Telling Parents You’re Pregnant
It’s been 3 days since she got the results, but Tina still can’t believe her pregnancy test came out positive. She can’t get it off her mind. It feels like her whole life has changed. She knows she has to tell her parents. But she’s not sure she’s prepared for how they might react.
Confused? You’re Not Alone
If you’ve just learned you’re pregnant, you’re not alone.
You might feel confused, scared, or shocked by the news. You might think, “This can’t really be happening.” You promise yourself you’ll be so much more careful in the future. And you know you’ll probably have to tell your parents.
Preparing to Talk to Parents
No matter how close you are to your parents, you’re going to wonder how they’ll react. It’s one thing if your parents realize you’re having sex and they’re OK with that. But it’s another thing if they’ve forbidden you to date or if having premarital sex is completely against their values and beliefs.
Most parents fall somewhere in the middle. For example, some parents have pretty liberal values but they’re still shocked to learn their teen had sex. Even parents who know their teens are having sex can still be disappointed or worried about their future.
Your parents’ personalities also play a part in how they’ll react. Some parents are easy to talk to or calmer in a crisis. Some are more emotional, more easily stressed out, more likely to get upset or angry, to yell or cry, or express themselves loudly.
Most parents want to be supportive of a daughter who is pregnant (or a son who got a girl pregnant), even if they are angry or upset at first. But a few may react violently to the news and let anger get out of control. If you think your parents might fall into this category — for example, if they have a history of physical violence — read the section on “Protecting Yourself” at the end of this article.
Some parents don’t show how they feel at first. They may take time to absorb the news. Others react quickly and there’s no mistaking how they feel. Some will listen and be sensitive to your feelings. Some parents will spring into action, taking charge and telling you what to do.
Think about how your parents have reacted to other situations. Try to imagine how they might respond — but remember it’s impossible to really know for sure. Still, thinking about what to expect can help you feel prepared for the conversation you plan to have.
First, find the words. You might say, “I have something difficult to tell you. I found out that I’m pregnant.” Then wait. Allow your parents to absorb what you said.
Be prepared to deal with the reaction. What happens next? Will your parents be angry, stressed, or emotional? Will they lecture you? Use harsh words? Ask a ton of questions?
It’s good to think ahead about what you might do and how you may feel. For instance, if a parent yells, you’ll want to be prepared so you can keep the conversation productive and resist any urge to yell back.
Of course, not every parent yells. Many don’t. Even if parents have a strong reaction at first, most want to help their children. Lots of teens are surprised at how supportive their parents turn out to be.
It can help to tell your parents that you understand their feelings and point of view. Saying things like, “I know you’re really mad,” “I know this isn’t what you wanted for me,” or, “I know this isn’t what you expected” can help your parents be more understanding. The key is to be honest and speak from the heart. If you say what you think parents want to hear or make statements just to calm them, it might sound fake.
Give your parents time to speak without jumping in. Listen to what they say. Let them vent if they have to.
Tell them how you feel. Part of your conversation might involve telling parents how you feel. For example, if you know you’ve disappointed them and you feel sorry about it, say that. Let them know if you feel disappointed in yourself, too.
You might say, “Mom and Dad, I know I’ve disappointed you. I know you’re upset. I’m really sorry for putting you through this. I’m disappointed in myself, too.”
Share your fears and worries, such as, “I’m scared about how I’m going to handle this, what my friends will think, and what it means about school.” Or, “I can’t believe this is happening to me and I’m not sure what to do.”
Putting your feelings into words takes plenty of maturity and it’s not easy to do. Don’t worry if the words don’t come out perfectly or if you cry or get emotional as you’re saying them. It can help to think about your feelings ahead of time. If you can’t imagine expressing your feelings out loud, consider writing them down in a letter.
If you need to, get help breaking the news. A visit to your doctor’s office or a health clinic is a must — not just for your health, but to get more information and discuss the realities of your situation. You’ll want to understand your choices and explore your feelings with an experienced professional. During your visit, the doctor, nurse, or health counselor also can help you think through how to tell your parents. If you want, they could even be there as you talk to your parents.
Talking About Your Decisions
Now that you’ve told your parents, you’ll have some important decisions to make. Talking decisions over with others can help. Sometimes parents — including your boyfriend’s parents — can offer a new angle or ideas.
Whatever you decide, it needs to be what you want, not what someone else wants you to do. That’s especially true if you think most of the child-raising will fall to you. It’s a big job.
Becoming a teen parent affects your education, job, and financial future — and often your boyfriend’s too. Over half of teen pregnancies end with the birth of the baby. Some teens decide to keep the baby. Others let someone adopt the child. Some teen pregnancies end in miscarriage, and about one third end in abortion.
Talking about your options isn’t easy, especially if none of them is what you had in mind. Some families need the help of a counselor to talk about this difficult and complicated situation in a way that lets everyone be respected and heard.
It’s More Than Just Breaking the News
Talking to a parent about your pregnancy takes more than just one conversation. In the coming months, you’ll probably have many different feelings all at once. Sometimes, you might feel shock and disbelief. Other times, you may be scared or worried. You may feel sad, guilty, or angry at yourself. At times, you might also feel excited and happy.
Some days you might be ready for what’s ahead. Other days, you may feel totally unprepared and confused. You’ll have many emotions to sort through and it will take time. It helps if you can talk to a parent about all these thoughts and feelings.
To some parents, the news that you’re having a baby will feel like a terrible crisis. Depending on their beliefs, cultural values, or personalities, parents might feel shame, guilt, or embarrassment. They might feel angry and assign blame. Sometimes parents scream, yell, and use putdowns. In some cases, anger can get out of control.
You know your parent and you know your situation. If you need to tell your parents you’re pregnant but think they might react in a way that could hurt you, have someone else with you when you tell them. If you’re concerned about your safety, get advice. A teen health clinic, such as Planned Parenthood, or a teen pregnancy hotline can guide you and steer you toward resources to support you.
Of course, most parents won’t react with extreme anger. The thing to remember is every parent is different and you know yours best.
When Parents Have Your Back
Talking to parents whenever you can is a good way to sort through the many feelings and issues that arise. In the best of situations, parents can help you make important decisions and support your choices. They can be a source of guidance and encouragement.
Sometimes a difficult situation brings people closer and strengthens their bonds. Sometimes, however unexpectedly, a difficult situation can help a family discover unconditional love, support, kindness, forgiveness, acceptance, teamwork, and optimism.
Reviewed by: D’Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: October 2012