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I Am Upset That My 14-Year-Old Is Sexually Active

I'm not sure how to handle my teen's sexual activity.

Dear Dr. G.,

My 14-year-old daughter is having sex. She lied to me and I had to confront her to get the truth. I have talked to her about this many times as I am old school and believe you wait until you are married to have sex. She knows how I feel. I do not condone her doing this, yet she went behind my back and swore to me tat she and her boyfriend were not having sex. So now that I know, what should I do? I am hurt and feel disrespected. I have no one to talk to and when I try talking to her she screams at me and tells me that she doesn't want to talk about it and to leave her alone. Please help. I am 57 years old and do not want to raise a baby.

A Distressed Mother

Dear Mother,

Thank you for reaching out. I understand your exasperation. It must be dreadful to feel helpless and to have no one to talk to. I believe that I can help you with this tricky situation.

I agree with you that 14 is way too young to be having sex for even the most mature young teens. I strongly believe that young adolescents do not have the tools to make important decisions about sex. Additionally, they are unlikely to be able to handle the consequences of such intimate behavior. In my practice, I see many teens who have gotten sexually involved before they were emotionally ready and have then struggled with a variety of difficult feelings they did not anticipate. And many of them were surprised when they realized how emotionally connecting sex is and was. I have also worked with teens who have struggled with pregnancy fears and it is clear that they are not ready to deal with these potentially life-altering issues.

You share that your daughter lied to you about her sexual involvement. This must hurt but I am sure that she was afraid of both disappointing and angering you. Teens are susceptible to peer pressure and, as you know, often make poor decisions. Their struggle to be independent is often associated with engaging in behavior that they feel is synonymous with independence. Sadly, they often make risky decisions as they try to feel grown up and more independent.

Regarding what you should do: I suggest that you take your daughter to her pediatrician and a gynecologist. If she is going to engage in sexual activity, she should be speaking to both of these doctors. They should educate her about sexuality and all that goes along with it. As your daughter's mother, you also have the right to set limits on her behavior. You can set earlier curfews and do your best to know where your daughter is at all times. I know that this is no easy task but you can simply do your best.

I certainly understand that you are not prepared to raise a baby. You must share this with your daughter in a place and at a time when she will listen to you. Perhaps you can have this conversation with a trusted adult present such as a good family friend or even a health care professional. Try to stay calm during this conversation. As I am sure you are well aware, teens shut down when parents become emotional. Staying calm under these circumstances is a lot to ask but it's necessary.

I have another suggestion: Perhaps you might consider getting your daughter on birth control. This will be a painful decision but it might be preferable to all that comes along with a pregnancy. Think about it.

I wish you luck and peace as you consider your options.

Dr. G.

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