Finding out that your teen is pregnant, or has gotten somebody pregnant, is usually quite a shock. There are some situations and cultures in which you’re not shocked, and may be okay with the news, in which case your path will be easier. But many parents find themselves reeling at the news. You may feel angry, sad, hurt, astonished, betrayed, scared, confused, disappointed- or a mix of any of these emotions and more. Your kid pregnant- or fathering a child- and yet they are still a kid. You still pay their bills, and weather their bad moods, and sometimes are still driving them around. How did this happen?

If your teen is sexually active and you didn’t know about it, you are certainly not alone. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent, or you didn’t encourage them to communicate with you, or you didn’t discuss sex with them. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you and value your viewpoint. It means that they’re a teenager, and many teenagers like to keep secrets. When I was a teen I would hide from my parents that I was dating this or that person, not because they would have minded, but because I liked the kick of having to keep the secret and operate everything under the radar. Or perhaps they feared your reaction, or perhaps they themselves weren’t particularly proud of what they were doing. Perhaps they were coerced or even forced into sex (if not, I’d say that’s something to be thankful for.)

There are lots of possible reasons. But your kid getting pregnant, or getting someone pregnant, does not equal bad parenting. Teens with great parents can still be sexually active, can still take risks, can try to do everything right and end up with outcomes they didn’t expect. So if you’re feeling guilt, you can let go of it and focus on what’s going on.

It’s hard not to get emotional at the news. And it’s okay to get emotional at the news. But now that you know, you need to offer your teen support- even if you’re still really mad at them or are more scared than you’ve ever been in your life. I can guarantee you that your teen is mad and scared too. It’s okay to tell them you’re still mad, and it’s okay to still cry when you talk about it. But if you can’t talk without yelling, or sobbing, or biting your nails, you need to figure out how to get to a different emotional place. The emotions are certainly warranted, but your teen needs this issue approached with a cool head, and it’s unlikely to be theirs.

Now is a time when your teen has options to consider, and they’ll need your help considering them. I’m not saying they need you to make the decision for them; this is a really personal decision and in the end, they should have the final say. This may be the first adult decision they need to make. They can’t put it off. They can’t avoid it. They have to face up to the situation, and a parent who is there to support, guide, and love them throughout is invaluable.

Over the next few posts, we’re going to look at the issue more closely, and options available to pregnant teens. Keep in mind that if your teen fathered a child, their decision-making power in this situation may be limited. Nevertheless, they should be there for, or at least available to, whomever is pregnant. It’s common for teen boys who have fathered a baby to want to run away and hide, but they played a role in causing this situation and they need to deal with it. With you behind them, they can figure out the best way to do that.

Make sure you’ve got support too. Friends, family, or partners can help you. Your teen may beg you not to tell anyone, and with the possible exception of a co-parent, it’s best to respect their wishes. In that case, talk to a counselor, a pediatrician, or someone who doesn’t know your kid at all and you trust to keep things confidential. You need to be able to organize your thoughts and stay strong for whatever comes ahead.