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. 

Comments

#1
Stephanie 2's picture

I know that this issue is fraught with difficulty, but I hope you will elaborate on the type of discussion of birth control you are advocating. Having sex makes babies. Making babies is the natural consequence of having sex. When parents think (erroneously, I believe) that having a baby will ruin a young person's life so action must be taken to prevent the pregnancy, then they are telling their child that sexual behaviour is out of his/her control, and that the parensts must and will protect them from experiencing the consequences of his/her actions. Not only that, but to simply put a child on birth control tells the child that, as a parent, I care only about the possibility of a baby--the fact that you will continue to use another and be used for physical gratification means nothing or little to me. I think that we are not loving our children when we do this. We become complicit in their self-gratification at the expense of another's God-given dignity or, worse, we become enablers of our own child's self-degradation at the hands of another. Finally, since birth control can and does fail, the original objective may not be achieved anyway. What will you do then when faced with "ruining" your daughter's life--abortion?

Nicholeen, I believe in the Holy Trinity. Because of that, I know that sex is not just something physical, but spiritual for people who bear God's life (grace) in them--indeed for all people whether they believe or not. The family is an icon of the Holy Trinity. God the Father gives Love to God the Son, who receives it and returns it. The love is so real that it is another Person, the Holy Spirit, yet they are all one. The husband gives his gift of love to his wife who recieves and returns it. That love is so real that nine months later they may have to give it a name, yet they are all one in the family. To contracept is against the order of things because it takes away or impedes some of the gift. There is no longer total self-donation.

Having a baby does not ruin a couple's life. The child is a consequence of an action taken and also a physical soul made in the image and likeness of God. Parents can and should help their children to accept the consequences of their actions so they become stronger persons--even when the consequences are difficult. This individual's situation is difficult and I do not presume to advise them specifically (since you are the one who delivers the wisdom here). However, when you mentioned that all parents needed to have a discussion about birth control, I don't know what you would have that discussion entail and felt called to make these remarks. Of course, the discussions on the sanctity of life, our own personal human dignity, and our preciousness in the sight of God need to begin at an early age and continue through the college years. Also, in spite of that, a child may wander from the teachings of his/her parents. Should our response be to encourage them to continue in their sin by removing the consequences? I don't think so. When a child wanders, our job, I think, is to help them accept the consequences with prayer through grace, and become stronger people for it.

God bless your work, Nicholeen!

#1.1
Joalene Thompson's picture

Understanding that this is a very difficult and hard thing to deal with when the situation gets to this point, and being quick to point out that my personal life has not brought me to this. My conscience points me to agree that prayer needs to be involved, and that offering birth control would be a most unwise choice. My feelings were inspired by the direction given to parents by the person named below.

Elder Richard G. Scott said: “Parents, don’t make the mistake of purposefully intervening to soften or eliminate the natural consequences of your child’s deliberate decisions to violate the commandments. Such acts reinforce false principles, open the door for more serious sin, and lessen the likelihood of repentance” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, 43; or Ensign, May 1993, 34).

While I acknowledge that children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony. I maintain there are other alternatives to accomplishing this end, such as marriage, or the child being given up for adoption to a more loving family. “Here is the absolute truth: placing a baby for adoption is hard. Many women say it is the hardest thing they have ever done. But many of these same women also say it is one of the best things they’ve ever done. They know they have provided a bright future for their child, one that includes a mom and a dad who cherish that child. And they, in return, have been able to face their own future with courage and hope.”

Elder Robert D. Hales taught: “It is frightening to allow our children to learn from the mistakes they may make, but their willingness to choose the Lord’s way and family values is greater when the choice comes from within than when we attempt to force those values upon them.

As our child suffers, we may not feel successful. Suffering however can lead our child closer to God, and his son Jesus Christ. We should always love our child of course, and all of our choices are best made through prayer. But as a parent we are to teach our child and help them all we can while not removing them from the harm they may face as a result of their purposeful decisions to violate the commandments of God.

Howard W. Hunter stated: “A successful parent is one who has loved, one who has sacrificed, and one who has cared for, taught, and ministered to the needs of a child. If you have done all of these and your child is still wayward or troublesome or worldly, it could well be that you are, nevertheless, a successful parent.”

#2
Nicholeen Peck's picture

I really love your thoughts here. And, I think they are appropriate. I agree with you. It is a difficult topic depending when a family chooses to get involved and help the child chooose wisely. I believe the sooner we discuss sexualy purity with our children the better. It is always a topic of conversation at our home. That said, families could find themselves in less than ideal circumstances and need help. The best advisor to go to God, but hopefully my thoughts and your thoughts on the matter help some people too.

Just so you know this family prayed a lot, and decided that they didn't need to persue birth control. I was really happy with this decision. The daughter also said she wasn't doing anything. They have to teach her correct principles, set up an accountability structure, and then trust her and allow her to govern herself on this issue when she is with boys. Remember trust is a neccessary principle for self-government to occur.

#3
Joalene Thompson's picture

I haven't had to work with this situation in my family. We (my husband and I) have spoken about this subject with my children often though and let them know that if they have questions they can come to me or their father. I am not an expert, but as a matter of conscience. I agree with most of Nicholeen sentiments. I could be misunderstanding her words, so as not to delve into what she said I do not advocate birth control as ameans of preventing unwanted consequences. While I acknowledge that children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, there is such thing as giving children up for adoption into a loving family when they are not. Part of my strong feelings on this matter come from direction given to parents from the following source...

Richard G. Scott said: “Parents, don’t make the mistake of purposefully intervening to soften or eliminate the natural consequences of your child’s deliberate decisions to violate the commandments. Such acts reinforce false principles, open the door for more serious sin, and lessen the likelihood of repentance” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, 43; or Ensign, May 1993, 34).

Robert D. Hales taught: “It is frightening to allow our children to learn from the mistakes they may make, but their willingness to choose the Lord’s way and family values is greater when the choice comes from within than when we attempt to force those values upon them. The Lord’s way of love and acceptance is better than Satan’s way of force and coercion, especially in rearing teenagers” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1999, 43; or Ensign, May 1999, 34).

Howard W Hunter stated: “A successful parent is one who has loved, one who has sacrificed, and one who has cared for, taught, and ministered to the needs of a child. If you have done all of these and your child is still wayward or troublesome or worldly, it could well be that you are, nevertheless, a successful parent.

So as it may be extremely painful to see a child choose things that are frought with peril. The Lord Jesus Christ has provided a way for them to return. We as parents need to do our best and insure our children know unequivacally that we love them. However shielding them from the natural consequences of sin I believe is not the choice that comes from the most love. It is rather to let them fall and find the healing of the Savior and trudge the path back home.

#4
Renee's picture

I just found out my 14 year old girl has been having sex. I have been seeking Godly advice on the birth control issue - does it condone her actions when we certainly do not approve? My husband immediately stated that we will not buy or provide her birth control - if she were to end up pregnant that would be the consequence of her actions. It is hard to accept that her choices could lead to such life altering consequences.

In looking for Godly advice, I found almost all the Christian sites to talk about absitinence which I think is great, but for those of us facing a much different situation, I needed real talk about girls who have already made the decision to have sex. Thank you for reminding me God created order - going against His order is not good - whether that's my daughter's bad decision or my bad decision. My bad decision would be to provide birth control.

#4.1
Nicholeen Peck's picture

Renee,

You are right on track, and have really great faith. She really does need to face her own consequences. I hope she will see the light. Thank you for sharing such great insight.

Nicholeen

#5
Anonymous's picture

Your daughter understanding consequences is one thing but having respect for yourself and healthy self esteem is ultimately what our daughters need in order to make responsible morally correct decisions regarding their own life. Open communication is the only way to achieve that regardless of how awkward or uncomfortable that may be. As much as we are parents.. we are also people who have had the same or similar experiences.. and we relate better with people we know have been in our shoes that we can talk to. As a mother of a 14 year old, non sexually active daughter i can tell you that how i handled this subject has made a huge difference in how she views her decisions in being sexually active. I have been very open about my life journey and we talk about all things related to sex. It has been a blessing.. my daughter has developed the standards that every parent hopes for of what is acceptable and what is not. I know i made the right decision simply by the fact that i hear her friends tell her how "lucky" she is that she can talk to me about that stuff!!!

When my daughter was in 6th grade she came home and asked what a dildo was. This day would come eventually but i hadn't expected it so soon. Immediately my mind raced with the questions of how to handle this. Do i tell her she's to young to know or do i be straight with her and take the taboo/excitement out of it. If i keep it from her.. she will ultimately keep asking and find out from a friend and it will be funny and a joke and still exciting. I choose to tell her the truth and believe me it was very awkward and embarrassing. With every once of strength and courage i had, i told my daughter "Although all this may be funny and you may feel awkward, sex is not something to be ashamed of. You're going to hear alot of things at school. Your friends are goign to make silly jokes about it act giggly when its talked about . You will be curious too and that is ok. But, understand that i would rather you know and be educated and responsible then have you walking around in a cloud continuing to think its a fun silly joke." Since then, she has asked me lots of questions, even some about my own past. I have been completely honest with her about everything and It's been the best decision. Some kids are just naturally more curious and ready than others. Remember it is our society that has placed this so called readiness upon us. In all actuality the way we are genetically created, once puberty hits we are ALL ready physically. You cannot change how your body matures you can only accept it and deal with it accordingly. Society has also created this taboo surrounding sexuality and sensuality. As long as your daughter feels it is taboo and you ignore it, it will remain exciting and she will continue to act irresponsibly.

I am a very active parent within her school and social circle.I am very aware of what is going on in her friends lives as well. It is no different than when i was that age. I thought long and hard about how my life might been different in this area had i been open with my own mother as awkward as that may have been. Understanding my own journey was crucial in my decision to be honest with her. I was a latch key child growing up. Very naturally curious about all things sex related and learned most everything with no parental guidance . As a result i made some very poor choices, was sexually active by the age of 14 and on birth control by the age of 15. To some extent, my mother knew i was active. She and my step mother decided to put me on the pill. My mother was pregnant at 18 and my step mother had an abortion at 16. I was going to be sexually active regardless of what they told me and they knew that. Their understanding and decision to help me be responsible for myself and my body was a blessing. I took that pill everyday for 12 years until my husband and i decided we were ready to have children. However, Thats not to say there were not emotional problems associated with my early promiscuity. When i met my husband at the age of 17, he was a virgin and prior to our marriage we had many problems with his acceptance of my early promiscuity. It was at that point in my life that i realized that the choices i had made were careless and unguided. I had never felt so ashamed of my behavior. As time and life went on and through the birth of my daughter, i realized that i enjoyed sex and that it's not something to be ashamed of. I was glad my mothers decided to help me with the birth control.. but what i really needed was a mentor. Someone i could talk to who had a moral compass. I decided that i did not want my daughter to go through life feeling as though sex was bad. I want her to be educated, aware of her body and feelings and all the emptions that come with it feeling comfortable and not ashamed. I want her to understand all the various possibilities of emotional responses that she could experience either herself or from other people as a result of her actions and those consequences. So far it has gone very well. I've been lucky enough to share the happiness of her 1st kiss and the disgustingness of the not so great kiss. She has thankfully not reached the point of wanting to be physical with a boy and therefore abstinence is her birth control. As things continue to develop you adjust talking about feelings, actions, options and consequences. Being open with all things life realted.. the operations of our home, finances and family struggles are all important in guiding our childrem and far to often people forget that and shelter them.

#7
Taylor's picture

I've known my friend has been having sex but I just told myself no she's not...ubtill I find out they did have sex and now find out they have sex ALOT almost everytime they see each other (which is almost every day). They both claim to be Christians but this is not acting Christ like to me. I believe God should be first in a relationship but I fill like sex is first in there's. they never have used protection and she's thought she wa pregnant twice. Worse of all we all go to a private school so if she gets pregnant shell get kicke out and he's graduating while she's in a lower grade. I fill like he's using her just to have the "pleasure" of sex. She says she loves him and he loves her but I think he loves sex. He's all she thinks about, I haven't hung out with her in months because she's all over her boyfriend. Please help me! This is killing me

#7.1
Anonymous's picture

It sounds like you are really torn about your friend. You need to realize this difference between your circle of control and your circle of influence. You cannot control your friends choices but you are taking responsibility to fix them. I am reading an old book right now called "Co-dependent No More" that talks about this kind of unhealthy attachment. It would be worth your time to take a look.

If your friend is open to your suggestions, you might try being really assertive in a conversation in efforts to share your concerns. Nicholeen teaches this as "Disagree Appropriately". Try to understand their perspective first. Step 1- Look at the person, Step 2- Keep a calm voice face and body. Step 3-Share their perspective as "I understand you...". Step 4- Say your side of how you see it and what you feel; what your concerned about and why. Step 5- accept their answer and drop the subject.

If they are open to it, you could share this analogy I thought of when I was a teenager. This would be very powerful to use if they were to SEE the reality of the egg for themselves. I wish someone would have told me this when I was young. The analogy is that sex is like a chicken growing in an egg. When you wait till the right time it is amazing and beautiful and can grow into something that will fulfill you and your husband. But, if you open that egg before the time is right, then it is gross and dirty. And it will always lead to sadness and death (in one form or another.) It is a natural law and cannot be avoided. There is a right time and a right place, and when it's the right time it's beautiful. When it's not the right time or the right place, it is distorted, mutated, and selfish.

At the end of the day, you are dealing with an addiction, but it's not yours.

Good luck.

#8
Anonymous's picture

Me and my husband recently found out our 17 year old daughter is sexually active with her boyfriend of 10 months. While we are both heart broken that she did not save her self we can do nothing about it now. We do not condone them having sex nor do we want to give her birth control. But as we know we cannot stop them from doing it the question remains, how do I give my daughter birth control without telling her its OK to have premarital sex?

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