Advice for Dads (from the “Mom, Dad, I’m Pregnant” Project an early ACP initiative)
Disclaimer: Parenting is parenting and there is much more crossover in “mom” roles and “dad” roles these days. Here is some parenting advice.
1. “Are there ways of being that are special to fathers?”
It is likely that you represent something different to your child than their mother. This may mean you have an opportunity to be more present, or, it may mean you have to overcome some obstacles to be truly helpful in this crisis. A rush to action may not be the most helpful in developing your daughter or son’s ability to make good decisions.
2. “I can’t tell my father.” “They would be… so mad.” “…or disappointed.” “…or they would kill me.”
These are some of the things we hear young people say; in other words, how they see you makes it seem impossible to communicate what is happening to them. It’s terrible to think that you will be the last to know or will never know about a big crisis like this in your daughter or son’s life just because of this fear about your reaction. Now is the time to affirm your relationship: “You’re my child and you always will be.” “I will love you no matter what.” “I want to be there for you.” You have an opportunity to play an important role now that could be critical in your relationship for the rest of your lives.
3.“My father says my baby and I can live with them.” Particularly if you and their mother are estranged this may be an attempt to ‘play one parent against the other.’
Be cautious of responding out of guilt, a desire to “rescue” or wanting to be the “favorite parent.” A decision about a pregnancy will affect all of your lives, including your current partner or family, and should be made considering what is best for your daughter or son, a potential child, as well other family, including you.
Rather than make a promise that you can’t keep or would not be wise, you can be there by listening to your daughter or son’s feelings, plans, and dreams. Your opinion is more valuable when they feel supported.
4.“No child of mine will_____” “They’ll be on the street before I allow that to happen.” “If you come home pregnant, you are on your own.”
Your child is remembering every thing you ever said as a warning against teen pregnancy or sex. Unfortunately, those statements now only serve to keep them from coming to you. It’s OK to say, “I really wanted to prevent this. Now that it has happened, let’s figure out what to do next. You are my kid—that will never change.” Unless you want to risk losing your relationship with your child, de-escalate the situation by modifying any previous extreme statements.
5.“I was always against this. Now I don’t know what’s right.”
Until someone has considered a pregnancy decision fully they don’t understand how incredibly complex and profound it really is. You may have been previously against young people having a baby, abortion, or adoption, but it is important for them to consider all options now, with your input. Families in this situation need to focus on what’s best for their lives, including what they can offer a child, as well as the impact on their family, their partner and family. People who are trying to do what’s best are being moral. Read more.
6.“I want to kill the boy who did this to my daughter.”
Unless we are talking about a rape situation, probably both your daughter and her partner had some part in this. Even if you have always distrusted them, your extreme anger is not helpful. Don’t put children in a position where they have to choose between you and a partner. If it is a rape situation, most victims of sexual assault say that an emphasis on revenge takes away from what they need. The best thing you can do is to get them some help. Call this national sexual assault hotline 1-800-656-4673 for resources near you.
It’s also important to recall your own early experiences with sex. Most of us have taken risks around sex by not using birth control or sleeping with someone parents deem “inappropriate.” Now is the time to move forward and help your teenagers learn to protect themselves. Learning from mistakes is an important lesson in life and you can be honest about what you have learned the hard way too.
Being practical may be a strength you can give. Offering financial assistance, transportation to doctor’s appointments, or payment for ongoing birth control are some things that are extremely supportive and will help keep your child safe.