Ask the Dad Parenting Advice Column: On Pregnant Teens, Angry Parents, Kicking Kids Out of the House, and Rebuilding Relationships

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Question

I am a single parent to 14-year-old daughter. She has been staying out late with no explanation. She finally admitted she is pregnant but does not know the identity of the father, as she has been having sex with six different boys. I got angry and kicked her out and she went to live with her father, who hasn’t done anything for her in the last two years but suddenly looks like the perfect Dad. They tag-team me on the phone, and everyone in the family seems to think he’s a saint and I’m the devil. I don’t know if I can ever speak to my daughter knowing that she’s the village tramp. How can I fix this situation?

Answer

Before I answer, let me ask you a question. When you kicked a 14-year-old out of your house, where did you think she would go? Many parents would consider expelling a teenager from the house too harsh a punishment for anything short of attacking said parents with a knife. You look like the villain here, regardless of your motivations, because the girl is still your daughter regardless of what you think about her conduct. As such, you have no grounds to expect other family members to side with you. That’s just the way it is, and the sooner you accept it, the sooner you can begin trying to fix things.

First of all, you have nothing to gain by shouting at your ex and your daughter on the phone. They aren’t really listening to you, other than to find fault. So stop participating in arguments that cannot be won over the telephone. Instead, be as civil as possible.

Second, start treating your daughter differently. Yes, she acted foolishly and brought a lot of trouble upon herself. But calling her names and attacking her character won’t help either of you deal with the problems. She knows very well that you do not approve of her conduct, and inside she probably feels bad about it herself, even if she refuses to admit it. Try to rebuild your relationships with your daughter by reaching out in a nonthreatening, nonjudgmental way. Invite her to dinner at a restaurant or offer to take her shopping. Don’t talk about the pregnancy unless she brings it up.

Third, consider your long-term goals. Do you want your daughter to live with you, or would you prefer she stay with her father? Make that decision before you talk to either one of them again.

Fourth, don’t overreact. No, I’m not suggesting that you gloss over a teen pregnancy. But the world has not ended, even though you may feel as if it has. Bad reputations can fade over time. She can live it down if she tries, and so can you. After you become a part of your daughter’s life again, you can encourage (not threaten or castigate) her and help her make better choices. And while children born to unwed teens come into the world with some natural disadvantages, the love and support of grandparents can help mitigate some of those problems.

Fifth, allow for the possibility that you don’t know everything. Your daughter may know the identity of the father but prefer to hide it from you and/or him. She would not be the first to claim promiscuity rather than name the boy.

Your anger is understandable. However, your decision to oust a high-schooler from your home is tougher to swallow. Both you and your daughter made big mistakes, but given your age and supposed maturity, you have less of an excuse. So take some steps to close the distance between you and your daughter, because until you get close enough to touch her, you can do nothing to help. And no matter what she says, or what her father says, she desperately needs your love and support right now.

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