If your son has had a sexual relationship from which a pregnancy has resulted, remember that he will probably be experiencing many of the same emotions as his girlfriend, including fear, guilt and ambivalence. In addition, he will feel considerable conflict and confusion over the role he should play.
Usually the relationship with the mother-to-be has not, until this point, involved any long-range plans. Now he must make a decision about the level of commitment he intends to assume, and the issues are significant. What does he owe to this young woman? Can he walk away from this situation? Should he make a lifelong commitment to her because of the unplanned pregnancy?
He does not bear the biological consequences, of course, and the mother of the baby has the legal right to have an abortion or carry the pregnancy to term with or without his input. This may leave him with the impression that he has no control over the unplanned pregnancy and therefore no responsibility for it. As his parents, you are one step further removed from the situation and may have similar questions about the role you should play.
Above all, your son will need encouragement and guidance to assume the appropriate level of responsibility for his role in the pregnancy. He should not be allowed to abandon his girlfriend with a cavalier, hit-and-run attitude. “It’s her problem now,” “She should have protected herself” or even “She should just get an abortion” are shallow and disrespectful responses to a serious situation. Pushing for a quick marriage may seem honorable, but it’s probably unwise. Teenage matrimony carries with it very short odds of long-term success, and the combination of immaturity, lack of resources, and the intense demands of a newborn baby will usually strain an adolescent relationship to the breaking point.
In the best-case scenario, the families of both participants will cooperate to find a productive balance among several tasks: facing the consequences of the sexual relationship, accountability of adolescents to the adults in both families, short and long-term planning, and mature decision-making.
Your son will need encouragement to acknowledge his responsibility to the girl’s family and to accept with humility their response, whether it is measured or angry. All of you may have to face the possibility that the other family will choose to deal with the pregnancy on their own, even if you are willing to participate in the process. And if that decision includes forbidding your son to have further contact with someone about whom he cares very deeply, he will have to find the strength to abide by the other family’s wishes. If he is allowed to continue the relationship and support her when the going gets tough, clear ground rules (including abstaining from sexual contact) will need to be established and respected.
Having a pregnant girlfriend is tough and painful. But it can also be an opportunity for your son to mature—to find out what he is made of. In the long run, the pregnant adolescent girl isn’t the only one who has to make important choices.