Your Teen is Sexually Active, Now What?

sexually active

Surprises are supposed to be fun unless you accidentally discover your teen is having sex! Here’s an all too familiar scenario and what we as parents can do next if it happens to us.

You and your daughter just got home from grocery shopping. She says she needs to use the restroom before she helps unload the groceries. She dashes off, leaving her phone on the counter. As you start putting the produce away, you hear the chime of a text notification. When you instinctively glance in the direction of the sound, you realize that it is your daughter’s phone, and you see it’s from her friend, the one who practically lives at your house during the summer. You yell to your daughter that her friend texted when you happen to read the first few lines on the home screen. You read: “OMG!!! U n Dan did it? How was it? Did it hurt? Tell me everything!”

OK, it doesn’t take having a Ph.D. to figure out what this text message is about. You just discovered that your teen is sexually active, so now what?

Here are some suggestions on how to handle this conversation.

Don’t panic!

How you respond in body language, tone, and consequences will determine if the line of communication stays open or closed. Pick a good time and place to have the conversation. And, if your emotions get the best of you, keep in mind, there is always another opportunity to try again.

Listen as your teen shares their perspective.

Be patient and calm, but mostly just listen. Most likely, they will have an opinion that rationalizes their choice, although that rationalization may not line up with yours. Instead of shutting down their opinion, ask probing questions to figure out the depth of their belief and where they got it. (Be careful that you are not asking leading questions in the direction you want to go, as this will shut the conversation down quickly.) Here are some examples of questions to ask: What is it about [this partner] that lead you to the decision to have sex? Do you feel differently about him? Is your relationship different now? How are you being safe with your health and preventing pregnancy or STDs? What about the timing made it feel ‘right’?  Try to avoid ‘why’ questions, as they tend to make us feel defensive when responding.

After you allow them an opportunity to explain their reasoning and feelings, tell them that though they may already know your opinion as a parent on this issue, you still want to share the reasons why you think teens should not participate in this type of intimacy.

Let the research speak for itself.

Sex without a vow of commitment distorts the reality of true intimacy. {Tweet This} Sexual intimacy, including Sexting, impacts our brains, our bodies, our emotions, and our psychological health, especially those who are first experiencing it. For those who have sex without a vow of commitment, sex will have harmful and destructive results. For example:

  • There are negative social consequences to having sex as an adolescent. Living in a social media world, word (and maybe even a picture) gets out fast! Rumors and perceptions can change the way people think of us, and can create a negative reputation–one that lasts well into adulthood.
  • Research shows that teens who have sex and “friends with benefits” are more likely to have an unplanned  pregnancy, catch STD’s, including HPV which can cause types of cancer, and other infections that if left untreated can change their health, including future fertility.
  • Sex and other romantic physical behaviors change our brain chemistry. It creates a chemical that makes us feel joined and connected in a way that we don’t have with others. This feeling only gets stronger with more sexual behaviors, which makes it harder to end unhealthy relationships or to see them as detrimental at all.

You set up the boundaries.

Being successful means obeying your rules. Your teen may still disagree with your reasons to abstain from intimacy. However, that doesn’t mean you let them continue to do what they want. Set up boundaries and rules to help them avoid temptation. For example, they can’t be alone with a member of the opposite sex in their room or in the basement. Have them carpool with other people. And make your house the place to be, so you can ensure the rules are followed.

What are ways you keep yourself calm when having hard conversations with your kids?