Parenting expert Michelle Mitchell shares pointers on how to address the thorny topic of premarital sex with your teenaged daughter. Sexual intimacy is a wonderful gift but it can also be a source of great harm when misused. It is essential to provide guidance on this aspect of human relationships, particularly as your children experience puberty.
Parent Question: My daughter is 15 and has recently fallen for a really lovely boy. Our family all really like him and he’s very respectful but two months in, I’m wondering if they’re sleeping together. He’s not allowed to stay over, even in another room, but they go to parties and out for the evening. I want to ensure she’s not being pressured into doing something she doesn’t want and that she’s all clued up about contraception. What do I say? I don’t want to put the idea of having sex in her head so I have to tread carefully.
Although most parents have broached the subject of sex before their daughter’s first boyfriend, it takes on a whole new meaning when a young man is in her life. What was a general conversation now becomes very real and relevant. I hope these five tips will help you get this conversation started.
1. Have a Plan
You don’t want to fumble your way around this one! Know exactly how you are going to get the conversation started. Realise that you may be met with shoulder shrugs and eye rolls to start with. If this happens, just keep talking and be assured that eye rolls don’t affect her ability to hear you.
What to say:
You might like to choose a direct approach: “I can see how quickly you are growing up. I’d like to sit down and talk more openly about sex with you. How about we go out and have a chat?”
Or you might like to try a softer approach by asking, “At what age do most young people become sexually active these days? I can imagine it is something that is becoming more common as you get older.”
2. Be Her Mum
I’m not keen on teenagers having sex in high school because of the emotional, social and physical damage that often comes with it. If you share my view, there is nothing wrong with being honest with your daughter. However, it is important you let her know that she is ultimately responsible for her decisions. Regardless of her choices, reassure her that you will always be there for her.
What to say:
“Sex at the right time with the right person is a great thing. Sex at the wrong time or with the wrong person can be the most damaging decision of your life. At some stage, you are going to choose to have sex. I’d like to help you make sure it is at the right time and with the right person so it doesn’t cause you any damage.”
3. Worst Case Scenario
It is important to discuss breakups and exit plans with girls who are in love! They often fail to realise they can say ‘no’ and that they deserve to be treated with respect. I like to know girls are clear on how they want to be treated before they enter into a relationship.
What to say:
“If there is ever a time you feel pressured to have sex, and you don’t want to talk to me, who would you turn to? It is important that you have someone that can help you see and think clearly. I need to know you are confident enough to break things off or express your needs clearly if you ever needed to.”
4. Keep it Real
Make sure you have an honest conversation. Don’t skip over the difficult bits. Your daughter may be more pressured into having anal or oral sex than sexual intercourse. She may also be being pressured into watching pornography.
What to say:
“Sexual activity is not just about sexual intercourse or losing your virginity. Oral sex and touching each other can be just as damaging if it is at the wrong time or with the wrong person. Remember that any semen or vagina fluid can carry STIs and you can get pregnant even if you are using a condom.”
5. You Have to Go There
If there is any chance she is going to have sex, make sure you give her full information about condoms and safe sex measures to reduce the risk of STIs and pregnancy. You may not be able to protect her heart, but you can protect her body. It is so important that your daughter knows you aren’t naive. Do some research and be armed with facts rather than just emotion.
What to say:
“If you do choose to have sex in high school, I want to make sure you know how to protect your body and I would like to take you to a doctor who can give you all the information you need.”
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MOST IMPORTANTLY, if your teenager needs support from a psychologist, counsellor or mentor, Youth Excel would love to help. You can contact me at email@example.com.
What Teenage Girls Don’t Tell Their Parents is available at michellemitchell.org for $24.95 plus postage.