Finding out that your teenage daughter (or your son's girlfriend) is pregnant can be a shock. For some parents this news may also come at a time when you are only just realising that your child is sexually active or in a relationship.
You might feel a range of emotions including anger, fear, disappointment, or excitement. Your daughter is probably feeling a whole range of emotions as well. She might have already made a decision about whether to continue the pregnancy or she might still be weighing it up. No matter where she is along the journey, now that she's told you about the pregnancy there are a range of things for you to come to terms with, and different things you can do to support her.
It's okay to feel shocked if your daughter has just disclosed to you that she's pregnant. It's also okay to tell her you need some time to absorb it before you sit down and talk it over with her. Let her know you're glad she's told you and that you love her. Take some time to find some information on her options from a reliable source, or to talk with someone you trust who will respect your daughter's privacy, if that will help in having that first in-depth conversation with her.
Listen to her
When you do have a conversation with your daughter about her pregnancy, try to stay calm. You might have strong feelings as to whether she should continue her pregnancy or seek an abortion, and while these feelings come from a place of concern for your daughter, you need to remember that the choice is hers to make.
Listen to her and what she wants from you. Some young women want their parents to be involved in their decision, others just want them to know what's happening and to provide support. Be guided by her and try to set any strong feelings you might have about the pregnancy to the side for the moment, but try and speak from the heart about your own experiences if you feel like that may be relevant to what she's feeling now.
Making a decision
If she is unsure of what she's going to do, this might be a tempting time to try and persuade her to take the action you'd like her to choose. Don't do this. If she feels pressured to agree with you, she might make a decision she comes to regret. Feeling pressure from you may also drive her into a contradictory position.
Let her know what type of support you can offer her for each option she's considering - for example, 'I can help you out with some money for an abortion if that's something you're worried about', or 'maybe we can talk to the school about options for continuing your education after you have the baby'. Ask her what support she'll need from you for the options she's considering, and give her honest answers about what you can provide. Information on what each option involves is important for her decision making, and this includes information from you about what type of support you can offer.
If she's having trouble coming to a decision about what to do, it might be worth seeing if she wants to talk to an independent counsellor. Don't force her to do this if she doesn't need it, just make it available to her. If she does want to speak to someone, be careful who you contact - some services advertise as all options but are actually anti-abortion and this can be distressing for women who call them seeking unbiased information and support.
You can check the For Women section of our website for info on each pregnancy option, or look at our know4sure site which was developed specifically for young women. You might even like to go through it together so you're both aware of what's involved.
If you're in Queensland, your daughter or you can also contact our counselling team together or separately for unbiased information and support.
When you don't agree with her choice
Parents do not have the right to make a decision about their child's pregnancy.
In Queensland, if your child is pregnant and is 16 years or older, she is legally able to consent to an abortion procedure without your involvement. If she is under 16, she may still be able to provide legal consent if a doctor believes she is mature enough to make this decision for herself and understands the procedure and the consequences to it. If the doctor does not believe she is mature enough to decide this on her own, a court decision will be necessary for her to have an abortion.
In no situation is your consent required for her to have an abortion, nor can you consent on her behalf.
Conversely, if she decides to continue the pregnancy, there is no legal way for you to force her to have a termination.
Regardless of this, doctors prefer to have parental involvement when seeing young women for abortion consultations, and will usually encourage young women to inform their parents or involve them in the process of accessing abortions. Most young people prefer to do this, and research shows that women with good supports around them usually cope better with abortion than women who are socially isolated or whose partner/family disagree with their choice.
If you are at odds with your daughter over her pregnancy, it may be beneficial for you to seek counselling separately and/or together. It's important for you to come to terms with her decision, and counselling may help you to do this. You can contact us for support or to make an appointment here.