It’s every parent’s worst nightmare besides losing their child: your 16-year-old daughter is pregnant. You want to hug her, kill her, yell at her and cry all at the same time. Depending on her decision, suddenly your family will find themselves thrown into a confusing mixture of emotions: disappointment, excitement, resentment and fear. Pregnancy affects the whole family and it’s a conflicting situation for a parent to face as they balance being supportive with forcing their child to face challenges that come with life’s ultimate responsibility.
Not only are you expected to keep calm that you’re going be a 40-year-old grandma, but now you’re expected to celebrate it too? Let’s face it: Your daughter’s is already pregnant, so the time for discussing safe sex and what she should’ve done is long gone. All you can do is present her with her options. But just because you only have so much say in terms of her choices, doesn’t mean you condone the behavior that brought her to this point.
It’s a situation that has no easy answers. Some people think that teen baby showers send a message that parents approve of teen pregnancy, but the fact is the baby’s coming and you pouting throughout the entire pregnancy isn’t going to help your daughter be the best parent she can be. I’ve seen a fair share of teen parents in the classes I teach and what separates those that thrive from those who allow themselves to be defeated by the challenges of teen pregnancy is the presence of a strong support system.
Baby showers are about more than diaper cakes and guessing games; they’re about making sure your child and future grandchild have a good start. If anyone needs a baby shower, it’s a teen mom who is often unable to afford the bare necessities, let alone the luxuries. That doesn’t mean you have to rent out a fancy hotel room and go for broke making a big production out of the pregnancy. Showing your support is not the same as indulging a teen who can’t see past the attention and fuss that pregnancy can bring. Support means making sure your child and grandchild don’t have to go without, but encouraging your child to become an independent adult for the sake of their child. And let’s be honest: There are plenty of adults bringing babies into situations that aren’t the best financially or emotionally. Is it more acceptable for them to be thrown a shower because they are of age? Keep in mind that the baby shower is about the baby, a baby that didn’t choose to be here and shouldn’t have to suffer because people disapprove about their parents’ error in judgment.
What’s most important is to be practical and to not reward what in the future is a preventable situation. If you see that your child is listing $500 strollers and designer diaper bags on her registry, it’s time to tell her to pump her brakes and get real. Pregnancy isn’t about how many likes you can get on your baby bump and baby daddy photos on Instagram. It’s about a real life entering this world and with little income, most teens are lucky enough to even get the basics. Your job as a parent is to balance the celebration of new life with helping your teen deal with the harsh reality and tough decisions that often accompany unplanned pregnancy. I
t will be awkward at times, but you have nine whole months to include a few moments of fun. If you’re worried, just think of how your terrified your daughter is. What she needs most at this time is the confidence to know that she can be a good mother and that being a teenage mother doesn’t define nor end her life. Making sure both mom and baby have what they need pushes her one step closer to that confidence. Because let’s be honest, does anyone at any age ever feel truly prepared to be a parent?
Toya Sharee is a program associate for a Philadelphia non-profit that focuses on parenting education and building healthy relationships between parents, children and co-parents. She also has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog BulletsandBlessings.