As the father of three sons and having been married for over 35 years, I often recall what my father used to tell me about being a parent: “Steve don’t worry; it is just the first twenty years that are the hardest.” I remember him telling me that when my boys were toddlers and going through the terrible twos. As a parent of children who are now between the ages of twenty-seven and thirty-three, I realized that although my dad was trying to be funny, the first twenty years are really not the hardest.
As children get older, their problems grow, exponentially, in size. When my kids were newborns, the biggest challenge was getting up in the middle of the night to change a dirty diaper, feed a hungry baby, or comfort a crying child. “Monster Repellant Spray” (a.k.a. Lysol) worked wonders keeping the night monsters at bay when the boys were little, and it was bed time. As they got older, their problems became bigger, as well. Even as a father of a thirty-three old son, I still find myself giving lots of advice, often unsolicited. However, what I have found is that kids, no matter how they may roll their eyes and how old they are, hear and see everything their parents say and do. While it appeared that they were not paying attention, especially when they were teenagers, as I have watched them interact with other adults and children over the years, I see that they have paid attention to everything that I was saying.
So what does this have to do with parenting a pregnant, teenage daughter. The point is that parenting does not mean that you have to submit to your child’s wishes. Parenting means that you assume responsibility and guide your children to the decision that is best for them.
Therefore, my advice to a parent of a teenage daughter, who is pregnant, is don’t stop being a parent because they happen to be pregnant. With teenagers, you often have to convince them that it was their idea to take action, and, sometimes, a subtle approach is better than a more direct one. But if your first attempt at convincing them does not work, you must continue to try.
A pregnant teen faces the most difficult decision of her life and cannot possibly comprehend the commitment it takes to parent a child. And even though they may think they know everything as a teenager, they don’t. That is where parenting comes in.
There is a balance because Indiana law does not allow a person to give a coerced consent to adoption. And, in fact, a consent to adoption that is coerced would not be valid. However, as a parent you have the responsibility to guide and protect your child even if your child does not agree. Parenting is not about consensus building or winning popularity contests. Parenting is about raising your child to help them achieve their full potential.