If your daughter is pregnant or has recently become a teenage mom there’s no doubt you’ll be looking at all the different ways that you can support her. Deciding to have and keep a baby as a teen is not a decision she or you will have taken lightly and there’s bound to be anxiety and stress surrounding the challenges of the situation.
As a parent, you can help to alleviate these worries and smooth the pathway for your daughter. You already know about the huge emotional upheaval she’s feeling (not to mention your own). As a mom, dad or guardian you can help to ease the burden.
You’re Not On Your Own
A teenage mom means lots of changes, for her and for the rest of the family. Remember that you are not alone. Despite teen birth rates dropping every year, there are almost 230,000 births by teenage girls in the USA every year. While it’s still not a great statistic, it is I suppose, comforting to know, because at times like this you can feel very alone.
You’ll also be going through different feelings and thoughts. Most of these will be negative, that’s normal. You’re a parent; you didn’t bank on your teenage daughter becoming pregnant. You’re disappointed, shocked and worried for her future, as well as the baby’s. You might well worry about what other people will say, especially friends and the rest of the family.
You possibly also feel guilty – was there anything you could have done to stop the pregnancy?
Did you furnish your daughter with enough information to avoid pregnancy? The thing to remember is there’s no point in looking back, you need to look forward and learn lessons.
Communication is vital. You both need to be able to speak to each other and trust each other.
Emotions will be sky high so take lots of deep breaths before you speak! Remember, pregnancy is stressful enough without being a teenager so go easy on her as much as you can. You still have every right to feel disappointed, angry and anxious but you will have to get over these feelings to help your daughter have a healthy and successful pregnancy.
How Should Families Support New Teen Moms?
Of course, your teen might be in a stable, happy and mature relationship. In which case, while the timing might not be ideal, the prospect of having a baby may be scary but perhaps they’re not totally daunting. However, whatever the situation, your teenage daughter will need support from you and from the entire family.
Talk to everyone and let them know that this is important, any help will be appreciated and show them that you are prepared to support her. Hopefully, they will follow your lead. She needs to especially know that you’re there to help.
One excellent method of support is counseling and support groups. There are teenage mom and teenage pregnancy programs throughout every county and city. Research local pregnancy counseling groups, there’s bound to be one near you.
You can support your teen by booking her a course of counseling so any thoughts and fears are put on the table and she can work through her feelings with someone who isn’t part of the family. It often helps to talk to someone out of the loop. That’s because there is no emotional attachment.
I would suggest that the group-led sessions are best as there will be other teenagers in the same situation as your daughter. This in itself is helpful because she won’t feel so alone and she can build a support network. She will need “friends” in similar situations.
Be Aware Of Her Feelings
Your teen will be going through changes at such a rapid rate and she might struggle. If she’s been used to a busy social life, lots of cheerleading practice or swim meets then it’s going to be hard to be at home with a baby. If she hasn’t given birth yet, her body will feel awkward and different, she might experience morning sickness, the weight gain might trouble her and she probably won’t feel in the mood to socialize.
Whatever stage your teen is at, whether pregnant or a new mom, she will feel stressed.
Watch out for signs of depression and you should also look for signs of resentment and anger toward the baby. Unfortunately, teenage moms are in a higher risk category for neglect and abuse toward their babies.
It’s therefore important that you keep the conversation channels open between you and your daughter but if you notice anything untoward, you should seek advice from her medical practitioner. Again, a support group of other teen moms in the same situation is extremely helpful and will allow her to feel that she is not the only person in her situation.
Youtube has some valuable resources, like this video, by a teenage mom.
Remember, the world is completely different and will never be the same again.
Unfortunately, her days as a carefree teen are over. Imagine how she feels about that!
Terrified, lonely, anxious and disappointed in herself too.
Being pregnant as a teenager can really damage confidence which is why you need to help her see through to the other side and make sure she doesn’t develop low self-esteem.
That comes with its own set of problems.
Keep An Eye On Her Weight
One of the things you can do is take care to watch how your daughter eats. Eating healthily is very important, for her health and the baby’s. Now is not the time to diet and if your daughter is very figure-conscious (as many teenage girls are) you must make sure she eats properly and regularly.
By the same token, once your daughter has given birth it’s essential that she eats a balanced diet, particularly if she is breast feeding as the baby will count on her to supply its nutrition. She will also need to keep her strength up because, as you know, looking after a newborn is exhausting.
As her mom, dad or guardian you can help her to do this by providing nutritious meals, lots of good protein, vegetables and fruit.
She may benefit from a prenatal supplement or post-natal supplement if she’s given birth.
Her medical practitioner will be able to advise but it’s worth asking the question. For example, she needs sufficient folic acid, calcium and iron. Folic acid should be taken at early stages (although that’s not to say she shouldn’t take it throughout pregnancy) but at the early stage it helps in healthy neural tube development.
Here’s some more guidance to help you fill your grocery basket:
- Discourage fast food, sugary drinks and candy. It’s best to get rid of these items if they’re in your home, especially if you know your daughter can’t risk temptation!
- Buy whole grains, fruit and lots of green vegetables which are packed with iron and vitamin C
- Buy lean meat, fish, poultry and eggs
- Calcium rich products such as yogurt, milk and cheese
- During pregnancy, folic acid is important and is found in green veg, fortified cereal and as a supplement
Health support is paramount. From the first moment you realize your daughter is pregnant, you should guide her in getting suitable medical care. Those early months are critical; you must check the pregnancy is not ectopic because if so, there is a huge risk to future fertility.
Teenagers without medical care run the risk of stillbirth, high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, anaemia, premature birth and low birth weight. You can find medical care through social services in your area.
It’s vitally important that she goes for regular check-ups and scans, for her health and the health of her unborn child. You need to step in and help to organize these medical appointments especially if she is a young teen. Driving her there will make sure she attends all visits!
Pregnancy poses risk because her body has not completely matured yet.
If she is older and in a stable relationship, she might be able to deal with these with her partner but she will need and appreciate your guidance.
Once your daughter has had her first medical appointment, you’ll be armed with information on how she should care for herself, her growing baby and information on preparing to be a parent.
A visit to the medical practitioner can be highly beneficial for your daughter’s state of mind if she is anxious or scared because it might help to quell her concerns about being pregnant.
A good medical practitioner will be mindful of her situation, sympathetic and gentle so as a mom, it would be helpful if you did some research into practitioners before the first appointment.
It’s a good idea to discuss with your daughter what will happen at her medical appointments because she might be worried about them. Reassure her by discussing it thoroughly.
At her first appointment, the doctor or medical practitioner will examine your daughter and give her a blood test. Your daughter will also probably be asked to provide a urine sample.
The blood tests include an STD (sexually transmitted disease) screening and will check for diseases and exposure to diseases including measles, mumps and rubella.
Additionally, the appointment will include discussion on how often she needs to see the doctor and your daughter might be asked how she’s feeling emotionally and physically as well as information on physical changes. Other things that will be discussed include morning sickness and side effects of pregnancy.
Financial support is important. Remember, the father is legally responsible for child support and that counts in every state of America. Of course, it’s likely the father is also a teen so child support will probably be minimal until he’s old enough to work.
He might still want to go through college and complete his education which means he, you and your daughter need to think about other ways to add to finance for the baby.
You might need to contribute too but, you don’t obviously have to especially if you don’t have the financial means. However, preferably before the birth you need to think about the financial implications and where the money’s going to come from.
Think about what you can offer, even if not financial, can you help with the practical side of having a baby because this saves on childcare costs. Talk to your teenager about what you’re prepared to do. Is your daughter going to live with you or will she have to get a place of her own? Again, this will also be financially dependent, how will she fund her own home?
Then of course, the new baby will need food, clothing, medical care, items such as a stroller, high chair and more. Who is going to fund this? If you cannot answer these questions or can’t reach a solution you should speak to a social worker or a counselor who may be able to assist.
Of course, there are other things to bear in mind, as well as eating healthily and taking supplements you’ll need to discuss positive lifestyle with your teen. It might be that she doesn’t smoke, drink or take drugs in which case you don’t need to mention these but if you suspect that she does it is vitally important that you point out the dangers.
Smoking poses a danger when not pregnant but when pregnant it is very dangerous as it increases risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and low-birth rate. Even if a baby is born healthy, smoking while pregnant increases risk of crib death.
Drinking is equally dangerous in pregnancy and causes mental and physical complications in baby. Drugs are a definite no-no because they are the most dangerous of all, with links to fetal death and pregnancy complications. By the same token, coffee should be limited to 200mg a day (one cup of caffeinated coffee) so if your daughter is partial to a skinny latte tell her to go decaf!
High School Impact
Be prepared for interruptions in your daughter’s education because if she hasn’t given birth yet, that will take up some time obviously! Once she’s given birth, she won’t be able to go straight back to education, if that’s what both of you intend. In fact, she might benefit from taking a few months out of education and this is when you should discuss options with her school or college. Many schools offer services for teen mothers and there will be some community support groups that also offer help.
It’s also worth talking to her social worker about what’s open to your daughter but in my opinion, it’s best for your daughter to finish school. If she doesn’t finish school she will find it very difficult to get a suitable job, be financially stable and have a better life for her and her child. Don’t be one of the 30% of pregnant teens to entirely drop out of school.
Birthing Classes & Post-Birth Classes
Other great supports are postnatal groups and when your daughter first visits her healthcare professional they will discuss the classes on offer. Some just focus on teen mothers and will give vital information on birth and parenting.
These classes will have other teens in the same situation which is a comfort and will help act as a support group later on. They also help with the practicalities of parenthood and teach child safety, feeding, diaper changing and what to expect during the first years of a baby’s life.
Whether you like it or not, your teenager will need you very much, during pregnancy and obviously once she has the baby, your involvement will go a long way to helping her deal with this situation. Your teen likely has little or no experience whatsoever to do with bringing up babies so you can help and guide her.
Some teenage girls raise their baby completely on their own, while others do have the fathers around to help.
Finally, obviously your daughter needs to make some changes for all of these new responsibilities; it is a daunting task and a commitment for life. You must be clear about what will be expected from her. Perhaps buy her this book from Amazon on Teen Pregnancy.
As her parent, you will make a big difference as to whether the transition is an easy one, or a tough one.
I do recommend that you make sure she has the right care, listen to her, talk to her and try and set aside your differences and disappointment (if you feel that way). Offer advice but don’t force her into decision making that might come back to haunt you later on and at every step of the way, remember she’s always going to be your “baby”, take care of her.