Q: My son just graduated from high school and is planning on leaving for college. However -- he has also gotten his girlfriend pregnant. They're both 18, and neither one of them wants to give up the child for adoption. Meanwhile, my husband and I are providing all of our son's financial support, and neither of us knows how he's going to support a baby. Do you have any suggestions?
Jim: It's encouraging to hear that your son and his girlfriend have opted to choose life rather than abortion. That's a huge step in the right direction.
As you've pointed out, however, there still remains the question of how this young couple will manage to parent a child at this stage in their lives. Clearly, something will need to be done to address these challenges.
First, your family should contact your local pregnancy resource center. They can offer practical help to your son and his girlfriend as they walk through this difficult time. You can find the center nearest you by visiting the OptionLine website (optionline.org).
According to some experts, early in a pregnancy most teen couples say they aren't interested in the adoption alternative. But as time goes on and they begin to consider what it really means to care for a baby, reality starts to set in. At that point, many teens are willing to take a second look.
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Second, don't pressure your son and his girlfriend to decide on adoption right now. If you push them to make a decision about whether or not they will keep the baby, they may react by proudly proclaiming to you and all of their friends that they have definitely made up their minds to become parents. At that point, they will have made a public commitment and it will be a lot harder for them to change course and consider adoption later on.
If they do decide to keep the baby, it's important that you and your husband do not step in and agree to raise the child, pay all the expenses and provide child care. If they tell you they're going to keep the baby, you might say something like this: "Your father and I are proud of you for choosing life for your child. Since you've decided to keep the baby, we don't want to deny you the privilege of being parents in the fullest sense of the word. That means you will be responsible to provide for your child financially. You'll also have to find a way to do all of the caregiving. That's what parenting is all about!"
In connection with this last point, it's worth mentioning that it wouldn't be the end of the world if your son delayed college for a while, got a job and fulfilled the responsibility that he took on when he decided to have sex with his girlfriend. Sometimes parents think that if their child doesn't go to college straight out of high school, he never will. From there they jump to the conclusion that he's "finished." That's simply not the case.
Accepting his responsibility as a father might actually force your son to do a lot of growing up. Obviously, it won't be easy. Still, if he starts college later or goes part-time, it's likely that he'll end up being more committed to his education and get more out of it.
If you'd like to discuss this situation further, call our counseling department for a free consultation. They can be reached at 1-855-771-HELP (4357) weekdays, 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (MT).