What are you going to do about it now that she is comfortably on the couch, a pad with wings between her legs and the hot water bottle resting on her belly?
While archaic responses like the chastity belt might come to mind, there are so many ways to help your kid grow and learn from the experience. Don’t delude yourself in thinking that its over and need not be considered ever again.
A recent article in Bloomberg.com reported on research that shows that almost one-fifth of teenage mothers in the U.S. give birth to a second child before age 20. So, if your kid has a scare, or becomes pregnant, or becomes a mom, it’s a great time to ask questions, listen closely and provide a whole lot of education.
First, as a parent, how much do you know?
- Are you sure she had vaginal intercourse or was it some other activity that makes her think pregnancy was possible?
- Does the person she had sex with know about the near pregnancy?
- Is she in a relationship? Is she exercising free will?
- Did they use birth control? Properly?
- Does your daughter know the efficacy of the birth control that was used? Was there protection against STI transmission?
- Did the couple talk about birth control and STIs before engaging in a sexual relationship? Does she know the range of birth control options that are available to her?
- Did they ever discuss the ‘what ifs’ of having sexual intercourse?
- How much knowledge does your daughter have of reproduction and the menstrual cycle? Does she track her cycles? Does she take note of her cervical fluid changes throughout the month and know what amazing information it provides about ovulation?
Does she know about the emergency contraceptive pill, Plan B, how it works, and where to get it?
There are also other important questions to ask and conversations to have:
- Does she enjoy being sexual? Is it consentual and mutually enjoyable? Does she know some of the fabulous ways two people can be sexually active without risking pregnancy?
- Was she ready to engage in sexual intercourse? (This is different than you being ready for her to engage in sexual intercourse, by the way)
Some parents probably get mad. Some get sad. Many likely feel great relief to know that they are not going to be a grandparent so soon after leaving money for the tooth fairy. What every parent ought to do with the mad, sad and relief is start talking to their kid to make sure they are equipped with as much information as possible.
It’s not too late to share your feelings about and views on teens having sex and teens having babies or abortions. Tread with care though. If you have strong ideas about when peope ought to start having sex, you absolutely can share that but be explicit that your love of them has nothing to do with choices they make that are antithetical to yours. It might drive you batty, but let them know that it doesn’t change the love you feel. If you’re judgy, condescending and punitive, you might find that your kid doesn’t tell you about future scares. Worse, equipped with a sense of how you might respond to an actual pregnancy, you might find yourself shut out when your child most needs support. The same could be true when hearts are broken, when tests come back positive, when mistakes are made and when mistakes are averted. You will miss so much of what it means to help your kid through the highs and lows of figuring out this crazy thing called living.
So remember that your opinions about life and love and sex are important but don’t trump your child’s views. Remember that they are having sex. Perhaps you think they ought not to, but they are. So engage in a two way conversation. Hear their thoughts about teen sex, relationships, pregnancy and abortion. Even where your perspectives are different, you can be a trusted ally to your increasingly grown up child.