Disclaimer: Parenting is parenting and there is much more crossover in “mom” roles and “dad” roles these days. Read both sections and take whatever advice seems appropriate. See Advice for Moms.
Are there ways of being that are special to fathers?
It is likely that you represent something different to your daughter than her mother. This may mean you have an opportunity to be there for her, 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 her ability to take care of herself and make good decisions for herself.
“I can’t tell my father. He would be… so mad.” “…or disappointed.” “…or he would kill me.”
These are some of the things we hear young women say; in other words, how they see you makes it 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’s life just because she fears your reaction. Now is the time to affirm your relationship with her: “You’re my daughter 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 with her for the rest of your lives.
“My father says my baby and I can live with him.” Particularly if you and her mother are estranged there 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, 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 not only what she wants to do but also how she feels. Your opinion is more valuable to her when she feels your support for her.
“No child of mine will_____” “She’ll be on the street before I allow that to happen.” “If you come home pregnant, you are on your own.”
Your daughter is remembering every thing you ever said as a warning against teen pregnancy or sex. Unfortunately, those statements now only serve to keep her 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 daughter—that will never change.” Unless you want to risk losing your relationship with her, de-escalate the situation by modifying any previous extreme statements.
“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 girls having a baby, abortion, or adoption, but it is important for your daughter to consider all of her options now, with your input. Families in this situation need to focus on what’s best for her life, including what she can offer a child, as well as the impact on her family, her partner and his family. People who are trying to do what’s best for life are being moral. (See religion and spirituality section.)
“I want to kill the boy who did this to her.”
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 him, your extreme anger at him is not helpful. Don’t put your daughter in a position where she has to choose between you and her boyfriend. 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 her some help. Check your local phone book or see resources under section, “If you were raped…”
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 inappropriate. Now is the time to move forward and help your daughter learn to protect herself. 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 is a strength of many fathers concerned about their daughters. 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 daughter safe.