I Think My Teenager is Having Sex. What Do I Do?
First, let’s take a breath. It’s understandable that you’re freaking out a bit. But let’s take a step back.
Why do you think your teenager is having sex? Have you found condoms in your child’s room? Did your daughter ask to be put on birth control? Have you seen your child making out with a boyfriend or girlfriend? Is your teenager asking questions about sex?
After you calmly consider what evidence or circumstances lead you to believe your teenager could be sexually active, it’s time to plan out a conversation. Practice in front of the mirror if you need to, but your child needs to know you can handle whatever information unfolds in the conversation.
We think it’s good to keep these goals in mind as you talk with your teenager.
- We want our teenagers to be safe and healthy. So talk about how we protect ourselves from STDs and unintended pregnancies. The only way to avoid contracting an STD is to be in a mutually monogamous relationship with another person who does not have an STD. That means both of you are only having any form of sex (vaginal, oral, anal, or genital contact) with each other and neither of you had a STD when you began having sex. And the only way to 100% avoid pregnancy is to not have vaginal sex at all. Calmly explaining that you want your teen to be safe and healthy goes a lot farther than simply listing rules or losing your cool.
- We want our teenagers to have healthy relationships. Help your teen know what a healthy relationship looks like . Gently ask questions in a non-judgmental way to discover if your teenager has been pressured into having sex or if his or her relationship is rooted in respect, trust and love.
- We want to maintain a loving relationship with our teenager. If there’s anything we’ve learned along the way, it’s that teens have a will and mind of their own. We cannot control them. We can, however, control our own reactions and responses. To be loving, you don’t have to approve of your teenager’s decisions. But it is important to assure and reassure them that your love is unconditional and that you value him or her, no matter what.
Keeping these goals in mind as you have a conversation (not a lecture) with your teen will help steer the discussion away from shaming. You can’t force your child or shame your child into making the decisions you think are best. But you can lovingly ask questions, listen to answers and help your teenager discover which choices will most likely lead to safe, healthy relationships.