Advice-Teenagers-Sex: Ask Dr. J. Archives

Dear Dr. J.

It's not that unusual for our sixteen-year-old daughter to come home after midnight, and sometimes we fall asleep before she gets home. Last week we woke up in the morning and Lisa wasn't in her bed. My husband and I panicked! We called every friend of Lisa's we knew and nobody knew where she was. We then called the police and all the local hospitals. I thought for sure she was dead, or, at the very least, badly injured or something. I didn't know what to think and my mind was racing to all the terrible possibilities. We were riding around town looking for her when she called us on her cell phone from home.

When we got there, I just lost it. I couldn't stop screaming at her! Later Later she came to me (when I had calmed down) and told me that she had fallen asleep at her boyfriend's house (he's 17). I didn't even know she was dating somebody. Now I have found out that she's sleeping with some guy! I don't know what to do.


Dear Joyce

Part of your response is surprise and dismay because your 16-year-old is acting in ways that seem very different from what you expect or want. It can be tempting to try to control her sexual activity by grounding or punishing her in some way, but that doesn't usually work. Teenagers who are forbidden to see their "love" often rebel completely. Many of them choose dishonesty and subterfuge to keep their parents from finding out they're having sex.

This is confusing because if you want your daughter to exercise restraint, but don't want her to start lying and sneaking around, what do you do? Basic rules such as limits about where boyfriends are allowed to be, curfew times, and keeping open communication about her relationships are helpful. Along with "house rules", though, many parents would like to set limits on their adolescents' sexual experiences. That's a little more difficult to do.

Sexual experi- mentation is normal during adolescence. What bothers parents is that the progression of teenage relationships seems so different. The time between the first kiss and intercourse seems to have diminished dramatically, and this is unsettling for most parents. It helps to remember that teenagers have their own concerns about sexuality. The are aware and concerned about pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, broken hearts, and bad reputations.

The best advice I can give you is to remember that if teenagers want to have sex, they will find a way to do so. What you want to do is give your daughter guidance about the meaning of sharing herself sexually with her boyfriend, safe sex, and birth control. Talk to her about what having sex with her boyfriend means to her at this age. Be sure to listen. At 16, this relationship undoubtedly will not be permanent, so talk to her about how many boys she thinks it is appropriate for her to have sex with. Validate her feelings and try to use as many opportunities as you can to give guidance.

Even if she were not having sex, it is important for you to meet the boyfriend she hasn't told you about. Invite him to your home and make sure he is welcome to spend time there. If they are not at your house (supervised), they will be somewhere else (unsupervised). If you are willing to get to know him, hopefully you will have a lot more influence on them, and can talk with them about their relationship. I hope he is somebody you will approve of because if he becomes "the enemy" you have lost the opportunity to have a direct connection with your daughter's new relationship. Stay connected.

Dr. J.

Advice-Teenagers-Sex: Parenting

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