Teen parents - NZ DadsYou’ve just found out that you’re daughter is pregnant. You’re angry, disappointed, maybe a little bit excited at the prospect of becoming a grandparent? Everything you’re feeling is normal and completely fine but as a parent your job now is to support your teenager as she navigates a scary new world and faces up to one of the biggest decisions of her life.

Although the rates at which our kids are getting pregnant have begun to show a downward trend the twenty first century saw New Zealand take out the second place spot for teen pregnancy. Sitting just behind the United states we beat out the competition by a country mile. Fifty out of every 1,000 New Zealand teens fall pregnant each year and of those around half are terminated. This means that there are approximately 3,800 babies born to teen parents in our country per annum. As a parent there is much you need to know about the risks, consequences and possible courses of actions in regards to teenage pregnancy so you can educate your daughter before she finds herself in a position of standing in a teenage body making adult decisions.

The biggest risk in regards to teen pregnancy isn’t the pregnancy itself but the fact that in order to become pregnant your teen has been engaging in unprotected sex which increases the risk of your teenager catching a sexually transmitted infection. However there are also risks involved with carrying a baby at such a young age. Pregnant teenagers often go without the same level of medical care and intervention than older women and risk anaemia, high blood pressure and giving birth to a premature baby.

Medical concerns aside pregnancy and having a child can cause major disrupts in a teenagers life. Teen pregnancy accounts for around half of all high school drop outs in young women and less than 2% of teenage mothers earn a tertiary qualification before the age of thirty. They also run the risk of having more children, with one quarter of teenage mothers having a second child within two years of their first. This sets the clock back even further on their career and education goals.

Pregnant teenagers also face the risk of a lowered earning potential when they do return to work, losing contact with friends due to a sudden lack of commonality, feeling judgement or even being excluded by particular family members or networks and a lack of support from their current partner and/or the child’s father. Studies have shown that their pregnancy can also begin a cycle of poverty for their own children with the children of teenage mothers being more likely to do worse in school, drop out, have more major health concerns, face a prison term, struggle with unemployment and become teen parents themselves.

So where to from here? You know the risks and consequences, you know she’s pregnant. What are the responsible steps to take as a parent that will help support your daughter?

  1. If you can’t support her, find somebody who can.

If you’re too angry or she’s done something that doesn’t align with your religious beliefs or for any reason whatsoever and you don’t think you’re in a position to be supportive of your daughter find somebody or somewhere she can go. You aren’t failing her as a parent if you step back as long as there is somebody else who is responsible and has her best interests at heart to take the reins. Talk to your local family planning regarding the support available in your area or talk to close family and friends who may be able to help her.

  1. Make an appointment with her GP.

Not only do you need to medically confirm pregnancy it is important to find out how far along your daughter is and to ensure, regardless of which path she will take, that both she and the baby are healthy. A doctor can also offer information regarding abortion, adopting and teen parenting and has resources at hand that will be of great value to her and yourself as a parent.

  1. Support her.

If you feel that you can be there. Listen to her cry and her frustrations and upsets. Don’t minimise her situation or try and normalise it. Just be a parent. Support the decision she makes while still educating her on the pros and cons of all avenues. This is fine line to walk but if you have an open and honest dialogue regarding her choices and let her know that there is time to change her mind she’ll feel more in control of the situation.

  1. Talk to the Father’s family.

It’s important that you know who the father and the fathers family are and where the stand regarding the baby and what they think should happen. Yes it is your daughter’s body but she didn’t make this baby alone. Try to be a support for each other.

  1. Get support for yourself.

This is hard. Regardless of how you feel you’re probably experiencing this years before you thought you’d need to. Find a trusted friend or support group to talk to so you can take better care of yourself and your child. You can’t support her if you aren’t feeling supported or heard.

  1. Learn your options.

I’ve mentioned briefly the options that are available in New Zealand. Your daughter can legally abort, adopt or keep her child if she chooses. Each of these options has pros and cons and there isn’t a one size fits all answer. Talk to professionals. Talk to people who’ve been through it before and talk to your daughter. Take the time to support her in making a decision.

Finding out you’re going to be a grandparent can be a scary, exciting and horrifying experience. Just remember that what comes first is the safety of you and your family and that regardless of how you feel about her situation your daughter is still your child. Let her know that you love her talk about it. A baby won’t just magically go away if you don’t think about it.

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