Teens staying overnight, cuddling in bed

I have an unusual question but would like to know other parents opinions because I was raised in the other country with much stricter rules so want to know what is considered culturally ok here in the US. My daughter was born and raised in California. We have difference in opinions about what is acceptable and normal here.

Is it sexual and inappropriate for 16 years old girl to cuddle her 16 years old boyfriend in a bed? Is it inappropriate for them to sleep in the same bed (during the day or at night) with the bedroom door closed? Would you allow your daughter to do it? We spoke about contraception and risks of teenage pregnancy etc. She says that they both agreed do not have sex until done with high school. And that in her opinion cuddling is not sexual...and that my request that if he sleeps at our home, she should be in other room is ridiculous.  Is it?

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I would just say that at 16 years old, it’s HIGHLY unlikely that they are engaging in only “cuddling”. Of course you know your child best, and perhaps religious or other factors reassure you that your child (and her boyfriend) are somehow well outside the norm...I would also say that even if you did ban sleepovers or insist they keep the door open, they’ll find other places and ways to be sexual with one another. These days, 16 is actually a little “late” to begin sexual activity. It sounds like you’ve covered the basics about birth control. Wishing you the best. 

Culturally things have changed a lot over the years, probably from the influence of media and availability of contraception.  Maybe they really enjoy the physical contact and it is not sexual as they have said they want to wait? My daughter had her first serious boyfriend at age 16. She had been as put birth control pills by her doctor "for acne" at age 15. Since the boyfriend lived far away, she would regularly stay overnight at his house on weekends. The parents did their best to make them sleep in separate rooms, but I know they had plenty of opportunities to be together. I was even younger when I first had sex, and would have done it regardless of anything my parents did or said. My daughter's boyfriend stayed overnight with us several times, and since we didn't have a spare room, I asked them to keep the door open while they were in the bedroom.  I wanted to keep the communication open and wanted to encourage her to have a healthy outlook on intimacy.  My parents were very strict and felt compelled to give me an earful about the dangers of sex or how "bad" it was.  I believe this attitude affected my ability to enjoy sex as an adult, and in a marriage for almost 30 years. 

I'm glad you have reached out and asked this question. So often teens get the idea that some behavior is acceptable for whatever justification they have. Then a cycle begins of "my friends are allowed to, so it's all good!" I'm grateful for this forum where parents can discuss important topics openly.

My son was in an intense and exclusive relationship beginning at the end of his freshman year of high school. It is a healthy relationship in that they treat each other respectfully, and when arguments arise, work them through by talking. My husband and I spoke with the girl's parents. Fortunately, we each think highly of the other's teen and get along well ourselves. We agreed that they could be together in our homes with an adult present. They were allowed to be in the bedroom if the door is fully open. Overnights are allowed when traveling (her family had a cottage elsewhere), not at home, and then in separate bedrooms. We are fine with them cuddling on the sofa watching a movie or talking, or outside with a fire going in the fire pit, etc.

I'm aware they found other locations in which to be more physical with each other. I can't control that, but I can set appropriate boundaries in my home. They respected those boundaries.  We had many talks about how to care for one's self and the other - physically and emotionally. It's really important to talk about the emotional side of these types of relationships with your teen.  

The teens broke up, got back together, broke up again. They are now seniors and continue to have a supportive friendship (no longer a romantic relationship).

I'm sure you'll thoughtfully decide what is best for you and your daughter.

I would not allow sleepovers period. Hormones surging and even the best of teens lie to their parents. I think age 16 is too young for the true intimacy and ramifications that come from sex at this age. I would say post high school is a more reasonable time to reconsider sleepovers between a committed couple. 

No, I don't think it's ridiculous for you to set rules that you feel comfortable with. I myself have a 15 year old daughter who has a 15 year old boyfriend and have had to field several requests for him to sleep over since they've been together (it's been almost a year now). He lives kind of far away so I understand  the wish but I know they are sexually active and I don't want to make it easier for them. Besides, I'm especially not comfortable with that happening in my house. Maybe your daughter and her boyfriend will just cuddle but I find that hard to trust with the hormones raging at that age. She may even think she won't but then she can change her mind at a moments notice. I remember being 16!!  I told my daughter that I thought relationships were hard enough without sex complicating it at this age and that I didn't think young teens were mature enough to handle the intensity of a sexual relationship. She had a painful break up in the last  relationship and I told her, just imagine how much more painful it will be when the sexual connection has made you that much more attached?  I said, you are free to disagree and not like what I say, but you still need to abide by my rules. The funny thing is, she agreed with me when I put it in that non judgmental way. Of course she has since disagreed but I'm okay with that. Good luck and don't be afraid to stand your ground!

I was in a quandary about this with my own teen. I had to be honest with myself about why it made me uncomfortable. Aside from just "That's how I was raised." I decided that my legitimate concerns were 1) health & safety (pregnancy, STDs, etc.)--which she was well-educated about, and 2) defining "inappropriate" behavior--which was basically what would be uncomfortable/embarrassing if I walked in on them. Beyond that, I realized that what she does physically with a partner is actually none of my business. 

My son is 17 and this has come up during the past two years. I also have two older sons but they didn't have romantic relationships until after high school, so this is new for me.

RE cuddling in bed:  This is something that did not happen when I was a teen -- if you were cuddling in bed with your boyfriend, it was because your parents weren't at home and there was going to be sex. But I have noticed that kids nowadays do sincerely believe in physical affection without the expectation of sex. I've observed a lot of snuggling up on beds while watching a movie or looking at youtube on their phones.  I am mystified by this. To me, cuddling together on a bed seems like "pretend" sex.  But my kids insist it has nothing to do with sex and they genuinely feel it is very innocent.  My 17yo cuddles with his GF and also has several friends that are girls that do this occasionally when there is a group of kids hanging out in his room. I don't insist on the door being open, but I will knock and then immediately walk in with a made-up reason for the interruption (snacks!). There is never any hanky panky going on. There does seem to be a line for them between friendly cuddling and sexy cuddling. We were recently at a large gathering where the teens were clustered in one of the bedrooms, and my son told me afterwards that a teen girl that he didn't know sat on his lap and began stroking his thigh. He was confused and uncomfortable.

RE sleepovers: The general rule in my house is they can't sleep in the same room together. Definitely not in high school. My main concern is that kids under 18 don't understand all the subtleties of a sexual relationship and I don't want to be the one who provides them with a testing ground.  It also just makes me feel uncomfortable. My 17 year old has never suggested a sleepover with his girlfriend. They are not sexually active, at least not yet. If he asked me if she could stay over I would probably say OK if she sleeps in a different room and if her parents say OK.  After high school is different, especially if they are no longer at home. I am fine with the college girlfriend staying over when they come for the weekend. This was a bit hard for me to come to terms with the first time it happened, but I realized they were already sleeping together at college so it seemed silly to make them sleep in separate rooms. Since graduating college, my two older boys have moved out and moved back in at times, and I am fine with a long-term girlfriend staying over. But not someone they just met at a party. This recently happened with my son who has moved back in while he's in grad school.  He isn't in a relationship right now but he met up with an "old friend" (his words) who stayed overnight. I had to tell him that I'd rather he didn't have sleepovers here. It is too awkward for me to be greeted in the morning by a young woman I don't know.  (I am thinking about changing my mind about this, though, after reading this article in the Atlantic: "Why Are Young People Having So Little Sex? https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/12/the-sex-recession/5...  It made me feel sorry for them.)

Well, this is just one mom's opinion. You must do what feels right for you!


I also did not grow up in the US, seems like I grew up in a more progressive, less puritan place so my perspective is different. I work quite a bit with teens and have two of my own. What I hear repeatedly from adults who grew up here as well as from those who are currently teens (clients and friends of my kids) is that any kind of sexual behavior is taboo at home so teens end up hooking up in random places like school, parks or cars. I don't understand that. I much rather that my kids have their first sexual explorations in a safe, known and private environment where they are respected and feel safe. We expect our kids to respect each other, to make sure they are acting in consent, to explore their sexuality yet they find themselves needing to do these things in secret with the danger of being rushed and intruded upon. 

I would like to advocate for allowing teens to conduct their sexual explorations in the privacy of their own bedrooms, while making sure they have access to safe practices, including consent. This may mean having actual conversations with them about this, not just alluding do it...I also want to recommend www.omgyes.org a website with respectful, non-porn information about female sexuality that can be useful, probably for all ages. 

I just want to clarify  my earlier post by saying I am fine with my 15 y/o daughter cuddling with her 15 y/o boyfriend in her bed and they do that quite often, but the door stays  open and the lights are on. I have let him sleep overnight, but he's downstairs in the living room and she's upstairs with me. For me it's not about trying to control whether she is sexually active or not, it's setting boundaries that I feel comfortable with in my home and giving her the message that it's a big deal to be sexual at age 15 and not to be taken lightly. I helped her get birth control and we talked about STD's, so I feel she is pretty knowledgeable and safe.