Unmarried, pregnant cousin...how do I explain this to my children?


#1

Hello, everyone,

My heart is troubled and I am in need of advice. I have 4 children. My oldest is 8. My cousin recently announced her pregnancy - she is in her early 20's and has no plans to marry the father. When my children have asked about babies, I have told them that after a man and woman are married then God blesses them with a baby. Obviously, this is not how it happens in many cases, but I didn't anticipate this hitting so close to home. Now I am pondering how to explain this pregnancy to my children, because the first thing my 8 year old is going to say is that she is not married, so how did she get pregnant? He is extremely thoughtful and sensitive and this is going to rock his world a bit. I don't want his faith to be shaken - he is a very prayerful, devout boy and I am worried that this will make him question God. After all, I did tell him that God blesses husbands and wives with babies, and now I have to explain to him that God blesses unmarried women with babies, too. I am just not sure how to explain it to him. I hope I am making sense :blush:.


#2

This puts you in a tricky situation, but I seriously doubt it will make him question God.

I would explain to him that all life comes from God our Creator. God’s plan for us is that he might bless a married man and woman with Children. Married life is good and sometimes people want to act like they are married to be a part of these blessings when they are not yet married.

At 8 years old I guess you don’t need to mention that it is good she is not getting married just because she got pregnant. That can come later as part of your ongoing conversations about marriage, family and sexuality as your children age. It should after all be a series of age appropriote talks. If this had not happened to your relative, the topic would have come up at some point. Perhaps your children will witness how difficult it can be for a single parent and it will deepen their understanding of why God joins us in marriage.

I am not a parent, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but you seemed so distressed and I wanted to give you something. You sound like a wonderful mother! :thumbsup:


#3

Why not just tell the older ones the truth. I had a book about how babies were made when I was 6-7. I didn’t understand sex (the book had a picture of a man laying on top of a woman),and thought my parents had sex twice in their lives (because I have one sibling).

And when I grew up we didn’t have a computer much less the internet. Your 8 year old likely knows exactly how babies are made. If he didn’t see it online, his buddies in school would have told him.

Unless your 8 year old is homeschooled and always supervised, it’s possible that he’s come in contact with kids who’ve seen pornography (disgusting, yes, but statistically possible, especially if he’s come in contact with older kids).

Why not just explain that some people disobey God and have children outside of marriage before the world does your job for you?


#4

*Dear threecats 123,
You sound like a wonderful , considered and kind mother. I do not think you will have too hard of a problem when it comes right down to it. Your son sounds like quite a good young fellow.
I’m not sure how close the cousin lives or how close a relationship your family will be having with this young lady … I believe that will make a difference if you will be seeing her frequently.
I think what Chiltepin has written is good advice and the only other suggestion I can think of would be to maybe contact your Parish Priest. He may have some good advice he could share with you!
God Bless you and your family,
Angel Face
*


#5

There is nothing like age appropriate communication. An 8 year old may not ruminate nor ponder the inconsistencies of your lesson on marriage and babies in relation to your cousin being pregnant. Best to not get too excited. This is a wonderful opportunity to teach that “sometimes grown ups make mistakes, and make babies with people they don’t love, but the babies are still blessings to both the grown ups involved because they can help them become more responsible and better people.”…God will still LOVE them, and forgive them, and try to help them be good parents…:thumbsup:


#6

If I were you, I would tell your kids like this:

God has many babies and He’s sometimes give one to a couple who ask Him for a baby. God will be happy to give them if they are married, but sometimes He also blesses unmarried couples and He alone knows why. :wink:


#7

Have you thought about asking your priest, or a catholic child counselor?

The last thing you want to do is make him understand that making a mistake would make him a bad person, never to be reconciled. But you also don’t want it to seem like everything is fine and your cousin isn’t doing anything wrong.

As you children get older and start asking questions, you’ll find the answers. And be careful of how you word the answers because kids repeat what they hear. Yes, she sinned, and yes, she is pregnant and not married, but it was her choice to sin, and a child resulted and she is doing the right thing by stepping up to the plate and taking responsiblity for her lack of judgement. Sinners are not bad people, everyone sins. The point is to ‘sin no more’ and do better. Perhaps God sent his child to straighten her out and lead her back to the Church.

As to her not marrying the father, it’s one thing to make a mistake in judgement and become pregnant, but quite another to add to the wrongness of the situation by marrying someone she doesn’t love. Many priests I know won’t marry a pregnant couple unless they’re abolsutely sure the couple knows and understands the sacrament that marriage is. It’s a serious commitment and not only between the husband and wife, but God as well. Pregnancy is not a good enough reason to get married. Marriage runs deeper than that. That’s not to say they won’t get married some time, but I certainly wouldn’t push it. That’s something she has to decide, and decide once in her life.

BTW, getting married due to pregnancy can be an easy decision to make because the argument for an annulment will be easy to fight for later on the grounds that they were pregnant, which clouded their judgement. They tried to make it work, but they didn’t really love each other. In other words, it can be a safe gamble, with an escape hatch. That’s why many Catholic priests won’t marry a pregnant couple…at least that’s what they’ve taught me.

I’m sorry this problem has hit so close to home with you. I’m sure it will make their questions awkward. But you’re a loving mother trying your best to lay down a solid foundation for your children. You’ll know what to say when the time comes.


#8

Well, start with the facts. At 8, he can handle some age appropriate facts about reproduction. He likely already knows boys and girls are different…there are excellent resources available, so use them.

Do NOT make your cousin out to be a bad person, because she is choosing to keep the baby. She simply made a mistake, but is choosing the right thing now. Think what if this was your child…what would you want your child to do in this case? Everyone sins…it’s how we handle the aftermath.

I had my eyes opened to this about 12-13 years ago. My DH’s cousin was a very faithful Catholic - altar server, read at mass, volunteered for everything, seemed to “know” things about the faith and religion, and was really considering the priesthood. He would have made an excellent priest. He was a VERY faithful child/young man. However, he met a young woman, fell in love, and she got pregnant. Because he was so faithful, and because she seemed very aloof (we later found out she was just very shy and very embarrassed around us because of the order of things), we felt she “stole” him from God’s calling for this man. Suddenly, it hit me…she CHOSE to keep the baby, not kill it, and raise it. Yes, they sinned, but they did not compound the sin. After the baby was born, they went through marriage prep and got married and have 2 additional kids now.

So…teach your kids the FACTS and teach them compassion.


#9

What a fabulous, thoughtful group of people here! I have come to this forum before, just to read, but this is the first question I have posted. Thank you so much for your time and prayerful answers!

I am going to reread your answers several times - so much wisdom to absorb and sort through. I know that the most important lesson I can teach through this experience is how I treat my cousin and how I love her baby. I want to be an example of how to be merciful and compassionate. It is a hard line - teaching my children that my cousin sinned (we talk about free will quite a bit, so they’ll get that), but that God loves her and that she can be reconciled with God. The fact that there is a baby involved makes it hard - I want my children to know that all children are blessings from God, but the fact that the baby came out of a sinful situation is so hard to explain. We do see this cousin often, in large family gatherings, so this baby will be spoken about around them a lot. My extended family is very loving and has embraced my cousin and her situation and will love this baby to pieces (as will I), but I am the only one with the extra job of explaining/teaching about this.

I really have to pray about whether or not my kids are ready for sex ed. I don’t think they are. As far as my 8 year old son already knowing, he definitely does not. He knows that there needs to be a mom and a dad, but no idea of the details. I monitor his internet and tv use, and he goes to a conservative Catholic school where the younger kids are kept apart from the older. No bus ride, either - we live a half a block from our church/school.

I think that I am not as worried about my son questioning God, but me - I told him one thing, and now will have to turn around and tell him another. I know it will all be fine in the end, and this will be a good lesson for me. Interesting how parenting changes as kids get older! I am going to change how I talk about this in the future, that’s for sure.

Thank you again :).


#10

I've had to explain a couple of tough issues to my kids, including my brother-in-law (and his child) being abandoned by his wife and his subsequent remarriage, my husband's adoption (his biological mother was an unwed teenager) and my sister's lesbian relationship. Next up will be explaining why their female cousin is now legally a male -- I'm sure not looking forward to that one and hoping I can keep that from them for quite a few more years, because they are only 10, 7 and 6.

Anyway, I have tried to keep things age-appropriate. In the case of my husband's adoption, the question of what happened to his biological dad came up. What I said was something like this: "It's a very sad, sad story, because L_____ really loved J_, but J_ said he wasn't ready to be a dad and he left L______ all alone. First, she thought she would be able to raise your dad all by herself, but then she realized that it was going to be way too hard, and she wanted your dad to have a mom and a dad, so she gave your dad to your grandma and grandpa. It was really difficult for L____ because she loved your dad so much, but she made the sacrifice to do the best thing for him."

So, in the case of your cousin, I would alter it a bit and say something like. "I don't really know exactly what happened, but the man who was supposed to be Cousin's husband and this baby's dad isn't going to be around. This makes me very sad, because just like you kids need a mom and a dad, this baby is going to need a mom and dad. So what we need to do is be as helpful as possible."

If they press on the "how" she got pregnant, you can keep it simple: "This baby was conceived the same way all babies are conceived -- it takes a mom and a dad. But after the baby started to grow, the mom and the dad ended their relationship. It's really, really sad."


#11

Not to be too picky, but it takes a mom, a dad, and God.


#12

Tell the children the truth.
Tell them that although these two were not married in the Church, they were a husband and wife nonetheless (common law is nonetheless still law), and she is going to have a baby. We are happy that there is going to be a baby! A baby is a blessing from God!

Tell them that there is a problem: this poor woman is scared and frightened because her husband did not want God’s blessing, her husband did not want this baby.
(How could he not want this baby? How he could not want God’s blessing? We ALWAYS wanted YOU! It just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense…)

Tell them that it is a very sad thing, but sometimes it happens in this world: her husband looked like a grown up, but he just really wasn’t grown up enough at all to be anybody’s daddy…
and you’ve got to be VERY grown up to be somebody’s daddy!
A baby isn’t like a toy you can get bored with and just leave on the floor… you have got to be VERY grown up to be somebody’s daddy!

…and so the mommy is very very sad… sad enough to cry herself to sleep every night.
She is also very very scared… scared about being a mommy all by herself with no daddy!
It is sad and lonely and scarey for her to be a mommy all by herself with no daddy…

Tell them that because she is very sad and very scared it probably is not a very good idea to ask about him because it would probably make her cry.
We don’t want to make her cry. She as been crying enough already.
It isn’t easy to be a mommy all by herself with no daddy, and so she is very sad and very scared and it is very important for everybody, absolutely everybody, to help her and her baby.
We need everybody to help.

We need everybody to open the door and make room for her and pick up the toys so she won’t trip over them and make sure she has a place to sit down and that she knows that we are happy to see her, and that we are happy that she is going to have a baby, and we have to make sure that she has plenty of good food to eat and water to drink, because the baby is very small inside her but growing very fast!
We want to smile at her and play nicely around her and let her know that we love her and pray for her and the baby and we think that she will be a good mother!
We all need to help her and her baby. We all need to help her be very strong and very brave and be a good mother.

We also need to understand that sometimes married couples cannot have any children of their own or they had a baby who died and so they are very sad because they have no children. Sometimes they will ask a mommy without a daddy if she would give them her baby to love and raise and be their very own baby. Sometimes a mommy with no daddy will give her baby to a very sad married couple with no children because she feels in her heart that they will be better parents for her baby than she would be all by herself. Sometimes you will meet kids at school who will tell you that they were “adopted.” That is what “adopted” means. You were not adopted.

We all need to show her that we love her and pray for her and that she doesn’t have to be sad, and she doesn’t have to be scared because we will do all we can to help her and her baby.
We all need to show her that if she decides to let a married couple adopt her baby to be their own, that we will understand and pray that they will be wonderful parents for the baby.
We all need to show her that if she decides to raise this baby all by herself with no daddy, that we will all do everything we can to help her and her baby.

Children who understand, love, hug, accept, encourage, play with, and bless a pregnant woman can be the greatest gift on the face of the earth that helps empower her to be… a mother.


#13

[quote="former_Catholic, post:12, topic:196205"]
Tell the children the truth.
Tell them that although these two were not married in the Church, they were a husband and wife nonetheless (common law is nonetheless still law), and she is going to have a baby. We are happy that there is going to be a baby! A baby is a blessing from God!

[/quote]

Not to nip pick, but in no state does having relations/having a baby constitute a common law marriage. There is usually a period of time (10 years) that the couple has to live together and share assets and other things depending on the state.


#14

[quote="lutherlic, post:11, topic:196205"]
Not to be too picky, but it takes a mom, a dad, and God.

[/quote]

Well, that's a given. OP already covered the God factor and was asking how to explain the missing man part of the equation. But thanks for clarifying.


#15

[quote="threecats123, post:9, topic:196205"]
the fact that the baby came out of a sinful situation is so hard to explain. ...
I think that I am not as worried about my son questioning God, but me - I told him one thing, and now will have to turn around and tell him another. I know it will all be fine in the end, and this will be a good lesson for me. Interesting how parenting changes as kids get older!

[/quote]

The parenting actually doesn't change.... and the truth doesn't change.... only the language skills change. Ideally you use words and ideas with which the child is familiar in order to explain new, unfamiliar concepts.

You're doing just fine, by the way. You told them:
"When my children have asked about babies, I have told them that after a man and woman are married then God blesses them with a baby."
All you have to do is provide some further explanation as to the evolution of marriage *and what exactly constitutes functional and *dysfunctional marriage.

Well, let's see....there's married-in-the-Church, married-in-the-Church-and-also-in-another-Christian-church, married-in-a-Christian church, married-in-a-non-Christian-church/temple/synagogue/mosque/shrine, married-in-the-courthouse, and then there are various *common-law *marriages ranging from marriage-by-mutual-agreement, to various forms of cave-man-marriage (being hit over the head with a club and dragged off). You can then play "guess-which-marriage-is-likely-to-be-happy-and-functional and which one isn't?" with your kids and ask them what sort of marriage they think that you and your husband have, what sort of marriage the grandparents have, what sort of marriage the neighbors have, what sort of marriage the aunts and uncles have, what sort of marriage the cousin had, and which sort of marriage they think they might eventually perhaps have someday if and when they might ever they decide that (girls/boys) are not totally yucky and disgusting.

Kids are much wiser about these things than generally given credit for. Kids will generally recognize that the being-hit-over-the-head-with-a-club-and-dragged-off "cave man marriage" is a recipe for disaster, meanwhile many adults continually fail to recognize that drinking each other under the table, hitting themselves and one another other over the head, and dragging one another off only to regain some manner of consciousness in some foreign bed the next day just isn't functional.


#16

[quote="jilly4ski, post:13, topic:196205"]
Not to nip pick, but in no state does having relations/having a baby constitute a common law marriage. There is usually a period of time (10 years) that the couple has to live together and share assets and other things depending on the state.

[/quote]

Not to nit pick, but I didn't say that having a baby actually constituted a legally recognized common law marriage. The common law is 18 years of legally enforceable obligations of providing child support and continuously dealing with the other parent with child custody and/or visitation rights. Joint responsibility for the support and raising of a child with someone not one's legal spouse is no legal "marriage" to that person, but it is commonly regarded as the marriage-made-in-hell because one is legally obligated to deal with that sorry partnership and its effect on the child for 18 years unless the other parent has waived all parental rights to the child.
The unmarried cousin wanting to raise her child on her own and/or with her extended family according to their own values and without interference from the birth father and his family is best advised to seek serious legal counsel in this regard long before her baby is born.


#17

[quote="former_Catholic, post:12, topic:196205"]
Tell the children the truth.
Tell them that although these two were not married in the Church, they were a husband and wife nonetheless (common law is nonetheless still law), and she is going to have a baby. We are happy that there is going to be a baby! A baby is a blessing from God!

[/quote]

emphasis mine

The OP said her cousin was in her early 20s. There is no way that she is in a common law marriage when this baby was conceived. The reason I said "nit pick" was because i agree with the rest of your post.

ETA: This is in no way legal advise.
Common law marriages are not recognized in every state.

"A common-law marriage need not be solemnized; all that is required is that there should be an actual and mutual agreement to enter into a matrimonial relation between parties capable in law of making such a contract consummated by their cohabitation as man and wife or their mutual assumption openly of marital duties and obligations. A defectively solemnized marriage may be valid as a common-law marriage, and the removal of an impediment rendering a marriage invalid, followed by cohabitation, may create a common-law marriage."
CJS Marriage Sec.10


#18

[quote="jilly4ski, post:17, topic:196205"]
emphasis mine

The OP said her cousin was in her early 20s. There is no way that she is in a common law marriage when this baby was conceived. The reason I said "nit pick" was because i agree with the rest of your post.

[/quote]

Depends where she lives. In some provinces in Canada you have common-law status after a year of cohabitation, in others even less time is required if you have a child together.


#19

They may or may not by law have had a common law marriage when this baby was conceived.
I didn’t say that they had a common law marriage when this baby was conceived.
So honestly I don’t understand the point you are trying to make.

The point I was trying to make is how to clearly explain this situation, not to an adult, but to an 8 year old in terms an 8 year old can easily understand.

The couple behaved as a husband and wife.
The couple legally had a presumably voluntary, consenting, *conjugal relationship *.
By laws common to most nations and states, because they *behaved as a husband and wife * by engaging in a presumably voluntary, consenting, conjugal relationship, they have incurred specific legal obligations and liabilities toward one another and their jointly conceived child. Those specific legal liabilities constitute an 18 year legal partnership for the purposes of child rearing, unless paternity rights are totally legally permanently waived by one party in favor of the other to grant the other completely sole and permanent custody, also granting completely sole and permanent custody to designated legal guardians in the event of death of the parent with sole and permanent custody.

For the purposes of explaining these extremely complicated matters clearly to an 8 year old it is necessary to understand that 8 year olds are very familiar with the terms “mommy” and “daddy.” They are only somewhat understanding of the concept of “husband” and “wife,.” they are completely clueless when it comes to the common legal obligations of conjugal relationships and the enforced joint parentage of a child who is a product of a voluntary, consenting, conjugal relationship.

For the purposes of clearly and honestly explaining this situation to an 8 year old, using terms an 8 year old would understand, explaining her as the “wife” and him as the “husband” and that they sadly had some manner of primitive “caveman marriage” that wasn’t blessed by any Church nor approved by the state makes the situation clear to an 8 year old.
The situation is as follows:
There may or may not be a guy hanging around who is a "cave man."
We understand that this guy is apparently too much of a cave man to be a proper daddy…
but this guy may or may not see our cousin as his “wife” and her baby as his "child"
and so this cave man might be hanging around the fringes of the extended family for the next 18 years trying to be a good daddy to the baby…
or he might just disappear entirely…because that’s what cave men do.
Daddies don’t do that, but cave men do that.

It is not a very good idea to ask our cousin about the cave man because it tends to make her cry, and we do not want to make her cry because she is going to have a baby.
We understand that she may be very angry at the cave man, or very sad about the cave man, and that she may need to talk to the cave man, and so we might see him around,
because it is important for them to talk and work out and agree on things between them.

We understand that he is a cave man,
and so we will all just sort of keep an eye on the cave man,
and we will all do our best to love and help and pray for our cousin and her baby.

If you have got a more accurate way to explain this complicated situation to an 8 year old, please do.


#20

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