Sexually Active Teens

Parent Q&A

  • Teen Sex

    (9 replies)

    My son is 16, and met a 15.5 year old girl. He's been going to see her at her home the last month or so, and told us he met both her parents and her grand parents. From what we overheard from his phone/video conversations with her, they are into each other, and then finally the girl's mom brought the girl to our house.  The girl seemed nice, respectful, ran up to meet me and helped me carry groceries.  I was somewhat uncomfortable about her sitting in my son's lap the whole time after that, and then they ran off to his room downstairs.  We kept coming by, and my younger daughter kept bothering them, but they still managed to have sex, at least that's what my son told me.  He said that the girl initiated it, and "really wanted to", and he wasn't against it.  Huh!  At least they used protection.

    My son told me the girl and her mother talked about the possibility of her engaging in sex, and she gave her protection.  We did the same with our son, though I had no idea it was going to happen that soon.  I wish he'd hold off longer! 

    So now, the girl called and said she wants to come over and spend the night.  I am not thrilled about it, plus they are both under the age of concern in CA (18 years old). So, legally speaking, not only this would make sleepover out of question, but we'd have to watch them at all times to be sure they aren't having sex. But, as a human and a parent, that doesn't make me comfortable either.  I am pretty sure the teens would not stop having sex if we tell them to, just as they didn't listen when we said to wait, so they'd be still doing it out in the park or in the back of a car or wherever else.

    Also, I don't want my son to stop talking to us about his life.  He doesn't do it as much as I'd wish he would, and sometimes he tells us things after the fact, but he does tell us a lot. I don't want to be one of those parents who are either righteous or turn the blind eye on purpose to avoid legal issues, and say their kids would never do drugs and have sex.  I know several families like that, and their kids confided in me that they did both, but would never tell their parents even years later (they asked me not to tell their parents).

    Have you ever been in this situation before?  What did you do?  I am looking for advice, not judgment.

    RE: Teen Sex ()

    I have one son and one daughter who are both in their 20's now. We are fairly permissive but did NOT allow their partners to spend the night at our house during high school (but we do now). To me, it is not about the sex so much but about the seriousness it gives to the relationship. High schoolers are not adults, and also, we as parents didn't want to interact with their partners as if they were our son/daughter in law! It's your house, you set the rules! Also, I never had to say this, but I wouldn't want my teenagers having sex in the house when I am there or younger siblings are there. Maybe you could point out to your son that he probably doesn't like to think about you having sex in the next room. I assume there are times when they can be home alone :) 

    But, be sure to put a lock on his door so he CAN lock it, since I am guessing you don't want his younger sis barging in on them.

    We bought a jumbo box of condoms and kept it in the hall cupboard and said "feel free to use these or give them to friends." Then I would check it periodically to buy more as needed.

    As far as the legal/age issue, I THINK since they are only 6 mos apart it is ok, but you can look that up online. It depends on age of kids and also age difference.

    It's tough to deal with this but great that you have open communication!

    RE: Teen Sex ()

    I'm so sorry for what you're going through, 16 & 15.5 seem very young to me but maybe I'm dating myself and this is just the norm these days.  My kids are just finishing up with elementary so I'm not dealing with teens yet but with that said, I think kids have been finding a way to have sex if they want to since the beginning of time, but I don't think that you should have to have this young lady 'sleep over' if you aren't comfortable with it.  This is your house and you should be able to have rules and limits.  I think the open lines of communication with your son should work both ways, and I think it's great that he is talking to you, but I feel like you should be able to openly tell both of them that you need to draw the line at sleepovers until they are both 18 or later dependent upon your comfort level.  Given that they are both pretty young it might be good to talk with the girls parents first just to ensure that you're on the same page and maybe come up with some boundaries that all of you can be comfortable with for the next couple of months as things progress in what sounds to be a pretty new relationship.  Awkward conversations but it may be necessary.  What if you say no but then your son ends up having a sleepover at her house?  What if something goes south in their young love and your son gets accused of taking advantage of the younger girl?  I just feel like things get complicated in today's world with how the kids talk at school and on social media.  I'd probably try to be open with everyone, your son, his girlfriend and her parents.  I recall having a good friend in school who had a really 'hip' mama and she was allowed to do whatever/whenever.  She was very open with her mom and things still got messy, she ended up pregnant at 16 (which she did NOT share with her mom), got an abortion, and suffered the emotional turmoil that comes along with that alone.  Her mom knew she was sexually active, knew that she used recreational drugs, went to raves, stayed out all night, etc.  But when she got pregnant- she couldn't tell her mom and that is just heartbreaking to consider now, looking back as an adult.  Best of luck to you!!!  I hope things work out.  

    RE: Teen Sex ()

    No judgments here. My 16-year-old started with her same-age boyfriend, someone she had known for two years at summer camp, and I'm fairly sure she took the initiative. Some thoughts:

    1) When I realized our girl was having sex (I have no shame; I checked her top drawer one afternoon when she was out with the guy. It was clear they were seriously fooling around, because she had gone to our family doctor after telling me some implausible story about her menstrual cycle, and I knew she possessed not one, but two, reliable forms of birth control, one of which was missing from the drawer), I had hysterics to my husband and to a couple of friends. I said nothing to my daughter; she would have been angry and refused to talk to me. I called the San Jose branch of Planned Parenthood, which then offered a good help line, and talked to a counselor for a while. She reminded me that there's a big different between a 14-year-old's being coerced by a friend's brother and two kids who've agreed to all this and who are using birth control. (These days it might be on-line chat.)

    2)  Stats from the Guttmacher Institute:

    3)  Some of this behavior is also individual. I wouldn't have wanted to have sex when I was that young: boys, ewwwwwww, except at a distance and in my fantasies. But one of my daughter's friends, who had received a lot of loving sex education from her parents and the public schools, became pregnant when she was 15. She was simply more impulsive by nature than my daughter, who likes making plans.

    4)  You're so very right about providing birth control. But I also wish the girl's mother would take her to see an ob-gyn; pap smears and all that are an important habit to start at this point in a female's life.

    5)  You're also right about wanting your son to keep talking to you. They listen to us far more than they'll admit at this age, especially if we don't nag and don't repeat ourselves 55 times. My daughter is 28 now. She has two children, both carefully planned and well taken care of, with a responsible, loving guy. She still tells me about her life, and asks for advice.

    6)  I'm not sure what to say about having your son's friend stay overnight. I couldn't quite overcome my own upbringing to that extent, so they were still sneaking around a bit (and probably enjoying it). Is there any chance you could get together with her parents and come to some sort of agreement? The kids might hate that, but they don't have much choice, especially seeing how reasonably their parents are behaving.

    7)  The sitting-in-the-lap thing always irritated me; I'd growl, "Feet on the floor, you two!" but it didn't have much effect until she was more mature and wanted boyfriends' parents to like her.

    8)  Teenagers--older ones, at least--having consensual sex is strong proof of the fact that at some point we have to recognize our children are growing up, and we must let them. (This doesn't mean we can't hover and advise from a semi-respectful distance.)

    Good luck. They're acting like healthy, normal kids, and you're thinking like a healthy, responsible parent.

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Don't want daughter to have sex in our house

Dec 2011

During my high-school teen's two-week winter break, her boyfriend, who has been in Europe for over a year, will be in the Bay Area. I know my daughter has been sexually active, and I am not naive about what is likely to happen when they get together. However, I do not want them to have sex in our house. While I will tell my teen that, I will be at work during most of the days of the school break; I can't take more time off unless I do so without pay and as a single parent that's not an option. Any advice for handling this situation?

I'm the mom of teens too. You don't say how old your daughter is (not that that matters if you don't want her having sex in the house). You know that she is sexually active with this boy. On one hand I agree with you...not in my house. BUT....You KNOW that she is sexually active, and you know they will find a place to have, why not your house? A place that is safe and private. Where else might they go? ''Not in my house'' will not keep them from having sex...Will they do it in his car? His parents house? A friends house? I''m thinking of some of the places I had sex as a, under the boardwalk (lived in a beach town), fields outside...etc. Don't mean to throw a monkey wrench in...just another perspective to think about. mom of teen boys n girls

I have been in your situation, so I sympathize. But I do think you're asking for something you can't get. You can tell your daughter that her boyfriend may not be at your house when you're not home; I had that rule when my daughter was 17 and under. They were allowed to be in her room with the door closed if I was home. I worked at home, so there were rare times when we had an issue. If you want to set this rule, you will just have to trust your daughter, or ask a neighbor to keep an eye on people going in, or hire a babysitter.

You say you don't want them having sex in your house. Well, that does beg the question: where DO you want them to have sex? The park? A car? Where there's a will, there's a way. I respectfully suggest that you would be better-served having clear talks about your sexual values (perhaps you believe that your daughter is too young to make decisions that have such potentially far-reaching consequences) and about safe, healthy sex with partners who respect her and treat her well. When she's 30 years old and in a relationship with a husband, you want her to be a sexually healthy and fulfilled person, right? I'd look to that goal more than the goal of trying to police her behavior when you're not there. sympathetic--but realistic

Would you rather they have sex in the car? Practical

I hope you'll rethink your policy. If she's already having sex, or is swapping body fluids... where better than in the safety of her own home? If you think this is a moral issue, and she should remain a virgin, sorry, that train has left the station. Would you prefer she have sex (or foreplay) in a car, a motel, a tent, behind bushes, on a hike, under the bleachers at a school game, among the dunes at a beach, down by the creek, at a friend's apartment, at his parents' house where they can't find any birth control, under a bridge... I clearly remember my own teen years and those of my friends. We were middle-class, well-educated, ostensibly very well behaved young people, but we were all sexually active, each with our share of infections, pregnancies, and embarrassing mishaps, because face it, lust makes ya sloppy at any age. Ulysses lashed himself to a mast to avoid the sirens for a very good reason. In many other cultures, your daughter'd be considered ready for marriage and babies. I feel kids need a lot longer to grow up (seems like emotionally, 27 is the new 18) and that growing-up process will be delayed or derailed if she gets pregnant or contracts AIDS or cervical cancer. Your teen has the reproductive system of an adult, and if you give her the tools to behave responsibly and PROTECT HERSELF, you might avoid a real tragedy. I'm thinking ahead to my own child's teen years. While of course I am REALLY uncomfortable with the idea of my kid having sex before she's 30, I'd rather she was safe than getting naked down on lover's lane. I'll make sure that both she and her boyfriend know how to protect themselves (there will be a test, which they will need to pass before I give blessing), ask them to keep it in her bedroom (because nobody wants in flagrante delecto awkwardness in public spaces), let her know when I'll be back, and then I'll get the heck out of the house and go enjoy a nice movie. In a perfect world, all kids would wait until they're married, or at least 18. That, apparently, doesn't happen too often. *** ...better safe than sorry

Hmmmm. You don't want your daughter to have sex in your house but you know they are going to do it and you can't stop them? So you would rather she have sex where? In a car? In a park? At her boyfriends house? I don't know. It seems like the best choice is to let her do it at your house. Trying to stop the natural biological call of the animal species called homo sapiens in the prime of their reproductive years is a losing proposition. Help her be safe and happy rather than less safe and uncomfortable. sean

Unfortunately You can not prevent them from having sex. If they are not doing it in your house they will still find somewhere else-even a park.All you can do is let your daughter know how you feel and make sure she also knows about safe sex. been there

I had to post because we just went through this, and apparently are in a minority! When our 16 year old became sexually active, we made sure he was safe and now stock a supply of miraculously never-ending condoms.

We also told him that having sex when and where you want is one of the perks of adulthood. Not teenage-hood. ''You know how you think ''eeewwww'' when you think about me and your dad having sex? That's kind of how we feel knowing about your sex life. Keep it private.'' He knows when we will be ''out'' but I want to know I won't walk in on them. I wwant to know it's not inappropriate for my other kids. I'm not making breakfast for his girlfriend. I want plausible deniability!

I thought I'd be ''cooler.'' But it turns out I don't want to facilitate his sex life. If I still have to treat him like he's 12 in some ways, it's too much to treat him like a ''man'' in others. So it's my house, I know it happens sometimes, but they have the grace to not make it obvious, and I can live with that. They are safe, we discuss it occasionally, but he is not my roommate. anon

Teen son's sexual relationship

Sept 2011

Help! I need advice on how to proceed here. My 17yo son, a senior, has been in a relationship with his almost-15yo girlfriend, a freshman, since last spring. They met on facebook. The GF's mom and I (we are both single parents) do communicate and have agreed on rules and curfews. My son got his license over the summer, and he knows he can't drive other teens, so I've spent a lot of time driving the two of them around over the summer. They are very much in love and spend every moment together, at our home or at hers. They email each other long letters when they are apart.

Today I stumbled across one of these letters on the family computer. (OK, it wasn't technically a stumble. He had been working on it last night for hours for their 6 month anniversary, and after he left for school this morning, I dug it out of the Trash folder.) The letter is a long list of sweet lovey-dovey Remember When We ... statements, including a couple of references to sleepovers, showering together, and making love. What! When did they ever have the time and space to do this?!! There was also a remembrance about an embarrassing trip to the grocery store to buy condoms - the clerk was a kid they knew. So they are using condoms, that's good. There were absolutely no references to alcohol or drugs; this never been an issue anyway.

I know that a lot of kids are sexually active at this age. We've had the condom talk and I see it's sunk in. He is a responsible kid, a good student, on track for early admission to college. He pays for his car and cellphone himself with summer jobs. There are slip-ups, but he is basically a good kid. But clearly he has been with her when he's told me he was sleeping over at his buddy's house. Her mom works at night, and though the grandma is home, there are sneaking in opportunities. I'm upset about the lying, and I'm worried about the young age of his GF - she won't be 15 till next month. What should I do next? I don't see how I can consent to anymore sleepovers now, but I am ashamed to admit to him that I pried into his private love letters. And he already has home by 10pm, no driving other teens around rule, which he's been pretty good about. What other rules should I add? I will talk to the other mom too, but I need to get clear on my own rules first. Thanks for any advice!!

Your son is 17 and almost legally an adult. The average age for teens to become sexually active in the US is 17. In my opinion, his sex life is not your business, unless he's endangering himself or others. He's using condoms and he's in a healthy relationship. If he's lying to you about spending time with her, you can tighten the reins if you must, without letting him know you read the letter. You can catch him in the act and make a big scene if you want. But if he's behaving responsibly and he's a great kid, why?

My only concern would be whether he could potentially have legal issues with the age difference between him and his girlfriend, especially when he turns 18. I'm sure you can research this online. I don't consider their age gap to be of concern otherwise. If it turns out California laws prohibit sex between 18 and 16 year olds, that's something you can mention to him as their next birthdays approach without explaining you know that he's sexually active.

Taking a step back from all that...what kind of man do you want to raise? It sounds like you've raised him to be responsible, respectful and affectionate with his girlfriend. Do you want him to have his first encounter be after he's 18? 21? Married? Engaged? Is it just icky to think of him having sex so you'd rather not know and now you know and you can't unknow it?

I have a friend whose immigrant parents were very strict about letting her date, even in grad school when she moved out of state. And now she's in her 30s, a very successful, attractive businesswoman, and has no idea how to date. She's still a virgin. She wants very much to get married and have kids and she's so far behind on her skill set that's it's been a huge trial and ordeal for her to make steps. It's getting harder each year. Is that what you want for your son? Probably not.

What a wonderful first relationship he is having. Let him have that. It will be the foundation for his future sexual and romantic life. You want him to be a good partner to his future wife, right? So let him learn now.

And gosh, please don't let him know you read his precious letter. He worked so hard on it and it meant so much--to know his mother read it would spoil such a nice moment. I cringe at the thought. they're doing great--let them be

A few thoughts. First, the train has already left the station for these two kids and their sexual relationship, so what do you hope to accomplish by creating new rules or confronting them?

Second, your son lied about sex. So? Is he really supposed to share info about his sex life with you? This is a private matter that it sounds like he's dealt with responsibly. Yes, the girl is young and it would have been nice if she'd been older. But her first sexual experience was with a caring kind responsible boy who loves her. That's pretty great.

I can identify with this couple, as I was the girl in this equation. And my mom eventually found out, flipped out, and created a big embarrassing stink for which I have still -- 30 years later -- not really forgiven her for. She felt betrayed by the sneaking and felt I was too young for sex. I felt I had no choice but to sneak, since she'd already said I was not allowed to have sex with my boy friend. I'd been responsible, gotten birth control on my own, etc. just like your son and his girlfriend. The only effect of the big to-do was to make me vow to never share any of my personal life with her again -- I felt that betrayed by what happened.

I think to this day that the wisest course for her would have been to say simply, ''I know you're sexually active. i wish you weren't. I'm glad you're being careful.'' And leave it at that. Or, maybe to simply say nothing and let me continue thinking that no one knew.

Kids need to differentiate, separate and to be private. It sounds like your son respects you and listens to you. Don't screw it up by making him feel mistrustful and resentful. Been There

I wouldn't worry too much. You and the girfriend's mom know that your son and her daughter have been spending copious amounts of time together. It's only natural that they would be having sex. It sounds like they're being responsible using a condom. I wouldn't get too worked up about your son not telling you he was having sex. It's difficult for teenagers to tell their parents about their sex lives. Maybe he had sex with her at his friend's house? I really wouldn't get too hung up on this. Nature will take its course. Once your son goes off to college next year, it is highly unlikely that the relationship will continue as he will be interested in all the young women around him. There will be some broken hearts but life will go on. Anon

Penal Code section 261.5 (a) Unlawful sexual intercourse is an act of sexual intercourse accomplished with a person who is not the spouse of the perpetrator, if the person is a minor. (b) Any person who engages in an act of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor who is not more than three years older or three years younger than the perpetrator, is guilty of a misdemeanor. (c) Any person who engages in an act of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor who is more than three years younger than the perpetrator is guilty of either a misdemeanor or a felony, and shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

I know this is hard. BUT - your son is in a committed long term relationship and is behaving responsibly. I would only do your duty to make sure his GF has birth control. Tell him you know they are sleeping together (you don't have to say how your know) and then ask for his permission to address birth control with his GF. Maybe the GF has already confided in her mother. You can encourage her to do so, and you canmake sure she knows how to get to the nearest planned parenthood. This is a private matter and a physician would not tell her mother, so you needn't either. Howerver, you can be calm and accepting and encourage her to talk to her own mother. Then, forget the issue. Seriously. Your work is done and it sounds like these are good kids. Let them know you are available if they need help then proceed as if nothing has happened.

It is kind of odd in our culture, because you can't condone it in your home. Still, what do you want them to do? Have sex in the nearest open field or in the car? Many teens sneak when their parents aren't home and I think turning a blind eye might be the kindest thing to do. These are good kids with good values!

The only other issue is that you need to know where your kid is at all times. Make sure he answers the phone and let him know that he needs to give you his actual whereabouts. Again, you don't have to tell him how you caught on and you don't have to be totally specific about this. The cooler and more understanding you are, the greater the chance you have of him letting you in, confiding in you, etc. Good luck. Maria

Personally I don't feel you should say anything to your son or to the other mom. It may have been a public computer, but you were looking at his stuff. And he is behaving responsibly. But that's just my opinion. I was sexually active at a pretty young age and I was not open to talking to my parents about it. If he is following all the other rules, I don't see the problem. I don't see a no-sex rule being realistic.... mom of teens

You can't control a teenager. Not really. They will do whatever they want to do. And if you make them feel bad about what they are doing, they will lie about it. So it is good you talked to him about condoms. But apparently you said something about not approving of sex. That created a problem. Once teenagers have started a sexual relationship, they are very unlikely to stop. And you will both be miserable if you try to stop it. I would suggest that you talk to the other mom and ask her to make sure her daughter knows about birth control. You both need to talk to them about what to do should she get pregnant. You don't really have to reveal that you were snooping. You could just say something about how if a relationship last six months, it is likely to become more sexual. Don't make any more rules. You son is being very responsible and he should be rewarded for that. He is almost an adult. You really have to start treating him like one. anon

Hi. As an adult parent (of daughters who are nearing the age of your son's girlfriend) who was sexually active at 14, I caution you to be very careful how you proceed -- even in telling the other mother. Your son is committing statutory rape, even though he, too, is a minor and has girl's consent. He could be convicted for engaging in activity that, while legally wrong, may suit the nature of their relationship appropriately. Also, because of the nature of ''the crime'', he may be unable to have his record sealed whe he reaches adulthood.

The conflict in my mind is how/whether to talk to your son about this. You could just tell him you're worried about whether he's having sex with his girlfriend because you know how close they are, but that's too close to dishonest for my taste. Going in his emai trash folder is at least as big a personal violation as his lying to you, so maybe the approach should be a variation of ''I'll show you mine if you show me yours''.

There is risk to your relationship if you don't proceed very carefully, and damaging it sounds like it would be devastating to you (both). This is a good opportunity for both of you regain each other's trust, and if you proceed carefully enough, it could strengthen your relationship with each other. ~~A mother who anticipates this problem from the ''other side''

What a beautiful and dangerous situation!

Beautiful, because they are in love, which is just as beautiful for teenagers as for anyone else. Dangerous mainly because it may be hard for someone that age to use condoms consistently enough to avoid a pregnancy that could derail these kids' futures.

I urge you to be very rational (and sensitive) in your approach. Isn't the #1 issue one of birth control? These kids may need a more sure-fire method than condoms (one requiring less self-control). That should be your main aim.

Trying to get them to just stop having sex is unlikely to succeed. A determined teenager who is love can find a way, and the more desperate the moment, the less likely the birth control issue will be handled properly.

Here's where I'm going to get really controversial. Admitting that you spied on your son may seriously damage your relationship with him. I wonder whether it is strictly necessary to volunteer that fact. The birth control discussion does not require admitting that you know for a fact what they're doing. Any teen couple who are this much in love and spending so much time together are likely to be having sex.

Any teen couple like this should be getting firm technical assistance about birth control, whether or not the parents *think* the kids are actually doing it. Parents tend to have a hard time believing their kids aren't virgins. My parents were very surprised about me, for example; I lost my virginity at 15. (I'm 50 now.)

As for what method of birth control, I'd advocate for whatever is the most sure-fire. If there are health risks or side effects with some methods, balance those against the damage that would be done by a teen pregnancy. (Even a girl who states she is pro-choice is likely to change her mind and insist on keeping the baby.) I was on the pill was I was 17 and I've never regretted it. Later I switched to condoms, but in my teens I found condoms embarrassing and inconvenient, and might not have used them every time if I had relied on that method.

Whatever you do, please don't come down like a ton of bricks on these two, and I hope their parents won't either. It would drive them away from you and the guidance they need.

It's a tough situation, and I feel for you. anonymous

I understand that this situation is difficult for you, and that they seem young to be sexually active. I wish ALL kids would wait until they were 18. Oh well.

Apart from the sneaking around (and that's an important trust issue), your son sounds fairly responsible and emotionally mature. Perhaps it will be some comfort to you to think that they are learning about sex as an enhancement to a committed relationship-- expressing love as well as sexuality. At least it's not a casual, stupid, drunken, exploitative encounter for either of them. Good luck with this.

Diary reveals 16yo daughter's reckless sexual behavior

August 2011

I have recently happened upon my 16 year old's journal that included disturbing, reckless sexual behavior. She's first in her class, is well liked, and is seemingly open to conversations with me about the goings on in her life. The people I found mentioned in her diary are the same ones she talks about to me, albeit not with the same detail, and certainly not including the promiscuous behavior I have found with older boys (some who are sophomore's in college, and one where she found herself in ''the hood'' at 2 am with a young man turning 20 soon who lives with his father and uncle).

She recently broke up with her 17 year old boyfriend. This young man is a good and decent kid, but not as interested in pursuing sex to the extent she is. The graphic nature of her experience with the older young man (who lives with all males) was difficult to read since it contradicts most of her choices otherwise.

I realize I'm in a quandary because I am betraying a privacy of hers by finding this diary. But to what end does privacy supersede safety or behavior that seems to be spiraling out of control?

I am in the process of contacting a family counselor, but in the meantime, I need to approach her with the knowledge I have. I don't necessarily want her to know how I arrived at this information, but I must act quickly.

My intentions are to:

1. File a complaint with the police dept. against these young men (3 that I know of who are 19 or 20; under the age for filing statutory rape charges, but old enough to approach the police dept for sex with a minor).

2. Significantly limit cell phone use (this is how these arrangements are being made when she sneaks out of the house).

3. Car use restrictions to and from school or sports practice only.

These are a few of the things I am considering at the moment. I appreciate any enlightenment and look forward to helpful suggestions.

I know you are angry about your daughter but I would not go to the police about the boys. You really think making them sex offenders is called for. Speak to your daughter, get her counseling but make it about her choices. I would feel differently if we were talking older but 20! concerned

Hi: My heart goes out to you. This sounds so difficult and painful. My children are a bit younger so I don't quite know how to advise you other than to think back to my own adolescence when I also took risks, snuck out, and put myself in dangerous situations. One idea would be to tell her that you have learned about her behavior and not say how you learned, and then just be firm and just say that it doesn't matter how you learned, but the most important thing is her safety and well being, which is at risk now. But I did want to respond to your idea about calling the police regarding the young men involved. I think that the repercussions of that might be very harmful for your daughter. You don't say what city these events occurred in, but if it's Oakland, the sad reality is that the police probably don't have the resources to pursue that kind of case. Regardless of where you live, your daughter will have to be interviewed by police officers (possibly male officers who might not be as sensitive as you would like or want them to be) and tell them the details of the sexual activity. I think that the shame and exposure involved in that would be harmful and would not necessarily result in any punishment to the young men. It's one of those unintended consequence things. I wish you the very best in dealing with this. anonymous

Please reconsider your plans to go to the police. Your daughter's actions are your concern here. She voluntarily entered into relations with young men older than herself, and your purpose is to help her make appropriate choices with her sexuality. Giving the young men police records could utterly derail their lives, when they acted in response to your daughter as willing and able to represent herself. If your daughter had relations with a younger boy, would you want her jailed?

What the law allows is not often the best path. My mother, an attorney, used to say the law is an axe, and human relations require a scalpel; never involve the law where you can avoid it.

In my opinion, young men and women who are a few years apart are often developmentally appropriate mates (I don't know enough to say that's the case here) and are arbitrarily placed on opposite sides of the law during the rapid-changing years of late youth and early adulthood.

I urge you to focus on supporting your daughter in wise choices, not on damaging the lives of others. Thank you. V

I have a 15 year old daughter and can feel your pain. We have a very good relationship, but i'm sure she doesn't tell me everything. It's obvious that you should talk with your daughter and try and find out why she is engaging in this type of behavior. Is there something she is trying to get out of it? Remind her the consequences of her actions and how dangerous it can be.

I don't feel you should contact the police regarding the young men. 1) you should have a conversation with your daughter and get her side of the story before ever doing that. 2) you don't know what their knowledge is of who your daughter is or her age. (she's driving, out late at night, which you wouldn't necessarily associate with an underage girl.) 3) the consequences of being charged with any type of sex crime can be lifelong and life altering.

You want to blame someone, but that isn't always the appropriate response. concerned mom

Your email raised many issues. Many of these revolve around violation of trust, both by you as well as your daughter. I'm sure you will get advice from others about this. I can understand your shock at reading the material in your daughter's diary. You seem appropriately concerned about your daughter's safety and health. I'm sure you want the best for her. However, I suggest you take a few deep breaths and think about the implications of your intended actions. Is your daughter's behavior really ''spiraling out of control?'' You indicated that you wanted to file charges of statutory rape. This triggers some alarm bells and before you go further down this path, consider the following: (1) what is your intent in filing these charges--do you want to punish these young men or your daughter or both? what would you gain by doing this? what would you lose--perhaps your relationship with your daughter? If your intent is to scare your daughter into behaving, it's unlikely this strategy will work and it's likely to backfire--you've already violated her trust by reading her diary, and this could be seen as a further violation of trust. (2) are you sure your daughter is being truthful in her diary? if you confront her about this, would she deny that these incidents actually occurred?

Instead of focusing on the young men, focus on your daughter, the reasons for her behavior, and making sure she is protected, both mentally and physically (education, birth control, information and screening about STDs, etc). Restrictions on cell phone use and going out are deterrents, but may not completely stop unwanted behavior. Good luck! Also a concerned mom

Calling the police on men who are just a few years older than your daughter is morally wrong. Do you really want to get law enforcement involved in your daughter's life? You will irreparably harm your relationship with your daughter if you pursue that course of action. Don't do it. Reading her diary is bad enough, but you will probably be able to get past that if you don't overreact. Get counseling, preferably before you talk to your daughter. Grown Daughter

I agree that family counseling is the right way to go. Please work with the counselor on appropriate responses to what you read in your daughter's diary. Going to the police does not seem warranted based on a diary entry, in my opinion, and could cause so much upset. Teen sexuality is normal and I think the goal should be to help your daughter make healthy choices and respect your house rules, not come down with a sledgehammer and cause her act out more. Understand your surprise and concern..

I imagine you will get a lot of response. I think you need to take a step back before taking action. I strongly advise you not to contact the police-if you want to alienate your daughter, that is a surefire way to do so. She will only continue to do these risky behaviors even more in secret. You cannot control a 16 year old-you can talk to her about your concerns, but you cannot forbid her. She will do what she does. One of my best friends growing up did a lot of drugs, hung out with kids that were wild-but the worse thing her mother did was try to control her. If her mom had talked with her openly and honestly about things, it would have been so much better. The more you put a leash on her, the more she will rebel. I encourage you to talk to a counselor who specializes in teens, and perhaps have your daughter see someone. But don't call the police without talking to your daughter. anon

Dear concerned families - I am deeply moved by all the concern and well wishes I have received after my initial post. As it turns out, the police dept. said that I have no case to file charges since he is only 19 (21 in the state of Missouri would qualify for statutory rape). So no charges, no court issues, etc. I did see a counselor this week, and it was helpful. While the nature of the sex act bordered on violent (my daughter has disassociated with her feelings and doesn't realize the nature of what occurred or her actions in general). What has lead her to this is what must be discovered. We have talked about safe sex and other issues, but she's disconnecting and shows no inhibition. She was taken to a home where his father and uncle lives, and saw no danger in this. We live in a generation of unprecedented technology, and research has indicated that their brains have been altered because of it. I believe it! I also learned that a scan of an adolescent brain often shows psychotic tendencies. Our kids are able to compartmentalize their behavior in order to function, and this is what I found out with my daughter. I spoke to her last night and admitted that I found her diary. She had already suspected -- testament that kids know more than we realize and honesty is the best policy. I apologized for what may seem like a betrayal, but her safety is more important and my responsibility is to advocate for her while she is too young to advocate for herself. Knowing that their brains are not fully developed until the age of 23 for girls, and 25 for boys is telling. So while she's feeling oppressed and wants her complete, emancipated freedom to make mistakes, even at her peril, I pray that the counseling I am setting up will make a difference soon enough. I hope it sheds light that her self-imposed desire to be #1 is affecting her self worth. Thank you, again, for all the wisdom I have received. I appreciate it and hope to some day return with insights of my own. Best, L.

I'm very sorry that I missed the question but was sufficiently concerned when reading the responses that I am weighing in here, even after reading all responses, including yours.

The best response you received was from the ''concerned mom'' that said this: ''Instead of focusing on the young men, focus on your daughter, the reasons for her behavior, and making sure she is protected, both mentally and physically (education, birth control, information and screening about STDs, etc).''

Girls who have sex at the age your daughter is doing so, and who exhibit the lack of concern for safety that your daughter is exhibiting, are having sex for all the wrong reasons. And yes, they are usually very dissociated with their feelings, for all the reasons you mentioned.

What your daughter needs more than anything is to know how much you love her and care about her, meaning how very precious she is to you. She is likely having sex with this person in a quest for something that feels like love - but really isn't. I understand all about teenage hormones and sex drive and biological imperative, and I cannot stress strongly enough that what your daughter most needs is to deeply feel (as opposed to know) the love of her family and close family friends. She needs to feel cherished!!! It takes a village to raise a child, and an even larger one to raise a teenager, so enlist help from loved ones!

Good for you for being honest with her by outing yourself regarding her diary - that was a cry for help from her. Read _Reviving Ophelia : saving the selves of adolescent girls_ by Mary Pipher for more great info about how to establish and maintain a good connection with your teen daughter. And don't underestimate the power of your efforts, in the midst of her emotional distance...

Good luck! signed, the love addict's life you save may be your daughter's

Regarding the response from the police: they declined to pursue your complaint. Having sex with a minor is a misdemeanor. If there is more than three years of age difference, it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Requiring lifetime registration as a sex offender is an option. A district attorney can demand it as part of plea bargain, or a judge can impose it if he or she thinks it is appropriate after a conviction. My guess is that the police expected that the district attorney would (wisely) exercise prosecutorial discretion and decline to prosecute this matter, and saved everyone time and trouble, and some people a lot of anguish. Grown Daughter

I agree with much that has been said, particularly about not criminalizing your daughter's sexual partners and with the arbitrary nature of the ages at which consensual relations become statutory rape without regard for developmental maturity. However, my take on your daughter's behavior is a bit different. I'm a woman in my late 40s, the married mother of a 13 year old daughter. I was incredibly promiscuous as a teen and through my late 20's. It wasn't because I didn't feel loved and cherished at home. I wasn't confusing sex with love, or engaging in sometimes extreme behavior for anything I (even now) think of as ''wrong reasons''. I did it because I was curious, and it was fun. I had and have very loving sexual relationships, and I have had more than my share of very casual encounters. I think most of the activities I engaged in would not have raised concerns had I been male, but because I'm female the expectation was that I would feel differently about sex.

I was always responsible about contraception and STDs. I felt that if I was old enough to have sex I was old enough to do so responsibly, and to do so in ways that were consistent with my personal moral code. My morals were and are quite different from my parents', as well as from my daughter, who is more conservative than I in this regard.

I've now been married for nearly two decades, hold an advanced degree, and am prominent in my field; my career has been very successful. I have no regrets about my past. Please don't make your daughter uphold your moral code. Let her define for herself what works for her. Tell her that she if she chooses to engage in adult activity then she needs to do so with the maturity of an adult, which in this case means practicing safe sex. At 16, she needs to make her own decisions. Turned out fine

16 yr old boy may become sexually active with girlfriend

March 2010

My 16 year old son has a girlfriend. They really like each other. We have all gone out to dinner and they are both openly affectionate in front of us. I do openly talk to my son about pregnancy, etc. I need suggestions regarding what to do to make sure if they do have sex that it is safe. How do I approach him without accusing him of having sex. When I was young and I moved to SF, my mom made sure that I had birth control pills (I was 20 and a good catholic girl). I was angry that she even thought that I would do such a thing. But now that I am older, I commend her on doing it, she was protecting me. So any suggestions/ideas would be helpful.

Dear thoughtful mom,
I am going to bet that your son and girlfriend are sexually active at least to some degree, and I think, since you have already broached the topic of pregnancy, that you should go ahead and talk about the relative merits of different kinds of birth control and ask if he and his girlfriend have spoken about this. It is really recommended that teens get into the habit of using condoms, though your son is in all likelihood monogamous if he is having intercourse at all, so it might not be as key as birth control (I think condoms by themselves are not adequate forms of birth control IMHO.) The condom of course has the advantage of being a form of BC (however unsatisfactory) that the male partner controls, and just using a condom shows care for one's partner, so it's not a bad practice for a young man to take up. The less weirdness and embarrassment around these topics the better -- it's staying silent and assuming that ''everything is OK'' or ''they know what they're doing'' that gets young people into real fixes. It sounds as if you are doing a great job avoiding a punitive or scary tone (despite the guilt-trips of your own past), so just keep the line of conversation open, urge your son to think about learning to use condoms in order to be prepared, urge him to talk to his girlfriend (if indeed they want to have sex; you're not forcing anyone...), and continue to create an atmosphere of respectful communication. in favor of enlightenment

I know just what you mean about teen outrage when your parent suspects you of doing something bad you don't do. You are also correct that teenage brains are often no match for teenage hormones. Your son must have birth control at hand at age 16, just in case. Buy him lubricated condoms immediately.

Some local public high schools have extensive required health classes that cover reproduction and sexual health. He may already know a lot-- or he may not. Feel free to have a quiet conversation with him along the lines of ''You're growing up, and as your parent I want to make sure you know what you need to know to be a loving, caring adult, father and husband.'' Ask him what he has thought he wants to do with his life, and what he would do if a girlfriend got pregnant. Share your own values too-- you never know, as a parent, if a message got through before. Yes, it will be extremely uncomfortable to talk about, but nobody ever died of embarrassment. Another Parent of Teen

Oh, my, the memories your post evokes!

First, may I commend you for thinking and behaving in such a sensible way; obviously your mother's intelligence and caring were passed down to the next generation.

Of course, short of locking your son up, there's no way to prevent his having sex with his girlfriend should they choose to do so. They can always find some spot, however uncomfortable. I realized that my self-willed 16-year-old daughter intended to have sex of six months after a rather odd conversation during which she tried to tell me that she had gotten a diaphragm prescription for her heavy periods! (Meaning, I guess, that she sort of wanted me to know what she was up to.)

After another odd conversation, I checked her top bureau drawer one afternoon when she was out with the boyfriend, found an open carton of condoms and an empty diaphragm box, and indulged in tears and quiet hysterics by myself for a couple of days. Then I left a letter in my daughter's room, writing that I knew she and her young man* were becoming very close and that if they did decide to start actually making love, I just wanted to reiterate a few things we had already discussed: i.e., deciding to have sex instead of its ''just happening,'' birth control precautions, where to get advice and free condoms, my wish for her to be a happy woman someday, which I knew included having a good sex life, etc. She was suspicious and somewhat angry about the letter, and denied any intention of becoming sexually active before college--I somehow kept a straight face!--but in time, like you, she realized that my intentions were positive, rather than bossy. In fact, when my daughter was 19, a little old for Easter baskets, I gave her a mock basket full of colored condoms and lubes from Good Vibrations, whereupon she got misty-eyed, hugged me, and then went online to tell her friends at university about the cool gift from her mom.

*Incidentally, they lasted another six months and are still casual friends, Facebooking and all that--better than I did with my first guy!

I'm sorry if this response seems self-congratulatory. My point is that you are on the right trail, and whether you write your son a letter, talk with him, or whatever, he may be embarrassed and irritated at first, but he will also appreciate knowing you approve of his growing up and all that entails.

Best wishes to you and your family. Anonymous

At a minimum, and right away, please cover the basics: put a large box (large enough that it will never be obvious when a few are taken away) of condoms in the bathroom or accessible cupboard, and keep it filled up; make sure some good sex-ed books are readily available in your house but not so obvious that they, or their absence, would be embarrassing (there are websites too of course, but searches for these too easily spill over into porn and advertising for my taste). You know your kid best, but in general I would say don't worry that these things might encourage sexual activity that wouldn't take place otherwise - in my experience as a teacher of teens, discreet parental involvement is more likely to have the opposite effect and encourage more self-consciousness and responsibility. And don't assume that evidence of use of the condoms or books means sexual activity - it could be just practicing, or passing on to other friends in need. Then, work on having good conversations! Lee

The only responsible position is to tell him that sexual intercourse of any kind, including oral sex, is an adult activity and he isn't an adult until he is 18.

Explain to him that exchanging bodily fluids with another person can be risky and lead to venereal disease and AIDs which kills millions of people each year around the world.

You can also tell him that the age of consent in CA is 18. That means that sex with someone under 18 is a crime. It may not get prosecuted unless one of the parties is over 18, but it is still a crime.

Nothing good can come from adolescents having sex. Sex should be part of a long-term monogamous relationship. By definition, teenagers, with so much of their life ahead of them, can't be in that kind of relationship. There is plenty of time to have sex when you are an adult.

When our kids (one boy and one girl) turned 13, we explained the above to them and told them if they have sex, do drugs, drink alcohol, sneak around, etc. before they are adults, then they are completely grounded (no driving, cell phone, electronics, dates, parties, or any unsupervised activity) until they are 18. One strike and you are out. We told them that once you are an adult, you can do what you want and face the consequences. But when you are underage, you are our responsibility and we set the rules. As they got access to all those things (driving, dates, cell phone, etc.) we repeated the above rule so they clearly understood the consequences of breaking our trust.

We explained that a safe way to relievie sexual tension is masturbation. We gave them a book on puberty (''What's Happening to My Body'' book (one for girls and one for boys) by Lynda Madaras & Area Madaras) that discusses how their bodies are changing and covers masturbation. We told them it is okay to wait until you are married to have sex and just because everyone else seems to be doing it, doesn't mean it is a good thing to do.

We also took time to explain how birth control methods work, but we told them they shouldn't need them because they shouldn't be having sex. We showed them a condom but we didn't give them one. Parent of teenagers

When I suspected that my daughter was going to be sexually active with her boyfriend, I was fortunate enough to be able to call and have a great conversation with the boy's mom. She agreed to have a talk with him...but my daughter also got a nuvaring. relieved mom

I think this is a really good sex ed site for teens: send him the link in an email or facebook message and he can check it out on his own.

I went the route of providing condoms, starting well before I thought he really needed them. Rather than leave them in a central location as others have suggested, I just put them in his room. Bought them fairly regularly once I thought he was sexually active. When he moved out there weren't any full boxes or large stockpiles in his room, so they got used!

One time my husband handed him a box and he said, ''Dad, I don't need these, the girls always have condoms.'' While I was glad to hear that the girls are prepared, I think the boys should be prepared too! best wishes

I am a nurse practitioner in San Francisco and work with 12 to 18 year olds. Most importantly, sexuality is a normal, healthy developmental process that begins well before the age of 18. Having a consensual sexual relationship under the age of 18 in California is not a crime. Consensual meaning not coerced, or exploitative in any way. For example a 14 year old can have consensual sex with a 20 year old, and it is not a crime, but it is reportable at 21, and a 16 year old can have sex with a person 18 or older. For a 15 year old the cut off is 10 years older. You can reference this info at KW

Hi, I work at the National Center for Youth Law, and our website and materials were referenced in a post in the March 19th newsletter. So I wanted to write in and clarify something. The poster who referred to our materials said ''Having a consensual sexual relationship under the age of 18 in California is not a crime.'' In fact, that is not the case. It is illegal. It is a crime for anyone to have sex with someone under age 18, and this holds true even if the sexual partner of the teen is also under age 18. So two teens having sex with each other are each committing a crime against the other one in California. (check California Penal Code 261.5.)

Now, of course, studies show that the majority of teens do have sex before they leave high school. And the majority of high schoolers are not on probation or going to college with criminal records. So obviously, this is not a law that the police are strictly enforcing everywhere. (They do in some places!) But the law does scare teens and parents. So it's important to know that even though the activity is illegal, the law allows teens to get reproductive health care and advice about sex from a health care provider, AND the health care provider has to keep that information confidential. They certainly aren't allowed to tell the police! In fact, the only time the health care provider can share that information with anyone else is when the teen agrees to let the health care provider tell someone, or when a child abuse report is required by law. A child abuse report would be required (1) if the provider were concerned that the sexual activity was in fact not consensual or was in any other way abusive, or (2) when the two sexual partners were not close in age. The age differences that trigger child abuse reporting are strictly set out in California law. Information about those age differences and what must be reported as child abuse is available on the youthlaw website. So in response to the original question, even though sexual activity between minors is illegal, a youth should feel confident seeking health care and advice about sexuality and sex from a health care provider. The provider can't ''turn them in'' except in cases of abuse. National Center for Youth Law

RE: Nurse Practitioner's comments
I agree that sexuality is a normal healthy development that begins well before 18. My point is that nothing good can come from adolescents having sexual intercourse. The proper outlet for sexual feelings by adolescents is masturbation rather than intercourse.

To teenagers, lots of things are enticing; alcohol and drugs for instance. It is a natural part of development. That doesn't mean we should encourage it. Sexuality is the same thing. Our children are looking to us for direction. We need to teach them that just because something feels good at the time doesn't mean it is healthy. Set high standards.

I have to strongly disagree that a 14 year old can have consensual sex with a 20 year old. Here is a link the California Penal Code (SECTION 261-269):

261.5. (a) Unlawful sexual intercourse is an act of sexual intercourse accomplished with a person who is not the spouse of the perpetrator, if the person is a minor. For the purposes of this section, a ''minor'' is a person under the age of 18 years and an ''adult'' is a person who is at least 18 years of age. (b) Any person who engages in an act of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor who is not more than three years older or three years younger than the perpetrator, is guilty of a misdemeanor. (c) Any person who engages in an act of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor who is more than three years younger than the perpetrator is guilty of either a misdemeanor or a felony, and shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by imprisonment in the state prison.

It is clear from this that having sex with a minor (someone under 18) is a crime regardless of how old you are.

Read Section (b): If you are 16 and you have sexual intercourse with a 16 year old, you are both guilty of a misdemeanor.

Section (c) says: If you are more than three years older it is a misdemeanor or a felony. So sex between a 20 year old and a 14 year old is a crime.

Just because it isn't prosecuted, doesn't mean it isn't a crime. Parent of Teens


I don't know where the nurse practitioner but the information is NOT CORRECT. (Sorry for the caps, but you need to know the truth.

''Having a consensual sexual relationship under the age of 18 in California is not a crime.''

IT IS A CRIME and it called STATUATORY RAPE even if the sex is consensual. There are 18 and 19 year olds in state prison who will have to register themselves as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.

This following is also is NOT CORRECT ''For example a 14 year old can have consensual sex with a 20 year old, and it is not a crime, but it is reportable at 21, and a 16 year old can have sex with a person 18 or older. For a 15 year old the cut off is 10 years older.'' It IS a CRIME, it's called STATUTAROY RAPE.

I am a teacher at a Bay Area school. One of my students is going to state prison (not county jail) for having consensual sex with a minor. The person who reported this to law enforcement was the family doctor. Two police departments investigated are and recommend against prosecuting. The DA did not follow the investigators recommendations and prosecuted and won in getting a conviction.

In talking to other teachers I'm learning DA are prosecuting these cases. I know of two 18 year olds and one 19 year old in state prison for having consensual sex with their 17 year old girl friends. (The couple split and the girl in retaliation for breaking up went to the DA and charges were filed.

My student who was convicted told me Alameda County and Contra Costa DAs have a near zero tolerance and go for harsh punishments and convictions are easy to get. If you Goolge you can find a PowerPoint presentation given by a DA who was boosting about the convictions his department was able to obtain. - ANON

A previous poster stated that ''having a consensual sexual relationship under the age of 18 in California is not a crime.'' To the best of my ability to determine, this is not actually true. California Penal Code Section 261.5 provides that sexual intercourse with anyone under the age of 18 is at least a misdemeanor; if there is more than a 3-year age gap between the parties, it may be a felony, even if both of them are minors. Sexual contact that does not include ''traditional'' heterosexual intercourse can be even more harshly punished, for some reason, pursuant to California Penal Code Section 288a (oral sex) or California Penal Code Section 286 (sodomy).

I'm not a criminal attorney, but this is the content of the above-referenced laws. I'd think that any sexually-active teenager would want to know that consent is not relevant to these particular laws, and that sexual activity under the age of 18 involves legal risk under all circumstances. Kathleen

What thoughtful replies, and I stand corrected. However, remember it is also against the law for a health provider to break confidentiality and report sexual activity within the boundaries of the poster from the youth law center that I referenced. Remember that over the age of 12 young people can access confidential sensitive services for birth control, treatment of STDs, and abortions. If young people access these services they are, generally speaking, having sex with someone. I have also reported when sexual activity was occurring that is reportable. I have only once in the 15 years I have worked with youth in this capacity had a person go to jail for sexual activity with a minor and it was the 35 year old step father having a relationship with his step daughter. Perhaps this law is applied unevenly, I do not know. I also must say that I disagree that alcohol and drugs are part of human development in the way that sexual health is, but that is just my opinion. And, yes, of course we should set high standards for our young people. I appreciate the energy and interest that went into all your replies. KW

Considering Statutory Rape Charges

May 2009

I found out recently that my daughter (who just turned 18 last week) had been having a sexual relationship with a 40 year old guy since her 17th birthday. We know this guy, but did not know the nature of their relationship since they were both lying to us about it (not that we didn't worry about it - we even sat them both down and had a heart to heart about our fears about a year ago) My daughter and this guy met through going to the same recovery meetings - they are both addicts - but have been clean and sober for the most part (he has been clean for over 8 years, she was for 2 years and then had 2 one day relapses recently). My daughter now identifies as a sex and love addict in addition to substances. He also had sex with her best friend who is about a year younger. My daughter no longer has contact with him and he has admitted to what he did, but he has moved and changed his phone number. Please share any experiences with going through this kind of situation with your teen and with the legal outcome - thanks anon

As an outsider and a lawyer who practices criminal law reading about this, it is very obvious that this man is a predator. The fact that you already know of another victim should tell you that your daughter is not the only victim, and he will continue to find other victims. Furthermore, the fact that he has moved and changed his phone number once you discovered the facts means that he is covering his tracks, so that he can continue his criminal behavior. Finally, the fact that your daughter says she no longer has contact with him may or may not be true, given the history of deception in their relationship. You need to immediately go to the police and have your daughter file a report so that they can locate and stop this man before he victimizes more young women. And of course, your daughter needs your support and therapy. Anonymous

Thank you for your input regarding my post. My daughter does not want to press charges, but I have proceeded with doing that myself. I have also let the police know about the other victim. It has been frustrating to have this go on so long - how hard can it be to get an arrest warrant?

Don't ask, don't tell policy for teen sex at home?

Oct 2007

Our 15 yo daughter and her 15 yo boyfriend began having sex recently. They have a strong relationship, mutually caring and have been together for eight months. We were shocked at first, then concerned about pregnanacy, health, etc., but they have been responsible in these matters. She is now on the pill and they apparently also use condoms. We know they are young and we would have preferred they waited. But they didn't and they are happy with their decision. We have talked with our daughter at length about all the issues involved, the way sex intensifies everything, the need to always feel a sense of choice, etc.

Our dilemma now is about where they have sex. Both we and his parents have an open-door-to-the-room policy and we've told her we aren't comfortable with their being sexual in our house, but we know they have occasionally done so. My husband and I now disagree about this and I would like other opinions. One of us advocates a don't ask/don't tell policy about sex at home, the other believes we should hold firm. The problem is where they will go otherwise. Not old enough to drive, that only leaves other people's houses or worse, a park or such. Would it be better to have them be a little freer, but discreet, at home? Or to keep this limit.
Anonymous, to protect her privacy

I'm sure you will receive many different opinions in response. The one thing I think important is that if you decide to adopt the don't ask don't tell policy (which I would likely do, given their responsibility and lack of other places to do so) is to make it clear that you've weighed it a lot and changed the policy. This reflects your taking the matter seriously, and doesn't collude with rule-breaking, but rather changes the rules. anon

Good for you that you were open enough-didn't freak out-to the extent that your daughter's on birth control and using condoms. That said, I have three teenage daughters and I would not feel comfortable with their having sex in my home. I would do what you did-make sure they got on b/c and had plenty of condoms-but I would need to stick with my core values, those being a 15-year-old is in no way emotionally prepared for a sexual relationship and I would not condone her behavior by allowing her to have sex in my home. Where they do it is their problem-why make it easy for them? There will probably be times they still have sex in your home, like when you're at work or out to dinner, etc. Why allow them free access-especially if you disagree with their choice. No judgement here-I believe our generation of parents try too hard to be our children's ''friend.'' We parents need to set rules and boundaries and stick with them-that's how children feel safe and learn how to maneuver in the world. Good luck! Mother of 3 teenage daughters...

This sounds like quite a dilemma. Maybe you and your hubby could spend some time talking with each other about why on the one hand you think is ok for them to have sex but one the other hand feel uncomfortable with the kids having sex at home. That inconsistency sounds like the heart of the problem here as opposed to ''where'' they have sex.

There is a lot to consider and every family is different. I have to congratulate your teens on being responsible enough to use protection and you for being an available parent. That is so great.

But getting clear on your boundaries and the agenda driving those boundaries is crucial. If you and your hubby are confused chances are your teens will be confused too and that could invite problems and conflicts that no one has considered yet.

You might even want to involve your teens in an open and honest discussion about your dilemma. Have them take some responsibility for finding a solution. Being part of the solution will help them to adhere to any agreement you guys make. They are part of the family and should be responsible for their part in contributing to the health and well being of the family. It's also important that they understand that the choices they make impact other people.

There is an excellent website regarding the topic of teen sex. They have a ''Readiness Checklist'' that is really good.... When my older son and his girlfriend were getting ready to have sex for the first time...BC, checkups etc...they came to me and said they had everything ready to go. My son even talked to her parents letting them know that he was planning to have sex with her. ( her dad was less than pleased) The teens had decided to wait until both were 18. When the time arrived I printed out the scarleteen readiness checklist for them and asked them to carefully consider all the issues that could arise...including where they would have sex and how they might feel if a younger sibling or other family member were to walk in on them accidentally...(''Physical Items'' on the checklist doesn't say this specifically but definitely inspired the question ahead of time) They came back to my husband and I and said they had changed their minds and decided not to go through with it.

I was supportive no matter what their decision and even though they opted to not have intercourse they did a lot of fooling around. They did that here with the bedroom door closed. Like you...we also had an open door policy when our kids were younger but in this case...both my teen and his girlfriend were 18. That was my personal boundary. Yours might be different.

And yes, I was uncomfortable however that was because it was my kid. Just a natural thing that I sort of expected. I am 100% supportive of my teens emerging sexuality but I grappled with how to handle one kid being sexually active and maintaining an age appropriate boundary with the other one simultaneously. Really the only way we were able to do it successfully was for all of us to engage in an open discussion about all of these things. It was really great and we got to hear perspectives from our kids that we didn't know they held.

I realize that your 15 year old and partner are already having sex but that doesn't mean that they are not beholden to how that decision is impacting the families. And by no means is the discussion over. In fact it is just getting started. They are really lucky to have parents like you to go to. Maybe the checklist or just the website will help you in your conversations with your hubby and the teens. If I think of any other resources to send along I will.

Would love to hear how it goes. good luck! renee

Last year I was in the same exact position that you are in. After fussing over it with my daughter, I decided or rather just passively allowed her to be with her boyfriend at the house when I wasn't there. I guess it could be termed: ''don't ask/don't tell. I started to feel sorry for them with no place to go. As part of her arguement, she said, ''if it was my daughter, I would rather she be in a safe, clean place.''! That struck a chord...

Another thing is that I'm single and don't have to come to any compromise with a partner. I suppose that would be harder...

They broke up after 10 months of being together. I think the fact that they had been sexually active made it harder because they had made that stronger connection. She has survived it though. Good luck. anon

Let them have sex in your home with a don't ask don't tell policy. Sex is wonderful and biologically and emotionally at 15 they are more than ready for it even though our ridiculously puritanical society led by crazies like the Bush regime would have us believe otherwise. The more healthy protected sex they get the better. Don't put a double standard on your daughter. She is as ready as her boyfriend is for sex. sean

I applaud you for being open with your teen about her sexual activity. I strongly urge you to allow her to close her door at this point, and be sexual in your house. The only reason for leaving the door open is for the parents' comfort. You are right that they will find a way to be sexual elsewhere--likely somewhere much less safe than your own home. If what you hope for for your daughter is a healthy attitude toward her sexuality, then it can only help to model for her that it is a normal, healthy part of life.

In Sweden, I believe it is, there is an incredibly low rate of teen pregnancy and STDs, and very high condom use. I remember seeing a poll of parents, a surprisingly high percentage of whom said they would allow their teen's partner to spend the night in their home. I think there's a connection between letting sex be something that is openly discussed and seen as healthy and practicing safer sex. another parent

My husband and I also felt conflicted about our 16/17 year old son and his girlfriend having sex at our house- like you we knew they were having sex and were being responsible about it and we didn't like the idea of them having sex elsewhere (ie the park or someone else's home). Though her parents helped her get birth control and knew they were sexually active they did not allow any sexual activity at their house. We basically turned a blind eye to activity at our house with a don't ask/don't tell policy. I don't know if we would be as liberal with our daughter who so far doesn't have a boyfriend- it would definitely be harder for me to condone. My son and his girlfriend have since broken up and I don't think that it was a mistake to let them be intimate here. However,I think his girlfriend was hurt far more deeply when they broke up because the sexual intimacy made her feel they would be together maybe even forever. best of luck with these challenging times! teen mom

Worried that my teen sister is having unsafe sex

June 2007

Hi all, I have a concern. I'm an older sister (22) of a 15 year old high school sophomore. I often keep tabs on her to find out what she's up to and as expected, she opens up to me a great deal more than to my parents. She has been having a relationship with a boy a year older than her. He is a high school drop out, works full time, has his own new (fancy car), which is part of the reason I think she's attracted to him. It's mostly a phone relationship, but they meet up on the weekends; she gives excuses to my parents that she's going to the movies with friends, or that they are going to a theme park, but of course when they have the whole day and night to hang out- a lot more goes on.

After questioning her, she admitted that they have had sex several times. Recently, I suggested, or rather demanded, that she get tested for STD's. During this conversation, it came out that she has had sex with this same boyfriend once-unprotected! I was VERY shocked because she is an otherwise smart girl. I explained to her why this is an extremely dangerous thing to do- that my boyfriend and I of 4 years, college graduates, don't even risk having unprotected sex- the risks far outweigh any pleasures, etc. She cried, apologized (I think she was embarrassed), and apparently this lead her and her boyfriend to have a conversation which resulted in a decision to stop having sex and for him to get tested as well. She tested for pregnancy- negative- thank God!

I'm convinced that this boy is not responsible, and will not go get tested on his own or with my younger sisters nagging. He is controlling and for many reasons, (not in school, etc), I do not approve of their relationship at all. Since I am not her parents, I really cannot stop this relationship. Here is my question for all you wise parents! Would it be inappropriate for me, (with my sister's permission), to either in person or over the phone, have a discussion where I express the importance for him to go get tested! I think as a parent, this is what I would do. I'm going to say, ''If you respect and love my sister, you will realize the importance of getting tested- and go''. If I don't have this conversation, I think his ego is going to get in the way and he is not going to go! What would you do as the older sibling acting in a parent-like situation? By the way, I have all the resources for them to go to, where it's anonymous, where's it's free- he has a car so transportation is clearly not the issue... Thanks so much! concerned sister

you are the most excellent sister! i'm sure i'm not the only mom wishing a teen had such a great and trustworthy resource.

you cannot stop this relationship. even parents have only limited control over a relationship like this, and overt efforts to stop it will often backfire. what you can do is inform and facilitate -- give your sister the means to stay safer. and that is what you are doing.

as a sister, not a parent, you are the ideal person to talk to this boy and try to get him to be tested. even if he can drive, i agree that he won't do it on his own. it is really important for your sister's safety, and also for him to start taking responsibility as a human.

if he refuses despite you spending the time to talk to him, arranging a confidential and free examination, etc. -- that tells your sister something about him, doesn't it? he cares about his car; doesn't he care about her health?

she is very lucky to have you. pregnancy is not the only concern. there are so many STD's, and some are lifelong. [if she hasn't gotten the HPV vaccine, she should.] and then there is the emotional part, the maturity part.

the fact he is controlling is disturbing -- she is very vulnerable emotionally at this age, and when a boyfriend is controlling, that is often a sign that things will only get worse in time. controlling behavior is a good predictor of abusive behavior.

what's that saying? sh*t rolls downhill? an immature high school dropout with a high view of the importance of his car is someone who might not be kind to his girlfriend if anything else at all goes wrong in his life. not saying that is the case, but his willingness [or lack thereof] to protect her from disease may give her some clues about whether he is good for her to have around.

best to you and your sister. anonymom

First of all, your sister is so lucky to have you in her life. Not only are you world-wise, you clearly care about her well-being. You also don't carry the baggage that a parent does when advising her about her life -- I doubt that she feels controlled by you, or suspicious of your motivations for promoting safe sex.

YES, you should get involved, call her boyfriend and tell him what you stated in your post. I would bet that he will listen to you, a cool young adult, far more than he would listen to your or his parents. You have the potential to influence this situation more than anyone else could; use that power.

And from all of us parents of teens out there: thank you for being wise and caring. Grateful Mom

It sounds as if this guy is just plain bad news. No, there's no point going and talking to him. Your sister has already done so, and he isn't doing it for her. So why would he do it for you. The good thing here is that your sister is getting to see his irresponsibility up close and personal -- worth a thousand words from you. What you should do is get your sister to get tested. lauowolf

You are a good big sister, being so concerned for your little sis! A couple of things struck me reading your posting. One is do you know this boy, have you met him? Just because he is a high school drop-out doesn't mean he's a bad person or that he has STDs. He actually sounds fairly responsible holding a full-time job and being able to pay for and maintain a car at age 16! (Though what can he be doing at 16 to afford a new fancy car, I can't at 45!) I think 15 is a little young to have sex, but I would worry more if your sister was having sex with LOTS of boys. She's not though, seems like they are a couple and do things together (besides have sex), and that is the best possible scenario. The fact that she's afraid to talk to your parents is a little worrysome. What do you think she thinks they will do? Have they banned dating until she's a certain age? Then that will take more negotiating on her part and maybe you can be there with her when she talks to your parents as moral support. Unprotected sex is not good. I wouldn't hesitate to meet him and talk to him and tell him to always use condoms, you don't want a pregnant sister and that you and your parents would be VERY mad. Also, explain to him that even though he may not think he has caught anything from someone else, you never know, and that symptoms show up in men way before they do in women. She could have some infection that could ruin her chances of having children in the future if it's left too long. So, for her sake he should use a condom. It's really doubtful that they will stop having sex altogether if they've already started, you can at least give her some condoms so she will be prepared in case he says he doesn't have any. You say he is controlling, that can be a problem. When you meet him (I'm assuming that you will), also ask him about his plans and why he dropped out of school, you can bridge that into your sister's plans to stay in school and possibly go to college and he needs to support her in that not get in the way. That's a healthy relationship. You can also mention that the fact that he's not in school is one of the reasons why she doesn't want to tell her parents about him, and lying to them is not good for her. Maybe he can demonstrate to everyone that he is a good guy and not going to drag her down.

This is all very optimistic and hypothetical, of course. If he is dragging her down, she's got to make a change. If it gets really bad and she's out of control, you should tell your parents about what's going on.

I guess for me the sex isn't the worst of it. It's the quality of their relationship and if she's taking care of her business (school, maintaining a good relationship with her family and friends, etc.) then it seems okay.

Good Luck! mom of a 16 year old girl

I think it's wonderful that your sister has you to watch out for her. So many young people don't have others that they trust and can turn to when it comes to issues relating to sex.

You are right, however, as you are not her parent, but a sibling, it is inappropriate for you to call the boyfriend. (Even if you were her parent I'm not sure you should go that far. But that's a different angle....) Anyway, it's important that she can turn to you as a sister, and you would cross that line if you made the call, I think. I have an older sister who has tried to be more of a parent to me over the years, and basically we no longer speak. My point is, your job as her sister is to be supportive, give advice and hope that she takes it and not judge her if she doesn't. It's not your place to ''approve'' or disapprove'' of her choices in relationships. Certainly you can dislike the guy, but the point is, it's her choice.

I am a step-parent of a girl the same age as your sister. I know for a fact she is having sex, and have come out and point blank asked her about it. She has denied it. So with that I responded, ''well, if you are not having sex now, you will be soon and you need to be protected.'' I have offered to take her to get birth control, and so far she has declined. It pains me to think she is out there having unprotected sex, but I know I have done everything I can to help her. If something happens, it will be her responsibility. And if need be, than I will do what I can for her then. (Btw, I told her that just because I wanted to help her, didn't mean I ''approved'' of her having sex, but I knew she would do it anyway, with or without my ''approval'' so I wanted her to be protected...and yes, I can approve/disapprove since I am in the parental role...)

At any rate, part of the reason these teenage years are so hard on us parents is because this is the time our children are seperating from us and becoming their own autonomous beings. We hate to see them make mistakes, and more than that we hate to see them suffer the consequences. But how will they ever learn to grow and be functioning adults that can take care of themselves (and not always be taken care of by well-meaning others) if we dont't let them?

Please, please back off and be to her what she needs, a loving, supportive sister that will be there for her no matter what happens. Know that you've done what you can, and also know that if something does happen, she'll turn to you b/c she trusts you. Do you want to risk losing that?
No more sister that wanted to be my mother

Hi, I know you are concerned (rightfully) about your younger sister - but as a parent, friend or sister - your ''parental'' style concern will only alienate her - she obviously cares about what you think - so you have to think long term - ''what are the life skills you want your sister to have?''

As a young woman, you want her to ''learn to see for herself'' what kind of guy she is dating. Not have a parent or older sis tell her she is doing the wrong thing, or intervene - show her you have faith in her to make the right decision, let her know you love and care, and that you are concerned this isn't the ''best'' for her - she deserves better and the choices she is making have long- term consequences. Share stories about how you or your close friends screwed up and dated the wrong guy...and how you were able to ''see the light'' or ''make a decision'' about how you wanted to be treated and what you deserved.

Then you have to sit back and hold tight - some people learn right away, others keep walking into the same wall..

I don't find it shocking that she didn't use protection, I didnt, and neither did most of my friends with their first or first few boyfriends and we are well educated etc...access, etc were issues. even into the college years...!

while kids these days certainly seem to do things earlier, they also seem to negotiate a bit more about the safe sex thing too - so make sure she has access to condoms and take her to a gyn!
every young woman needs more self esteem and long term life skills!

Son's sexually active girlfriend - tell him I know?

May 2007

I found out that my 15-yr-old son's girlfriend was sexually active with her former boyfriend. She and my son haven't been together long, so I am confident that they haven't had sex (yet?) but I am not sure how to approach my son about this. I've already talked to him about being respectful of her boundaries, her family, etc. and not doing anything you might regret, etc. etc. But, maybe I need to be more specific? I don't know if he knows, for one thing. And I found out from a friend - the parent of one of her friends. Anyway...what to do?
concerned parent

I'm sure you'll get a wide range of good advice. Personally, I would not talk about your son's GF's history- no one likes to be gossiped about. You don't want your son to think you're a gossip. And what if your information is wrong? Each teen comes from a different place, and is a different person, but they have to grow up and learn to make their own decisions eventually. Maybe GF made a mistake and doesn't want to be sexually active any more-- your telling your son about it wouldn't help her. But don't downplay the very real physical, legal and emotional consequences of some possible bad choices.

Here's my all-purpose speech: ''I don't approve of [teen drinking/experimenting with drugs/ditching school/smoking/sexual activity] and I don't want you to do it. For one thing, it's unhealthy because [your body's still developing/ it could have a worse effect on your future than you know/it gets you into bad habits/etc.]. However, if you're going to do it anyway, don't be stupid! [Followed by sound advice in short sentences, such as: ''If you're going to drink alcohol, always drink with food. No more than one drink an hour. Never get in a car if you or anyone in the car has been drinking. Don't drink when you're sad-- it's a poor long-term solution.'']. Be explicit about behavior for which you have zero tolerance [''Do not steal family liquor.''] Best of luck

I think you need to take a step back, I know this is your son, but you are talking about spreading gossip about a 15 year old girl's sexual behaviour. This information may be true, BUT it is just as likely to be untrue.

Have a conversation with your son about safe sex, responsible sex and being ready for sex or leave some literature for him to find...but don't tell him you ''heard'' his girlfriend had sex with her last boyfriend. don't spread gossip

hi, I think telling him you know seems gossipy. It tells him that his and her life are the topic of adult gossip and that seems like you will lose respect as a parent from the kid point of view. Keep talking with him about his relationship, there is no way of knowing what they have or haven't done. But you can make sure he has the right information - I gave my son the ''our bodies'' book when he turned 14 (it was the right time for him) and sure glad I did!

As much as it is important to talk about the physical stuff, also keep talking about the emotional part. I told my son that once they went there, it would be harder to break up because of the emotional/hormonal bonds that form...and that he was always to be aware of what her and his boundaries were.

In general it seems his group of friends all talk about it openly. Few of them just ''do it'' without first talking about it first, even though it's too early to be doing it any way as an old fogie now! but we all did too...and one couple recently broke up because she didn't want to go there and the boy thought they were ready - all very interesting!

anyhow, good luck. it is a weird point in the parent/teen relationship but very important to not get weirded out in front of him and let him know you have been there too. inevitable!!!

Found morning after pill, sex books in 14-year-old's room

July 2005

I'm sure many parents have gone through this, and we'd like to hear from them. Yesterday I was cleaning my daughter's room so my Dad could use it -- he's visiting while she's away at camp. I ran across a bag that had birth control patches and an empty plastic bag that had her name on it and, from the label, it had had a morning after pill in it. I have never snooped in her room, and wasn't snooping then -- I just wanted to see if the contents of the bag should be kept or tossed. But hey, maybe snooping is under-rated. I also found a couple of diary-like notes scattered around, and some very graphic sex books. The notes indicate her feelings about a boy, and one of them refers to an incident of stealing with some friends not long ago. This puts in perspective some things that have been going on. She just finished her freshman year and has pulled away from us dramatically this year, especially the last few months, and especially me (Mom). She cut a lot of school, and seemed to give up the last couple of months. At one point about 3 months ago (maybe near the time of the date on the pill package)there was an incident where she was really upset about something and went over to a friends house. She and the friend went out in the park to talk. It was late and I wanted her to come home. I ended up talking to her friend on the cell phone and the friend indicated she was concerned my daughter was going to ''hurt herself''. She wanted to spend the night at the friend's, but I said no. Also around this same time my daughter said she was cutting because she was having some problems. I couldn't imagine that any problems a 14 year old was having could be that serious, and felt I was being minipulated by the suicide threat. At the time, it didn't occur to me to probe, I knew she wasn't suicidal, but maybe some judicious questions would have helped open the situation up. You can see that we've got some issues to deal with here. My husband and I are upset, but also feeling sad that she's apparently dealing with some heavy stuff all alone (or at least without adult guidance). We're glad we have a week or so while she's gone to process our own feelings and seek some advice. I also feel sad that our relationship has been such that she couldn't talk to me. I tend to be fairly tough, but definitely have it in me to deal with her on other levels. The thing is that we actually don't know what's going on and of course we need to find that out first. We're prepared to set limits and become more involved with her school work -- which we were already going to do. We also want to establish some channels of communication -- lately it's seemed like she was more accessible -- and keep them open. We're just not sure exactly how or what, or how much. My initial reaction was to come down on her ''like a ton of bricks'', as my husband says. But probably that would only serve to further alienate her and that is definitely not what I want to happen. Well, I'm just blabbing on now, I'm so agitated by all this. Until we have more information(e.g. was the morning after pill actually for her?)it probably doesn't make sense to talk about specific consequences. We're certainly thinking along the lines of changing our work schedules to be home earlier, not allowing friends at the house when we're not here (perhaps only boys). We already keep pretty good tabs on where she is and when she's coming back, but could probably tighten up. As with many teens these days she dresses somewhat skimpily, and I've always thought it was counter-productive for parents to rag on kids about what they wear, but maybe I'm wrong -- what kind of message does she want to send, what kind of reputation does she want to have? Anyway -- that's pretty much it. We'd appreciate hearing from anyone who has gone through something similar about how you approached it, what worked, and what didn't. Thanks very much. concerned parent

My daughter and I went through a very similar situation when she was 14 (although less sex and more drugs). I would be happy to communicate with you about this privately as now that she's through it and we've moved to a new town, I don't think she needs this story out on the internet. Be strong. It does get better. My daughter is a complete joy to me now, eighteen months since the disaster hit. Our relationship is a lot stronger too.

To the mother of the 14-year-old: I'm a mother too, but your message sounded like something my mother might have written about me 30 years ago. While I understand your distress, try to see your daughter's side. Her behavior is normal (not ideal, but normal). Being a teenager means finding a separate identity from your parents. It means trusting your peers more than your parents. And teenagers are full of hormones that make them want to experiment with sex. Frankly, if she wants to have sex, none of the measures you take will stop her. (My parents were extremely overprotective, and it didn't stop me. It only made me determined to outwit them.) So you can try two approaches: convince her that she doesn't want to have sex yet, and make sure that when she does have sex she is careful about her choice of partners and always uses a condom, even with other forms of birth control.

The good news is that if she left birth control materials where you could find them, she probably wants to discuss this with you.

If you want her to listen, you'll have to a talk to her like an adult, with respect. Discuss your values and your concerns for her. But recognize that she may have different values at this point. You may feel that pre-marital sex is wrong, but if she doesn't agree, you'll have to find other points that matter to her. As a teenager, I felt (rightly or wrongly) that I could control the obvious consequences of sex, like pregnancy or disease. I felt I was ready for adult experiences, and that my parents underestimated me. Your daughter is more likely to listen if you share your own discoveries, like, ''Sex is good and important and so much better in a committed, mature relationship. First-time experiences are powerful, so don't waste them. The longer you delay gratification, the greater the fireworks. Your peers will respect you for taking control of your sexual destiny and choosing to wait. Practice on the emotional aspects of relationships before adding the overwhelming complications of sex.'' I'd also advise my daughter that a few years of solo practice with her own body will make her later relationships more satisfying, because she will be able to tell her partners what pleases her. You were right, don't waste your time arguing about her choice of clothes. Fashion has nothing to do with this. Good luck! Been there

Hello, my daughter went through a similar time. When a child is talking about hurting themselves, they are saying they are overwhelmed. Overwhelm means they are trying to handle too much. They, of course, don't know this because they are simultaneously trying to grow up.

''Coming down like a load of bricks'' is heavy. The hardest thing for me was to deal with my stress and worry and try to communicate with neutral, supportive, yet very clear limits. Ultimately, we found that teaching our daughter that our ability to trust her and more importantly give her her freedom was based on her ability to be truthful and forthcoming. We had to pull back her freedom until she could teach us that she was able to deal with relationships without overwhelming herself and making us afraid. In addition, she got into therapy (suicidal voicings are a sign of a need for support, and we, her parents, could not provide all that she needed as she was trying to individuate as well). We got into a parents group at kaiser which we found really helpful and gave us more tools. She later informed us that we had never said to her ''NO sex'' As a couple of people who have tried to lighten up some of the sexual repression we felt growing up, this was news. Clear boundaries...really knowing what we feel ready for and communicating that....all very important. She is doing so much better now.

Your note reads like a primer on ''When to Snoop''. In your case snooping is not only underrated, but seriously overdue. YOU are all that stands between your 14 year-old and a world that (at best) wants her to ''grow-up'' much too fast, and (at worst) may actually end up killing her.

In your place I would have already taken her room apart and read every piece of paper with her handwriting on it, and whatever else I could find. By the time she returned from camp, I would have gathered all the clues to what's going on and put them on her bed with a note saying ''Lets talk, NOW.''

Look at what you know without snooping...You know that she ''may'' be sexually active and is upset over a relationship. You know that she's doing poorly in school and is withdrawing from her family. You know that she cuts herself; that she thinks about suicide and has at least one friend more concerned about her than you were.

You know that she's not coming to you with these problems -- maybe because you ARE being so careful not to snoop, or impose on her, or even let her know how sad you are that her childhood is being taken from her too soon. Your letter is full of thoughtful, benefit of the doubt, logical, cool- headed thinking....

I'm urging you to become passionately involved. Be honest with her. Be angry and upset, and sad and confused...whatever you really are. Maybe you'll overstep a boundary here or there, or make a wrong assumption, or look like a fool sometimes. Your willingness to look like a fool is a gift you give your child.

Maybe you'll create friction for awhile... but friction is a sign of closeness. You have to actually ''care'' to be upset, to risk being uncool, to risk having other kids complain about how ''strict'' you are. No, she probably won't thank you for it later --- but, she'll be alive, healthy, and in a saner environment with or without expressing her gratitude to you. That's enough, right? Good luck.
A Ferocious Mama Bear

Dear concerned parent, i wanted to reach out to you and share my sympathy and concern for your daughter. i think it's so hard to remember what it was like at their age, and how different things may or may not be these days.

my best friend became pregnant at 14 and had an abortion. had i not had that experience, i might be more naive, but i know for a fact that it happens and it happens to very good kids. we've been best friends since elementary (3rd grade), we went to great public schools, grew up a few blocks from each other. the main differences between she and i were: 1) she's more rebellious than i am 2) her parents did not pay as much attention to her and when they did it was critical or superficial.

we were both in honors classes up until high school. the summer before high school, she met a boy - much much older (had just graduated high school!) and it was the end of the road for her in many ways. she ditched, she started having sex, she lied to her parents and ran away a few times.

she and i both think she craved some attention from her mother, but only found negative means to gaining it. she also resented her mom for being critical and unsupportive - which justified (in her mind) her rebellion - running away, lies all which hurt her mom's feelings. i'm not trying to blame you for anything you may or may not have done. a lot of it was her personality.

but what i can say is, be accepting. don't ask her if the morning after pill was hers or not. or if the pills were hers or not. i'd just assume she was either sexually active or REALLY thinking about it and at least she is thinking about birth control (sorry if that doesn't mesh w/ your values). get her some resources - like the book, ''our bodies ourselves'' which has great, accurate information about sex for teens.

i think her reading books w/ sex in them is soo normal. my sister and i started that in junior high - it's the only way some of us learn anything about sex at all - whether it be distorted or not. share stories with her about your first sexual encounters or that of your girlfriends - fantasy and reality are two different things. and whatever you do - share your values but don't be judgemental.

something is going on w/ her and she doesn't think you will understand what that is. that's ok and a normal reaction. but take the negative energy away from it. tell her 10 times you love her more than the times you ask her where she's going or what she's doing. then she will come to you and talk/share. good luck to you. this is the rough part huh?
heart goes out to you

I have been going through similar issues that you mention in your posting with my 14-year-old. Loss of interest in school at the end of the year, depression, cutting, and suicidal thoughts. I have some suggestions to your specifics. If your daughter is threatening suicide take it seriously. Maybe she won't actually try it but it means that she is really upset and needs help. If she's cutting, take it seriously, it's a way that they internalize their feelings. Support could be in the form of talk therapy. You might bring it up to her, saying that you know she's been feeling upset and if she doesn't want to talk to you about it then how about finding her a therapist, someone she can relate to and will be there when she needs to talk. If you are on good terms with her friends, maybe you can mention to them that if they are ever worried about her to please let you know and you will keep their confidence. There really is enough in a 14 year olds life that can be that upsetting, believe it or not! I know when I was 14 life was pretty awful and even though I say I would NEVER do it again for a million dollars, I seem to be rehashing my issues because of my daughter! She needs love, attention, and a whole lot of patience. I think girls at this age are really very fragile underneath it all and need a lot from us even though they are rejecting us at the same time. Talk about being supermom! Here's where your multiple degrees in psychology, anger management, business, and whatever else comes in handy! About sex: no matter what age she is, she should be using CONDOMS. Forget the other birth control, the spread of disease is MUCH more a of a worry than a pregnancy (AIDS kills, pregnancy doesn't). If you can manage to discuss these issues with her, I would suggest bringing that up. (remember the phrase, ''no glove, no love''? Very helpful now.) We can't control our kids really, but we can send them out into the world armed with information and confidence in themselves, and hopefully they will make smart choices. But of course, that's part of life too, isn't it? Learning from making the wrong choices? We can just hope that the wrong choices are not too serious. They get through it, but we need to be there with love and honesty. On the pratical side, in my life, I'm hoping that we can come to some reasonable terms as far as bringing friends home after school-only ones I know, and no boys alone. I'm putting limits on the cell phone usage also, the text messaging has to stop, too expensive. She can use and receive calls on the house phone. I also will be able to know who is calling if I happen to answer the phone. Good luck and I am looking forward to the thoughts others have as well.
working on supermom degree

To help your daughter with her problems you are going to have to ASK QUESTIONS and LISTEN TO THE ANSWERS, with respect. The issue is not ''What am I going to tell her, or do to her?'' but ''What is she going to say?''. Talking about suicide and cutting is definitely a cry for help, and so far she's been afraid to come to you. Let her know you're not just angry, you care. Fiona

17-year-old son ran away to be with girl-friend

April 2002

My son will be 17 in a couple of months and has not typically been a rebellious child at all, is quite responsible and has a part time job. About 5 months ago he started dating a girl who was 14 and we welcomed her into our home. After a few months, and she had turned 15, we discovered they were sexually active. I actually sat down with the two of them and discussed thier options, such as saying no, this mostly being directed at the girl as I grew to understand she was quite permiscuous and had even slept with another boy while dating my son! Add to this, my son's marks were crashing at school, his personality changed, so we struck a deal with him, he could only see her twice a week until his marks picked up and she was not allowed in our home because of the sexual activity. ( I have two other children - 3 and 7 who could have quite easily have found thier evidence of activity!!) . He did not like this but agreed to it. But he continued to see her away from our home, lying to us about the reason he wanted to be at certain places etc. We finally blew up and suggested they take a one month break from each other, her parents agreed this was a good idea too but as usual we were the only parents to enforce this and as such had nothing but arguements and fighting with our son. As of right now my son is supposedly staying at a friends, he got the foster parent bug in his ear from her parents (they are foster parents). SO I gave him the number for the local social services office. The local social worker spoke to him then called me. After a long discussion with me he agreed we were being more than fair with our son and was going to tell him they don't place children in foster homes for parental disputes (I knew this but thought our son needed to find that our for himself). He called our son had another chat with him and then when we called our son back to ask if he was coming home that night he actually lied to us again told us he was to call the social worker back the next day and was staying the night at a co-workers. We found out the social worker wasn't going to be there the next day. So it has now been four nights that he's been at this co-workers house, supposedly. He only had a change of clothes when he left, has only missed 1 day of school so far and is showing up at work so far. Our biggest concern with regards to him at this point is that the girlfriends parents will somehow get ahold of him through the foster care system?! Now the question is how long do I leave him alone before trying to get in touch with him? I don't want to go back to the fighting , and he can come home anytime he wants, we just WILL NOT participate in his relationship with her in any way shape or form. Any suggestions welcomed!!! Anonymous

I think that your son is at the beginning of a trend that I see.

During the last couple years I have seen at least 5 situations similar to yours regarding young men (mostly juniors and seniors) having girlfriends and their first sexual experiences. It becomes ALL-CONSUMING and usually school and work go totally down the drain because they are spending all their time in other activities.

AND, as you have found out, there is no way to reason with them.

I am not a therapist but I have opinions based on experience.

I'm not sure if the foster care piece of this is the most important right now. I would be more concern about -- MAKING SURE THE GIRL DOES NOT GET PREGNANT. In order for that to happen, you somehow need to make sure you have an open line of communication with your son.

Also, the Health Center is funded by the City of Berkeley and the school district so there is help if you live in Berkeley OR go to Berkeley High. They can provide the two of them to make appointments together with a counselor. There are condoms available. They are located inside the BHS campus in a trailer at Bancroft and Martin Luther King Jr. Ways.

In the most recently situation that I am aware of: 1. Student changed residency from one parent to the other, gotten his focus back on track to pass the classes that he absolutely needs for graduation and has better (not great) attendance for all classes. I believe he did jeopardize his chances to go directly to a four-year college but will make it there after community college if he doesn't need to get married and support a child.

Flora Russ --
Berkeley High School

I was once a 16-year old who was sexually active with a girl my parents felt was not right for me, and who they thought was contributing to my poor performance in school. For the next several years we fought terribly (verbally & physically), I ran away from home routinely, and was kicked out of high school for cutting. Finally my parents accepted her, things calmed down, and I finished high school. Even though we broke up after high school, when my parent's 50th wedding anniversary came around a few years ago they invited her (much to the chagrin of my wife...) because once they accepted her they become friendly and that has now lasted for thirty years.

One thing I've learned very well as a once troublesome teen, and as a father who failed in a lot of ways with my first teen but is doing much better with the next two, you need to pick the battles you can win. You've picked a battle you're not only sure to lose, but one that will have exactly the opposite effect of what you want. Attempting to ban regular friends is nearly impossible, attempting to ban a girlfriend with whom your 16-year old son is sexually active IS impossible. Not only that, it will typically make them all the closer (us against the world is very romantic!). I strongly suggest you call your son and tell him you were wrong to attempt that, and suggest that you get together to see if you can come to a solution that addresses your real issues, which are his grades and lying.

I also suggest that you have this girl over to dinner regularly and get to know her better. Your never know, seeing her in the context of his family may even make him feel she doesn't really fit. And/or, you may find you have a better ally in her in terms of getting your son back on the right track scholastically than you think. Or maybe not, maybe you'll find yourself all the more irritated by her, but at least your son will be at the dinner table and not someplace else with her doing who knows what.

I do think you still have the authority and right to ban sex between them at your house. But even for that I think a better approach would be to ensure they have condoms at their disposal and ensure they understand the need to be discreet (in every way: sounds, talk, used and unused condoms, etc.) for the sake of the younger children. They will continue to have sex, so you need to ask yourself under what conditions it will happen otherwise and whether that's acceptable to you. Good luck. Anonymous

15-year-old daughter is sexually active

May 2000

I would like to propose a(another?) discussion of teen sexual activity. My 15 yr old daughter has had a boyfriend for just over a year. I've just learned they have become sexually active and would like to continue being so. No matter how much I tried to make sure they were always supervised, one cannot control these things 100%. It seems to me at some point one has to deal with the choices they are making. But how? In this case the activity was protected. They are well informed about STD's. I have talked with her a lot, during the past year, about the risks, that the odds of pregnancy and disease during her high school years only increase if she begins sexual activity so young, about the emotional impact, about keeping her life balanced, her focus on school work etc., that I feel they are not ready for this and should wait until the end of high school, what would happen if they break up, etc. I have told her again, since this news, that I feel this is not a good decision, that they are too young, etc. She is in therapy. She is doing ok in school and seems to understand the importance of that. Does not, I believe her, do drugs. Has quit smoking. Is starting an exercise program with a girlfriend on a regular basis. Is by nature very assertive. I do not believe she was talked into anything, do believe she can hold her ground with the boy ( she is probably stronger than he). Experiences her boyfriend as very supportive. I have a cooperative relationship with his parents ( even though--something clearly slipped up on their watch and of course I am very mad). She is making informed decisions. She appears to be happy with the decision and the experience. She was ( eventually) open with me. I am not at all happy about this but I also feel things could be a lot worse. Although they are kids, the activity is part of a real, sustained, relationship that is caring and appears to have been quite stable in the course of the year. How do other parents handle this? My gut feeling is that to try to control, to respond with anger, would not really help at all. I have already tried to control. Perhaps all I can do is try to slow things down. I am trying to get them to reconsider their decision, will meet with the other parents. Have others been through this? How do they handle it? I would welcome discussion of this.

In reply to the mom whose 15 year old is now sexually active, I think she's said all the right things to her daughter for now. And talking to the boy's parents is an excellent idea. I suggest a visit to a Planned Parenthood clinic as soon as possible. Her daughter should have a pap smear and be tested for sexually transmitted diseases. The more helpful thing about visiting a PP clinic is that the staff will talk with her daughter about making choices and protecting herself in a way that mom just can't. It's important for daughter to learn how to take care of herself and her physical health and Planned Parenthood is an excellent, caring and affordable resource. There are clinics in Oakland, at Hilltop Mall in Richmond, Concord or across the bay in SF and Marin - check the yellow pages or the web. Chris, PP Volunteer

I would like to suggest a way to help you to deal with the problem that you are having with your daughter. Please understand that I am quite aware of the difficulty that you are facing and I understand that this is not a simple problem and that the solution will be largely dependent upon the individual characteristics of your daughter's personality. That being said I have had quite a history of dealing with out of control teenagers. Until I reached 39 years old I was single and I was in the construction business during that time. I employed a lot of teenage males and I even took in pair of young punk rockers off the streets and let them live in my home for several years. Many of these kids had social problems: drug abuse, promiscuity, violent behavior, financial irresponsibility etc. With a few exceptions, I have been able to help these kids get on the right track. Several of these guys who had extreme behavioral problems have turned themselves around completely and have generally acknowledged that I was a motivating influence toward their respective epiphanies.

I had an advantage in these situations because of the facts that I was not an actual parent and that I was more or less an authority figure because I was their employer. Now I have my own kids, one of whom is a sophomore at Berkeley High and it is a bit trickier applying the tactics I am about to set forth, but nonetheless I am still seeing good success in the application.

It is also worth mentioning that I have seldom seen any positive behavioral modification result from pointing out potential negative consequences of aberrant behavior. Most kids are optimistic enough that they feel that they will not have to face the consequences of their actions and that they can get away with it. To get to my main point, I have had success in getting kids to change their behavior by presenting my arguments to them from the standpoint of morality. I am not talking religion, rather morality in the philosophical sense. It always takes time but once you can frame your argument in terms of good and bad it provides its own incentive. Most kids think of themselves as righteous and good people. Perhaps this sounds too simplistic but unless one has religious conviction, philosophical morality is all one has to provide the motivation to be good.

To bolster my argument I will ask you why you want them to cease having sex in the first place. Is it fear of STDs or pregnancy or could it be that you feel that it is wrong for some other reason? One could put forth the argument that without marriage or at least the intention of a long term commitment they are acting immoral and sleazy. There are a lot of ways to present morality. I think that it is possible to be judgmental and disapproving of what you consider immoral without being vindictive. I can only say that in many cases I have bestowed this type of judgement on some fairly hard core kids and it was well received and taken seriously and acted upon. One final point, if you are not practicing what you are preaching you aren't going to get any results, but if they can see that your principals are heartfelt and serving you well you have a chance of getting through. The dependant child part of most teens is still there just as the adult independent part is emerging. Children want and need parents approval and once they are clear about your feelings they will often make your thoughts and opinions their own.


If your daughter goes to Berkeley High (I think she does), she should immediately make an appointment (and hopefully you've signed the consent form in the beginning of the school year that says she can go) with the Health Center. My daughter went in her sophomore year for the first time and there was an intern working as well as two nurse practitioners and I believe a volunteer doctor (not sure of that). The Health Center may not be as well staffed this year. The Health Center offers very good counseling in sex education and general health issues (she's even discussed eating disorders and nutition with one of the practitioners). It's confidential, it's at school, they can sometimes drop in, and it's almost a full service health care center. My daughter really likes the confidentiality--the fact that she has a life of her own without having to check in with me all the time, and I trust the Health Center in that I believe they care and put the health of the teens that visit them first. (Of course, I always worry--but at least I'm not freaked out.)

Re sexually active teen: Your daughter sounds rather like my daughter. When she was at BHS my kid had a strong social group of boys and girls who were doing well in school, involved in after school activities and overall pretty responsible. In her sophomore year she met a boy from the other middle school, (hence more interesting). They were friends that year and next year became a couple. As high school continued, their individual groups of friends merged a great deal.

I have been amazed at the functioning of this group of kids. They have supported each other, critiqued everyone's behavior, had fun together, studied together, looked out for each other, taken out-of-line kids to task, and, according to the girls, trained several boys to be more aware in social relationships.

At the start of junior year I was listening to our family's phone messages and heard one or two from her girlfriends. They were congratulating her on a big event her life. They were so happy for her that her first time was with someone she loved. This was younger than I hoped for and I was scared for the usual reasons, but I never thought I should be angry or try to stop it. I just thought life was happening a lot sooner than I had expected, but it's been feeling like that since she was born.

I had had many discussions with her about various aspects of relationships, and knew that she and the boy had not taken this step lightly, and that it was a mutual decision. I have continued to feel that this is a loving, respectful, not restrictive relationship and that both of them are growing in it. I cared about whether she was continuing to do well in school, communicate and be respectful with me, stay involved with her other friends, be part of the larger community. All of that happened. All I know is that life happens on its own timetable, not mine, and that every child's timetable is different.

I wish you well in this phase of our amazing parenting adventure.