Archive for November, 2010

Father’s parents' perspective – by, Margaret High Mahon

Monday, November 29th, 2010

The initial excitement of being a grandparent was short-lived.  It was replaced by fear, anxiety, and confusion.  This was a not a teenage unwed couple–these kids were mid-20’s but emotionally immature.  There was a vain attempt to be a ‘couple’ for the sake of the baby but it segued into angst-ridden text messages, conversations and actions borne of their separate personalities and dysfunctions, addled by unsavory lifestyles.

My son had decisions to make about his role.  I believe he wanted to participate in the pregnancy and birth of this child, but the conflict and uncertainty of the future between he and the birth mother, gave him a reason to bow out.  The birth mother didn’t want any contact with him; indeed, his name was not on the birth certificate.

He went thru his own (non-mandated) DNA testing to establish his parenthood, but it remains invalid in the legal system unless he forces the issue or he is court-ordered to provide DNA.  If that is ordered, he would likely be required to financially support the baby from day one.  In addition, the birth mother and grandmother did not wish or require him to participate as a parent.  A sticky wicket for someone who has been attempting to extract himself from burdensome debts due to poor financial management and lifestyle choices.

Beyond  a visit to see the baby for a few days when she was about 2 mos. old, his contribution has been non-existent.  No calls, attempts to visit and only minimal funds  for support.  Indeed this was not asked of him, but he also did not step forward, regardless of what was being asked.  When guardianship was sought by the maternal grandmother, he was very angry.  He wanted me to step in and declare that he could provide for a suitable home for the baby, as a single parent.  My position had to be as an advocate for the baby and her needs.

Where was she best able to receive consistent, loving care?  The birth mother has proven to be irresponsible and unreliable. My son has shown very little presence, while maintaining a  lifestyle not conducive to being a single parent.

When asked to testify to the court for guardianship by the grandmother, I told  the court that I felt the baby’s needs were best served by her grandmother.  We were, and continue to be, in constant contact concerning the baby’s welfare.  I have visited several times, send ‘care’ packages as often as I can, and ‘talk‘ to my granddaughter and her grandmother almost daily.  We email, receive and send pictures, and I am very much a part of her life.

My son felt betrayed by my testimony and our relationship has been even more rocky  as a result of the guardianship.  However, I maintain that the baby deserves to have a safe, loving home.  If this requires my son to  relinquish his rights as a father, then I must step aside and let my granddaughter continue to flourish where she is — in her own crib, with her own room and friends, and guardians who watch out for her and marvel at her growing independence.

My son has recently told me that he is not ready to be a parent, and I believe that is true.  With the time that has elapsed since the baby’s birth, and through the baby’s struggles and health issues, her maternal grandmother continues as her beacon, her safety net.  Hopefully, my son realizes that by essentially doing nothing, he has made his decision not to be a parent.  Perhaps there will be a time when she seeks him out  and is curious about her father.  In the meantime, I will continue to be a part of her life as much as I am able, through the cooperation and friendship of her ‘guardian’ Angel grandmother.

My son and I struggle to regain the closeness we once had as a single-parent mom and only child son, trying to maintain an adult relationship that is separate from his daughter and my granddaughter.  My love for him remains unsullied, yet it is with an awareness that perhaps I might have given him a  more clearly defined sense of his responsibility as a father.

However, I recognize too, that he has had many positive examples to follow through the years regarding the moral obligations of parenthood.  Since his daughter was born, he has chosen to reject the role as father.  Fear?  Self-interest?  Regardless, the baby is where she should be–happy, healthy, and constantly reminded that she is well-loved.

A Look Behind the Scenes of a Teen Pregnancy

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

from Focus on the Family

Before considering how you might respond to the news that your unmarried teenager is pregnant, take a brief tour of the emotions and thought processes that are likely to be swirling through her mind and heart.

Your daughter’s experience

  • Fear is an overriding emotion in nearly every teen pregnancy. “I can’t tell my parents. They’ll kill me!” “How can I finish school when I’m pregnant?” “My boyfriend will take off if I don’t have an abortion.” The adolescent with a crisis pregnancy probably sees nothing but loss on the horizon — loss of love, time, education and physical health. Fear of one or more of these losses propels most of her other responses. Remember that the average age difference between the father of the baby and the teenage mother is 6.4 years.

 

  • Denial is common, especially during the early weeks of pregnancy when the only indication might be one or more missed periods, a little fatigue, possibly some nausea or even a positive pregnancy test. The longing for things to be “the way they were” may delay acknowledging the problem and seeking appropriate help for weeks or even months.

 

  • Ambivalence about being pregnant may cause fluctuating emotions. One day the only solution may appear to be an abortion, while the next the prospect of a cuddly baby may seem appealing. Time spent with a friend’s crying newborn may jolt the emotions in yet another direction. Indecision and apparent lack of direction in such an overwhelming situation are common.

 

  • Guilt. When a pregnancy results from the violation of moral values held since childhood, an adolescent will usually feel ashamed and worthless. Her growing abdomen becomes a constant reminder of her failure. This is a time when you can come alongside your child and cement a lasting relationship with her.

 

  • Pressure to have an abortion. This may come from several directions. A teenager may be weighing what appears to be a dismal future of hardship and remorse against a quick and relatively inexpensive procedure. “No one needs to know, and I can get on with my life.” A boyfriend (who may be dealing with his own fear and guilt, along with concerns about future financial responsibilities) may exert considerable pressure to abort, even offering to pay the bill. He may also threaten to bail out of the relationship if the pregnancy continues. Some parents, worried about their daughter’s future or perhaps their own reputation in the community (or even the prospect of being responsible for the actual child-rearing), may also find abortion attractive.

 

  • The “cuddly doll” mentality. Some unmarried teenage girls see their pregnancy unrealistically as an escape from a difficult and unpleasant home situation. They may envision a baby as a snuggly companion who will require roughly the same amount of care as a new puppy, not realizing the amount of energy a newborn will take from her without giving much in return (especially during the first few weeks). Teens with this mindset need to adjust their expectations of child-rearing — not to drive them to abort, but to help them make more appropriate plans. If adoption is not chosen as a solution, some careful groundwork should be laid to prevent serious disappointment and even the mother’s abuse of the baby.

 

Your experience as parent(s)

If a pregnancy is an upheaval for a teenager, it is also no picnic for her parents. Discovering that your adolescent daughter is pregnant is a trial like few others, and reactions — fear for her future, denial, guilt — may parallel hers with equal intensity. Parents are likely to feel anger in a number of directions — anger toward their daughter for being careless, not taking their advice, not using good judgment and disobeying them and God. They may be angry with the boy (or man) involved, who has violated their trust and their daughter’s well-being. They may be angry with themselves for any number of reasons: They were too narrow or too permissive, too busy or too tired to tune into their daughter’s world for the past several months — and now look what has happened.

Anger is such a classic parental response that the daughter may try to keep her pregnancy a secret. In fact, many states allow minors to obtain abortions without parental consent or knowledge, based on the presumption that the mother or father will be so disruptive and unreasonable that the teenage daughter can better deal with her pregnancy without them.

Your most difficult (and character-building) task is to show how much you really love your daughter, even though you don’t approve of what she has done. The classical Chinese symbol for the word crisis has special meaning in this situation. It consists of two symbols: one representing danger, the other, opportunity. The danger is that your response to the pregnancy may open wounds in your family that will take years to heal, if they ever do. Your opportunity is rising to the occasion in such a way as to earn your daughter’s lifelong respect and gratitude.

Your mission is to remain calm when panic is in the air and to be more concerned about her embarrassment than your own, which may be enormous. It is to be comforting, when you feel like saying, “I told you so!” It is to help organize everyone’s conflicting impulses into a thoughtful plan in which the family can work as a team. It is to guide the baby’s father into responsible participation if he is willing, when you would just as soon enlist him in the Marines. Most of all, it is to channel your intense feelings into productive outlets — through planning, prayer, vigorous exercise and blowing off steam to a tolerant friend rather than at your child.

Your daughter will need help, and lots of it, but not a total rescue. She must make a fast transition to adulthood, a state about which you know a great deal more than she does. You must resist the temptation to throw her out or keep her stuck in childish irresponsibility by making all of her decisions. She needs to face all the tough decisions and demands of pregnancy but with you at her side as a confident ally.

You may have one very critical decision of your own to make. What role do you intend to take in the child’s upbringing? If the mother-to-be is very young, you may see another parenting job on the horizon and perhaps resent the idea. Or you may be excited about having the nest occupied for several more years. Your feelings on this issue need to be sorted out, and your course of action planned accordingly.

In the midst of your family’s deliberations, be sure ample consideration is given to adoption. A pregnant teenager may be torn by the thought that “if I had the baby, I couldn’t handle giving her away.” But adoption can provide a livable solution for all parties involved. The baby is raised by a couple who intensely desire to be parents, and the birth mother can pick up and move on to complete her education and career goals, postponing her own parenting until she is ready.

You will also need to address the question of abortion. Many voices will be calling your daughter to the abortion clinic, claiming this simple procedure will bring the crisis to a swift and straightforward resolution. Some parents may be tempted to give this option serious consideration for similar reasons.

Abortion is not a procedure like an appendectomy that eradicates a piece of diseased tissue. It ends a human life that is designed to develop in a continuous process from conception through birth and beyond. Because this life is unseen for now, its identity and significance may pale in comparison to the problems and concerns of the moment. That developing person whose life is in the hands of her mother and those influencing her, cannot speak for herself.

Your daughter should consider making an appointment with a local pregnancy resource center (often called a crisis pregnancy center or CPC) in order to sort through the issues, gather information and consider her options in a compassionate setting. Even if she has strong opinions about what her course of action should be, a pregnancy center can be an extremely valuable resource. Services available at most centers include a realistic assessment of the impact of each option, ongoing counseling support, assistance with medical and other referrals, and maternity clothes and baby supplies. It is important that capable and compassionate medical care be maintained throughout the pregnancy. Many pregnant teens delay or avoid seeking appropriate care for a variety of reasons. But adolescents have higher rates of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth compared to older women. Most of these problems can be significantly reduced (or at least anticipated) with consistent prenatal visits and appropriate medical follow-up.

Excerpted from “Let’s Talk About Sex,” published by Focus on the Family. Copyright © 1998 Focus on the Family.

How do I prevent my daughter from being a teen statistic?

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

I get this question quite often. So many of us have been told that sex-ed will stop the huge amount of teen pregnancies in our nation. We as parents are relying on our educators to explain the risk of unprotected sex and the realities of teen pregnancy.

Other parents simply refuse to accept their children are sexually active at such early ages. The truth is, some of our kids are having sex or at least interested in the concept by the age of 8 YEARS OLD! Yes, that’s what you just read, 8 YEARS OLD!

Our world introduces sex to kids at extremely early ages. Everyday and everywhere they turn sex is in their face. A parent cannot even take a child to a mall without seeing explicit ads using sex as a hook. This has changed the game for everybody. It is time we looked up from our computers, smart phones and the TV and acknowledge what our kids are seeing and how are they reacting to it. Do you discuss it with them? YOU SHOULD.

Our children need to be taught that they have a great deal to contribute to this world and they are here on this planet for a reason, and it isn’t to be the prettiest, or the sexiest in their group. Self-esteem starts early, the moment they are brought home from the hospital. Kids are amazing. Their ability to assimilate your thoughts and actions is immediate. It is our job to be the mentors and the leaders from day one.

One of the best books I have ever read for helping both parents and children to develop a healthy self-esteem and to help them understand that they are individuals with a gift and a responsibility to cherish themselves is – The Entitlement Free Child, by Karen Deerwester. I have read this book at least 6 times and I will insist each one of my clients read it as a part of my coaching plan of action  for both pregnant teens and parents of pregnant teens. I believe it should be mandatory for all parents to read this book during a pregnancy. It should be part of the pre-natel care! Our world would become a much better place and parents all around would be breathing sighs of relief.

Again, start looking at your child as someone who has questions and concerns about sex long before it is too late. Be aware of her surroundings and how she sees herself fitting into this world. It is difficult for young girls during adolesance to understand their boundries or self-worth. Remind them they are special, loved and admired for being simply who they are. If they have a goal and plan of action that having a baby does not fit into, chances are they will wait.