Written by Peter Hicks.
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Perhaps one quarter of all teenage girls become pregnant. Some of these are married; most are not; many are under age. Some of the pregnancies are deliberate; many are accidental. Some of the girls will have their baby and care for it; others will have their baby and reject and neglect it; others will have an abortion; a few will arrange an adoption.
Unmarried teenage girls get pregnant for a number of reasons. They may be sexually uninformed or misinformed. They may have been seduced. They may have had unprotected intercourse, possibly under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They may have used contraceptives that failed; the failure rate of condoms among teenagers is said to be over 10% over a one-year period.
But very often they deliberately choose to get pregnant. Again, there may be a number of reasons for this. It could be an expression of adolescent rebellion. Or a way of getting out of school. Or an attempt to demonstrate that they are adults. Or a way of holding on to a partner. Or the result of a desperate need to love and to be loved.
Though it is generally accepted that parenting requires maturity and that children of teenagers are likely to face more pressures than those of older parents, there is no reason why teenagers should not make excellent parents. Indeed, teenage marriages, and particularly teenage brides, were common in biblical times; Mary the mother of Jesus was very probably a teenager when she became pregnant.
In seeking to help unmarried pregnant teenagers, and their partners, our main concern will be the well-being of the baby and of the parent(s) in the weeks and months ahead. This does not mean that we cannot express our sadness and disapproval at what they have done; but we need to do this in a way that does not increase their guilt and feelings of rejection towards the baby. Ideally, we need to help them come to a point of true repentance and confession and of receiving the forgiveness and grace of God. They can then go forward with the pregnancy, freed, as far as is possible, from remorse, guilt, feelings of rejection, and the like.
Helping Unmarried Teenagers With a Pregnancy
· Be aware of the many conflicting feelings and emotions the girl will be feeling. Pregnancy is in any case a time of emotional upheaval; to this may be added feelings of guilt, fear, shame, anger and so on. Ensure that she has someone to talk to with whom she can be really honest, and who will help her cope with her feelings. Remember that it is possible for a baby to suffer damage if the mother is seriously stressed or emotionally unstable during pregnancy.
· Pray with her, praying especially for the baby. If possible arrange a time when some of the leaders of the church can pray with the girl and her partner, putting the whole situation into God’s hands, and asking him to work out his own purposes of grace in each life.
· If there is pressure on her to consider an abortion, do what you can to ensure she gets wise and balanced advice. This article may be helpful
· If the girl and her partner decide to get married, do all you can to ensure that they get adequate marriage preparation.
· If the girl plans to keep her baby and be a single parent, help her to set in place structures to support her in such a major undertaking.
· Watch for signs of continuing guilt or the like, and if necessary encourage her to talk things through with a counsellor.
· Where the girl is very young, remember the additional pressures of her changing emotions as she goes through adolescence and copes with issues of education.
· Be aware of the needs of her parents. They are likely to feel anger, guilt, profound disappointment and shame. Make sure there are people standing by them and giving them the needed support.
This is a chapter from Peter Hicks, What Could I Say?, published by Inter-Varsity Press UK,www.ivpbooks.com, and used by kind permission of the author and publisher.
© Peter Hicks