My then-fifteen-yr-old daughter asked this question, rather casually, sitting on the floor beside me, leaning against the fireplace.”I would be very happy for me, because I would get to be a Grandma–(or Nana, as I hope to be called one day)–and I would be sad for you.”
Had I been at all concerned that this was her way of making an announcement, I’m sure my heart would have skipped a beat. My reply might have been worded a bit differently, I’m sure, but hopefully the message would have been the same.
Alicia went on to ask a few more questions, like what I would do if she couldn’t take care of the baby. I assured her that her baby would be our baby and we would never abandon her, or any of our children if they had a child out-of-wedlock. We talked about what it would mean for her, as a teen, to be a mom. What it would cost her on so many levels.
This conversation was Alicia’s way of processing the fact that many of her friends were sexually active and the reality they could potentially be facing, should birth control fail them. The conversation was not our first, and definitely not our last.
It is important for parents to make it safe for children to talk to us about anything, and that doesn’t happen over night. The younger they are when we open that door, the better off they will be, and the more likely that they will ask the hard questions later. This is not a guarantee–there are many factors that play in, including personality and temperament–but it does increase the odds.
There are seasons when some teenagers resort to grunts, and rolling of the eyes frequently, as their method of communication. They won’t want to talk about anything personal, let alone this kind of thing. It’s important to be sensitive to this need for personal space, but it’s not reason to give up on these talks. When they are bombarded with false information on every hand, we can gently let them know we are here. We can ask how they’re doing, without pressuring them to ‘tell all’, and offering a safe place if they need to talk.
Hopefully, if they are faced with the really tough stuff, like premarital sex or even pregnancy, they will trust us enough to open up. I have listened to numerous stories, of young women who became pregnant in their teens, and because they couldn’t face their Christian parents with the shame, they chose to hide it by having an abortion instead. Numerous women have sat across the table from me, in tears, spilling their pain, and their shame, grieving the loss of the child they aborted.
The first time a young woman shared her story with me, about ten years ago, I made a vow that my children would be loved, accepted and safe, should they ever have an unplanned pregnancy. I teach them abstinence, but their place in my heart, and my love for them is not dependent on that.
Pride, ‘image’, and the way some might gossip is secondary. What matters is that every child knows he or she is loved, that mom and dad are here to support them regardless what happens, so that their shame does not push them into deeper darkness.
That trust and communication does not begin when teenagers start dating. It all begins in the diaper phase….
© Trudy Metzger
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