In our fortnightly column ‘Great Sexpectations’ the Woman Alive panel answer your questions on sex, faith and intimacy. Drop us a confidential email on firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us anything. Here, we tackle; what to say to your teenager if you think they’re having sex.
We understand your concern. Communication on this issue can come with negative emotions and shame that mean a conversation is not easy. My advice is that however much you may be panicking about the age of consent, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, and also that it is not God’s best for her, try to contain the desire to control the situation.
If you find out she is in fact having sex, you can stop her by force – i.e ban her from seeing her boyfriend and ground her for the next 20 years, but will that be the best solution? She may still be a child in your eyes, and seemingly only a few moments ago was running around in nappies, but at 15, she probably feels quite grown up. Having sex might also be helping her to feel like an “adult”. I wonder if you can you use this concern to forge a deeper connection with your daughter?
She may still be a child in your eyes but at 15, she probably feels quite grown up.
When at all possible, speak in a way that will allow her to open up. Then empower her to make good choices. Try not to start with something like: “I hope you are not having sex with XX.” Begin with questions, ask her about her feelings, and her opinion about sex. When you know where she stands on the subject, you can then give her your guidance.
I assume you are a Christian, but your daughter may not be, and so the language of “it is a sin” is unlikely to land well with her. She needs to know and follow the God who loves her, and has the best plan for her, who is awesome in his holiness, and who, in obeying, gives us life, before being told what she can and cannot do. As a Christian, saying no to sex outside of marriage is about having a revelation of the goodness of God that makes us want to obey him, even if we don’t understand, and even if, temporarily it looks like he is stopping us from having fun.
If you take out God’s plan for sex, and give her the facts, they may shock her. It is helpful to let your daughter know that under the Sexual Offences Act of 2009 it is a criminal offence for both girls and boys aged 13, 14 and 15 to have consensual sex with anyone else aged 13, 14 or 15. Having sex has consequences, and has she prepared herself for them? Pregnancy is one. Does she understand her options for birth control. Has she thought through the reality of having a baby as a teenager?
When at all possible, speak in a way that will allow her to open up. Then empower her to make good choices.
It takes wisdom and grace to know how best to speak to your child, remain connected to her, and empower her to make good choices. In it all, it is helpful to stay calm, try not to make her feel stupid and judged, and re-affirm your love for her. She may be feeling she has to sleep with her boyfriend because he is pressuring her, or all her friends are doing it. She may be feeling very alone in it all.
Let her know there is another way, she has many years ahead of her to enjoy sex, and if she and her boyfriend truly love each other, envision her to choose love in abstaining until the legal age limit, or ideally until marriage! Ultimately you want to remind your daughter she is loved, she is empowered, she can say no, and there is a better way.
You may also find the Moral Revolution website helpful.
Our Great Sexpectations column is written by a number of different contributors who make up the Woman Alive panel.