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.
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.
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.