Sexually Active Teens: How To Find Out And Be Proactive

For a while now I have been meaning to address this issue.  It is a large issue facing teens, parents, and whole families these days.  While I know there are many opinions on when and how people should engage in sexual activity, I subscribe to the opinion that no teenager is ready for the commitment nor the physical and emotional consequences associated with engaging in sex.  I am also very against giving birth control to teens.  So, what do you do if they are already engaging in sex?  And, how do you stop teens from experimenting?

Nicholeen, 
We are having a lot of issues with our 16 yo daughter and your name was recommended to us for advice/support. So, what do you think about having a daughter who is (we are 99% sure) sexually active getting on birth control. I have put it off, hoping that we are wrong and that she isn't active or that it will end. I am finally more worried about having to deal with a teenage pregnancy than what she may do if she really isn't active and now she will be protected. Anyways, we are at the end of our rope. We have been through a lot this past year with her and we have 5 more kids after her, so we want to make sure they aren't tainted by her choices. I can give you more info, if you need it....it is a long, sad story. Anyways, let me know what you think

I don't know your daughter or the history, but I would say that if you are 99% sure your daughter is sexually active and you want to protect her and your family, you need to have a talk. 

I would set up a special mom and daughter date including lunch and have an honest conversation about all your thoughts and feelings.  It doesn't sound like your relationship will become any more distant since you haven't been able to have about this talk yet.  The word you need to remember while preparing for this special talk is; deliberate.  A deliberate person is more understood, and easier to talk to.  Don't beat around the bush or manipulate her to get a talk.  Just say, "Susan, we haven't had a mom and daughter lunch for a long time and I feel out of touch.  I want to understand you better and have some connection time.  So, I want to take you to lunch this Saturday at 12:30."

After you arrange a time, you should pray for guidance and for the ability to accept your daughter for where she is on her life's journey and to have increased love for her.  Your tone of love and understanding will help her and you communicate more honestly.  No matter what don't judge or let your disappointment for her actions get in the way of your understanding her heart and needs.  At this point, it doesn't really matter what she is doing, so much as it matters if you can help her and connect with her. 

At the lunch don't beat around the bush too much.  It only adds to the awkwardness of the talk.  Just sit down with your drinks and get right to the point.  Explain the feeling of disconnection you have and how it is opposite of the feeling you want.  Tell her what kind of relationship you want in a way that will make her want that kind of relationship too.  Then ask her what she wants from you and what kind of relationship she wants.  Listen.

Then tell her you need to apologize for not being open and honest with her about your feelings.  Tell her that you are sorry for not having more lunches like the ones you are on.  Tell her you are sorry that you have not talked to her about the concerns you have had with her.  Explain that you have made some guesses at what is going on in her life without talking to her, and you know that is wrong.  Then say, "This is why we need to talk today.  I need to really know you so that I am not left to assume things behind your back." 

At this point ask her if she will let you learn about her life and share with her all the things you have assumed. 

If she doesn't agree, then I would be amazed.  If you speak this deliberately, with the spirit of love, her heart should hear yours. 

Then tell your sweet daughter all the things you are thinking about her life and that you are not mad at any of them, but want her to be safe and happy.  Because, after all she is going to do what she is going to do like she has been, behind your back, or she is going to seek your support.  Even if you don't agree, your support will teach more than the disconnection between the two of you. 

Tell her everything by saying, "I know you have been.......I have noticed you are....."  State things like they are confirmed so that it is easier for her to go along with your statements than to make things up against them.  She knows your standards and will try to look good in your eyes by lying if she is given the opportunity.  It's human nature.

No matter what she tells you, treat it as truth and tell her you appreciate her honesty, even if your heart tells you she is lying.  She needs to feel your trust to come clean.  Show appreciation and then ask how you can help her.  Ask her if she feels like she needs birth control pills or wants to hear about appropriate sexual intimacy from a seasoned professional; you.  If she hesitates on birth control, then you know she probably needs help sexually.  If she says yes, praise her for taking an initiative to keep herself safe then ask her what her sexual goals are and help her make a plan for successful relationships and abstinence.  If she says no you have to go with it.  And, who knows, maybe you are wrong. 

What You Are Feeling

Your statements above sound like you have already made a decision to give her birth control, you just don't want to admit to yourself yet that this is all happening yet.  I would never recommend that every parent teach birth control to their children.  Ideally parents should teach abstinence until marriage.  This teaching early on will make them the most safe.  And, if this is taught, most teens will follow the counsel.  However, as we can see from your story, not all teens follow their parent's counsel. At this point you can either pre-teach her choices by doing a SODAS or similar exercise, or just follow your soul.  Most people's souls would tell them not to do birth control, but I can't really know your child's situation enough to know for you.  If you feel it is right, it may be. 

If your heart tells you that your daughter is in danger of becoming pregnant and ruining her future, then follow that feeling.  The feelings you have inside, as a parent, are the most important bits of advice you can follow.  God will let you know, in your heart, what you should do.  From reading your words above, I would say you already know you need to talk to her about appropriate sexual activity.  So, even though you never wanted to have this conversation with your child, just do it and be completely honest about what you think.  Apologize for judging a situation without asking more questions, and let her know that nothing she could say would make you mad.  Be a completely safe person. 

The reason all of this feels so hard is because you know you have to connect with a person who is disappointing you.  That is difficult.  Also, you know you have to choose not to be bothered by something that REALLY bothers you.  This is called acceptance.  You have to accept she is acting in a way that is disappointing to you. But, you don't have to accept the behavior.  Help her raise her sexual bar. 

After you have a great talk with your daughter, schedule a time each week for talks.  During these talks, rejoice in her successes, and be an open non-judgmental ear for her to tell the hard things to.  You don't need to go to lunch each week, just make sure you are alone somewhere so the other children don't learn about what is going on. 

As these talks progress talk to your daughter about sexual boundaries and how real freedom comes by observing a boundary.  Try to set goals with her, and always speak your mind in a calm honest way. 

Increase family activities so that there is less time for friend time.  See if you can determine when things are happening, and set a boundary line, like group dates, to help her keep her goals for real freedom.  Of course these discussions come after she knows she can trust you to not judge her.  She needs to know your real goal is to help her live a happy, healthy life and to have a good relationship with her. 

Lastly, pray with your daughter at the end of each talk.  Pour out your heart to God about how much you love her, and to enlist His help in her behalf.  If you get in a habit of talking and praying together then your relationship will grow and you will be able to be a better shield to her from some of the things you are afraid will destroy her. 

Being Proactive

If you don't want your teen to end up in this same situation it is mandatory that you also have a weekly talk and prayer.  Be really proactive about building a close relationship with your child during the teen years.  Our family has weekly mentor meetings with our children and regular parent counseling sessions, which are just special talks.  During all of these scheduled talks and meetings always bring up boundaries and how they should be feeling about the opposite sex.  The more you talk about what is appropriate and show your understanding of their feelings the fewer problems you will have with your teen going against what you want them to do.  Start having regular talk times with your children to help them govern their hormones and emotions in the years to come.  It is never too early to start deliberately building an open relationship.    

God is the best advisor on all of this.  Do what you know he would want you to do to protect your family from some of these social ills that are tearing families apart. 

The rule of thumb is, it's always better to discuss sex earlier than later.  Don't ever assume you know what is going on; discuss often. 

Topics: