymore. This procrastination can cause complications to how each side communicates and the potential choices ahead of you.
I’m assuming many things about the relationship you have with your parents. You may be closer to one than the other, but if you do want to tell them you are pregnant, here a few things to consider.
- The longer you put off telling them, the harder it will become for all of you. Remember, the clock is ticking and pregnancy doesn’t stop because you’re scared.
- If you don’t have a great communicative relationship with your parents, it can sometimes help to first confide in others you’re closer to, like a friend, sister, aunt or grandparent. This not only gives you some practice in telling people, but it’s also important not to go through this alone.
- The simplest route is always the best but choose a time when you know that you’ll have time to talk about it. Don’t say it in passing and rush off, and don’t say it in anger during an argument.
- Don’t beat around the bush. Be clear, calm and straightforward, “Mom, Dad, I’m pregnant.”
- It’s common for parents to be angry and disappointed when hearing your news. That’s OK. Allow them their feelings.
- In the shock of the moment things can be said that you might find hurtful. Don’t take it personally. Even parents can react badly.
- Words like “abortion” and “adoption” might come up. This might be what you are also thinking, but it’s better to wait until everyone is calmer before talking about all the choices ahead of you.
- Some parents might try to pressure you to do something you don’t want to do. But remember, you don’t have to do anything you’re not comfortable with. If in doubt, talk to an objective third party, such as your school counselor.
- If possible, talk to your parents with your partner. This not only gives you an ally, but it shows a level of maturity from both of you.
- Finally, it’s your body and you will have to live with all your choices and consequences for the rest of your life, so think carefully about what is right for you.
In a time like this you might be surprised at how well your parents take your news, and how much they care about you. On the other hand, not all parents will be supportive. If you find yourself in a bad place after telling your parents, don’t think you have to do this on your own. There is a lot of support from professionals out there, so don’t think you have to rush to make a decision.
A good metaphor for this experience is like ripping off a bandage. You might feel a short intense sting, but then it’s off and you can get on with your life.
Be brave. Go talk.