Before Your Teenage Daughter Tells You, “I’m pregnant”
How should a father react when his teenage daughter informs him that she is pregnant? My impulse would be to beat my breast and say, “My darling daughter, forgive me for not knowing how to love you. Forgive me for being unable to show you my love. Forgive me for my part in prompting you to seek love in that fellow’s bed.” All too often the matter is that simple: in the absence of fatherly love, the girl has looked for proof of her lovability elsewhere
Most parents would agree with me that it would be better for the daughter to become pregnant after her wedding. Alas, not all would agree that the only way of guaranteeing this is through the practice of chastity. Sexual abstinence offers much better protection against premature pregnancy and STDs than a condom. But even if a parent should share my opinion, the question needs to be asked, “What can and should parents do to safeguard their child from premature sexual activity?”
Above all, parents need to re-examine their own views on conjugal life. You might say they have two possibilities. They can either sanctify it, i.e. bring their married life in line with the demands of God’s love, or they can brace themselves for the eventual desecration of their daughter’s body. What I have in mind is raising children by example. This way parents stand a real chance of preventing their child from making an irreversible mistake. There is no need for parents to lecture their child on why they may not engage in premarital sex. It is enough that their mutual love and respect show the marriage bed to be the “Holy of Holies” of the family, the place where the miracle of new life occurs, and not the coupling of male and female inflamed by sexual desire. Clearly, we must first develop such a respect for the sexual act ourselves. It is also clear that many factors stand in the way of such respect.
There can be no doubt that contraception and the adoption of the “contraceptive mindset,” which comes from rejecting God’s concept of marriage, profane the sacred nature of the marital sexual act. We are talking about the sacred act of two people becoming “one flesh,” the fruit of which is a new life. Why then do we pretend that a wife and husband become joined as one when a condom or some other contraceptive device is interposed between them? The result is not a communion of body and soul, but a sham, a gratification of the couple’s selfishness. The use of contraceptives in any form undermines the sacredness of the marital union. If we want to make our sexual life holy and elevate it to the dignity accorded it by God—as a sign of the Sacrament of Marriage and an experience of shared love within the love of Christ—then we must reject contraception altogether (to say nothing of abortifacients masking as contraception). Even more importantly, we must work on our spiritual life: join with our spouse in daily prayer, remain in a state of grace, and regularly avail ourselves of the Sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist, which dispose to love all those who, while being in a state of serious sin, are unable to love.
Next we must cleanse our minds of all forms of lewdness. Many people promote sexual license without even being aware of it. They do this by watching erotic and pornographic films, by looking at photos, telling dirty jokes and obscene stories, or by not reacting appropriately to immoral practices in society. Should we not voice our opposition to the coarse ads that Playboy, CKM, and the like throw in our face? Instead, we pretend everyone has the right to advertise whatever he likes. Remember, those ads may entice a boy to reach for materials that will eventually prompt him to take advantage of your daughter’s body. Then it will be too late to complain about the depravity of today’s youth. After all, we showed them we had no problem with the public promotion of debauchery.
We also need to encourage our daughters to dress modestly. I am not talking about prohibition, but about making the girl aware that a bared navel or partially bared breasts really are capable of arousing a boy. When a boy is aroused, he finds it harder him to control himself. He becomes deaf to reason. Everything will be okay—he thinks. Nothing will happen. And if the girl refuses to have sex, he feels hurt and rejected. Isn’t it easier simply not to arouse his imagination?
Here, the father’s role is irreplaceable. A girl often dresses provocatively because she wants to look attractive. She likes boys to pay attention to her. In this way she seeks confirmation of her attractiveness and femininity. Alas, all too often in seeking this confirmation, she gets into bed with the first boy she takes a liking to. And often that results from the fact that her father fails to notice, or show that he notices, her womanly qualities.
Yes, dear fathers, we need to be the first to appreciate the beauty of our daughters. It is from us that our daughters should first hear that their figures are taking on a womanly form, that they are growing shapely and lovely, that they look good in a particular dress, etc. We are the ones our teenage daughters should seek to embrace in a moment of emotional crisis. It is we who should offer them support and a sense of security.
Unfortunately, many fathers are fearful of showing their maturing daughters their feelings, paying them a compliment or giving them a hug. Why? Because indecent associations immediately surface in their minds, and these are reinforced by the prurient media and their fascination with child abuse. But given a girl’s great need for a father’s love, the man must cleanse his mind of everything that can imperil his bond with his daughter, and open his arms toward her. And so we come back to the matter of self-re-examination and purifying our own attitudes.
We have to begin some time. The first steps can be very hard—especially for those in whom pornography and contraception have made deep inroads. But let us not hesitate to take that first step toward sanctifying our marriage bed and saving our daughters from debauchery. Let us confide ourselves to God’s care in daily prayer and mount a struggle against sin. This way we will ensure that God’s blessing will fall on our daughters, their future husbands, and their children. Delay no longer.