Sexually Active Preteen

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Helping young father deal with his sexually active preteen

Oct 2000

This one is heavy, but it is critical. My son has learned that his preteen daughter (my granddaughter) is sexually active. He is distraught, unsure, and needs support. Wishes he had peers with teen daughters and/or similar situation, to discuss with, but he does not. Any suggestions at all for contacts, services, references to help this young father (1) deal with his feelings about his daughter and (2) deal with the situation as best as possible for his daughter's best interests. -- Anonymous

I truly emphathize with your son. The first thing to find out is if she's taking birth control, and get her to a pediatrician right away. A preteen girl being sexually active makes any parent distraught. I believe you have to approach it, especially after the fact, in a manner that's not accusative and with a matter of fact, but concerned, attitude. There is nothing, absolutely nothing you can do to undo it all However, you have to communicate with your daughter your concerns in a loving way--that she might get pregnant, that she's very young, still a minor, that her future is with her having the freedom to make her own choices. It's important to be protective and very watchful over your daughter. It's important that you convey, and that she understands, the difference between the reality of sex and the fact that sex as an image mirrored constantly in movies, on TV and in magazines is not real, but just fantasy. You must impress upon her the fact that she's still growing in mind and body, and that a preteen girl needs to learn about being herself and, on a very practical matter, is learning how to deal with own monthly menses (and therefore can now become pregnant)--all part of being female and becoming a woman. At the preteen age, she is beginning to learn how to deal with her own sex as friends, as competitors for a guy's attention. She should be learning to enjoy and build friendships and values by hanging out with her own sex, not always fun and easy, but essential. Self-esteem is the most important trait to nurture and develop at her age, not the complications and confusion that come from having sex too soon and too young. You need to build her self-esteem and make sure no one knocks it down by letting her know how much you value her as a person, that she can turn to you, that you are there for her. There is an organization, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the East Bay, and if your daughter doesn't have a mother to turn to in discussing something as personal, for example, as her menses and you feel uncomfortable talking about it, perhaps this type of organization can find an older woman or older, mature teenage girl who can be her friend and mentor. --jahlee

I had many talks with my daughter about this. And impressed upon her that I did not condone such behavior by her, and would attempt to limit it by controlling her time with her boyfriend in a house unsupervised. I drove to his dad's house many times, because she was there visiting without an adult being there, which was unacceptable to me. Also I talked to the boy (whom I liked) and let him clearly know that I felt sexual activities between them were unacceptable to me. (Naturally this embarrassed my daughter. Sorry) I told my daughter that she had to decide what to do, but she needed to know my position very clearly. I remember being angry that both of this boy's parents didn't seem particularly concerned. But I maintained my position and felt that my daughter more or less in the end abstained. Miriam

I was a sexually active by the time of thirteen, and later became a teenage mom. I have this to say to the father-- now is not to worry about your daughter's embarrassment about discussing sex. If she is having sex, she needs to be able to discuss it and understand why she is choosing to have sex, and, she should be able to understand and carry out the responsibilities of being sexually active.

I believe that a lot of young teenage girls turn to sex because their self-confidence plummets during the pre-teen years, and they are searching for the approval and love and reassurance that they desperately need. Unfortunately, they will not find it in sex. In fact, they are often labeled by peers when they are sexually active and teased -- which brings self-confidence down even further, and overwhelmed by the emotions the sex introduces.

Your daughter is risking her life. She is exposing herself to sexually transmitted diseases, and she is likely to get pregnant. When I was in high school--it was reported that 25% of all teenagers got pregnant (I don't know what the figures are now). That figure included teenagers that were not sexually active. Many pregnant teenagers choose to have their babies for the same reason why they begin to have sex too early-- they want unconditional love--unconditional love that they have some control over.

I wish that my father and mother had talked to me more about sex and about all of the emotions that sex involves. I wish that they had required me to bring my boyfriends in to meet them before I went out. I wish they would have given me more love and attention. I wish the had gone to my track meets, I wish they would have tried harder when I shrugged away from them. If they had-- I might not have looked for the love that they didn't give me from somewhere else.

I tell my 11-year-old that he shouldn't have sex until he is emotionally ready-- and that if he cannot talk with his partner about sex, and cannot go through the process of getting tested for AIDS and talk about the use of condoms with that person-- then the relationship is not ready for sex. I also have shown my son pictures of sexually transmitted diseases, and soon we will be doing volunteer work for people with AIDS. I have been discussing sex with him since he was five. It it a subject that he feels he can approach me about at any time-- and I bring it up with him often. I am also very involved in his life. I hope that my precautions will prevent him from being like I was--a teenage mom with a lot of emotional issues that still haunt me today.


More discussion of the sexually active pre-teen: Get her professional help NOW!! Premature sexual activity is very often a sign of some sort of sexual abuse. Whatever the cause, the behavior is cry for help and for limits. Additionally, while she needs to be talked to and given information about preventing disease and pregnancy, she is a child and she mostly needs to be protected. At her age, she should NEVER be allowed opportunities to be alone with boys. If that means that she needs to attend an afterschool program, or that you need to involve a neighbor who is home during the day to do spot checks on who's at the house, or hiring a highschool senior to stop by every afternoon for a couple hours, whatever it takes to create the safety net to keep her safe from continued sexual activity while she gets professional help from a therapist. Her school guidance counselor would be a good resource to find a therapist. It is important the restrictions be placed with the loving message, it's my job to keep you safe and these behaviors are dangerous, not you are bad and now I am punishing you. Whatever pushes girls to be sexually active at a young age also makes them vulnerable to feeling dirty. If you heed the cry for help now with love and diligent parenting she might come out on the other side stronger and more self-confident. -S (mother of a teenage girl, who would be mortified to know I was writing in, lest anyone think I had had experiences with her like this, so for the record: I didn't)