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Teenage pregnancy

Jacob Ninan

Q. My 15 year old daughter came to me and told me that she had missed her periods the last two months. I took her to a gynaecologist for advice. But to my shock the doctor told me that she was pregnant. I could not believe this because we had always given her the best education and moral values possible.

When confronted with the doctor's report, she wept and confessed. However she is not ready to reveal who the guy is. Ever since then she has become withdrawn and often very rebellious. How do I deal with this?

A. One can understand the feelings of shock, disbelief, frustration, fear, guilt, shame, anger etc., that come up like waves to your mind at this time. You may find yourself unable to think properly when you consider what to do now. This is natural, and you must allow yourself to calm down before you say or do anything. You are the best support your daughter has at this time, and you donít want to hurt her more or alienate her, do you?

Donít unnecessarily blame yourself. In hindsight you would say that you could have done many things differently. But you said you have done what you could give her the right moral values and education. You must remember that it is not just you who has influence on your daughter. When she started going to school, her world went much farther than your home, and all kinds of people began to influence her. At this age of 15 her friends have a great influence on her behaviour, and it is not uncommon that good people succumb to the pressure to conform to their peer-group. TV, movies, newspapers and magazines are dishing out things that propel young people towards a style of freedom without values. It is sometimes very difficult for teenagers to resist peer pressure. When your daughter gains confidence in you and begins to talk you may be able to know what all factors led to this. But till then think of it as your daughter having fallen under pressure rather than deliberately choosing to ignore your instructions.

If you consider this as a crisis for you, think how much more of a crisis this is to your daughter! Think how confused she must be at this time! She may have thought that she had found the guy of her dreams and got flattered by all the attention he gave her. Obviously she had not expected this type of development. Now she may be going through perplexity, helplessness, loneliness, shame, guilt, fear, etc. Her withdrawing herself could be out of fear of what you might say to her, and her rebellion may be her way of acting tough. The first thing you need to do is to assure her of your continued love and support, and to convince her that she and you will face this together. Tell her plainly that whatever has happened she is still your daughter and she will always have your love. Already her mind must be accusing her, and instead of adding to it you can be the counterbalance. One way you can express your solidarity with her is to listen to her without any hint of criticism or blame. Ask her short questions just to encourage her to continue speaking, and not to interrogate her. Let her express herself freely, and let the tears flow. This will relieve her pent-up feelings.

When feelings have cooled down on both sides, then you can begin to talk together about what is to be done now. Once she is convinced that you are on her side, she will open up and share more details about how it happened and what she thinks. Try to avoid showing shock or distress when she tells you unpleasant things because you donít want to put her off. The more she trusts you, the more you will be able to discuss concrete issues. Find out how she feels about the guy and whether she knows how he feels and thinks about this. Let her understand slowly that you and she cannot wish away what has happened and that now you will face the consequences together. If she has not faced this reality so far, it may be very painful for her, and you may need to give her some time to accept it. Then both of you can take time to talk about what happened and what to do now. Many people think immediately about abortion. Actually it is not only wrong because it destroys life, but also the mother will be haunted life-long through guilt, shame and loss of self-esteem. You could consider discretely delivering the baby and giving him for adoption. Some girls are brave enough to face social stigma and bring up the baby themselves. You could consider these options when you talk with her.

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