Telling Your Parents
Advice for young people telling their parents about an unexpected pregnancy.
Telling your parents, “I’m pregnant,” probably seems like the hardest conversation you will ever have. Most young people fear their parents’ reactions and may try to keep the pregnancy a secret. Bad idea. If you are pregnant, you probably need your parents’ love, assistance, and maybe even their advice. Also, keeping secrets is not always good for your emotional health and your ability to take care of your health. Here are some ways to have the conversation in a better way:
Set up the conversation:
Start the conversation with your hopes and fears about how they will receive the news. “I need to talk to you, but I am afraid that you will start screaming/ be upset.” “I really need your support/help. Please don’t be angry.”
Just say it.
It’s best to get right to the point. There is no good time to tell big news, although you probably should wait for some privacy with them. If that is difficult, ask if you can speak with them in private. Just say it: “I just took a pregnancy test and I am pregnant. Or, I think I am pregnant (if you don’t really know).”
Give them a chance to freak out:
Remember when you found out that you were pregnant? You freaked out. Give your parents some time to have a reaction. “I know you are upset. Don’t say anything now. We can talk later.” Or, write a note and then talk. If they do go on and on, try hard to ignore words said in anger or fear. Come back to them the next day and, say,
“I know you were freaked out. Or, I’m sorry I upset you, but I need your help/support.”
“They would be so disappointed in me.”
This is a common fear among teens, but it is not what parents most often say. Parents sometimes set high standards for their children but it doesn’t mean that they expect their kids to be “perfect.” Most parents want to protect their children and give them the best possible future they can. Don’t assume you know what they would really feel.
What was it like when…?
Ask about their experiences of any abortions, or unintentional pregnancies, or when they first had their kids. Knowing how they felt about this is helpful to understanding them and learning what it was like for them. It may help you figure out what you want to do.
You’re both doing your jobs.
Your job is to figure out who you are. As a parent, your mom and dad are trying to protect you and your future. That’s their job. They still remember you taking your first step. They remember when you needed them every minute of the day. And they may think you still need more supervision than you think you do. But their concern is coming from a good place, just a different place than yours. It can feel like a collision course but you’re both doing what you are supposed to do.
Remember, though, that your task is not to do the opposite of what your parents want, or to just resist them. Your job is to be responsible for the rest of your life. There is no greater responsibility than bringing a new life into the world. Pregnancy decisions have very big consequences for your life, your partner’s life and all of your families. Think about what is the right choice for you, a potential child, your partner, and your families.
You don’t have to know everything. You may know what you feel, but most young people, by definition, don’t have the experience to know how it COULD turn out. Talk to your parents or other relatives and adults to learn how other people have dealt with this decision.
Be safe. Plan ahead.
How have your parents reacted to you in the past when you came to them with a problem or were ever in trouble? How do you really think they will react to your news? If you really feel it would not be safe for you when your parents find out, consider having someone else that you trust there, like an aunt or cousin, or an older brother or sister. Choose someone that is older than you and younger than your parents that both you and your parents respect. Pick a good time when you feel they really will listen to what you are saying.
If you think it might be really bad:
If your parents abuse alcohol or drugs, pick a time when they are the most sober. If you think a parent might be violent, avoid talking in rooms where there might be knives, tools, or other items that might be used as a weapon against you. If you are really envisioning the worst, make a plan to go where you can be safe. Know your options if you leave or are thrown out of the house.
Before talking to your parents, contact family or friends to see if you may stay with them for a short while. Explain to them that this is in case you need to leave home immediately because you are getting ready to talk about something that may be very difficult for your parents to hear. Pick a place that will not interrupt your school or work schedule. Pack a bag with your most important items such as medicine, identification, insurance cards, your bank account information, school work and enough clothes for three days or more. If you have no photo identification, take your school yearbook. Include a mailed envelope that has your name and address on it to show proof of residence if needed. If you can, get a copy of your birth certificate. Store this bag away from home. Contact your local youth shelter or runaway hotline to see what laws in your state may affect you if you leave home on your own or are forced out by your parents. Before you break the news to your parents, tell another trusted adult that you are worried about what will happen and ask this person to check on you after you intend to talk to your parents.