I found out from the mother of one of my daughter's friends that that she is thinking of having sex with her 15-year-old boyfriend of two months. When I asked my daughter about it, she says it was not true. But her friend told her mother that they have already gotten condoms and are now trying to figure out a place and a time.
How disheartening it is to discover that your daughter is considering such a huge step at such a young age. By all means, get involved. Just be careful how you do it. If you try to forbid her from seeing this boy or lock all the doors and windows, you will only strengthen her resolve to go against you and prove that she is not your baby anymore.
Go where the two of you can relax and connect, perhaps somewhere peaceful in nature by a lake or a favorite hiking trail. Begin by telling her the qualities you see in her that inspire or delight you. By strengthening her sense of feeling seen and valued, you will better position yourself as someone that she is willing to listen to.
Then say something like this: "Sweetheart, I know that when I asked you whether you were thinking of having sex with Johnny it made you mad that I would even think such a thing. But I have to trust my instincts, and they're telling me that there may be more to the story than you've shared so far. I would like to talk with you in a way that makes you feel safe, so you can really weigh such a big decision. Let's have a heart-to-heart. I won't lecture or scold -- I promise. Can we do that?"
Share your views about what it is to become sexually involved with someone, and then let her speak without interruption. Regardless of what she says -- no matter how difficult or silly it sounds -- listen with respect. She has to test you to make sure you meant it when you said that you would not scold or lecture her. Prove to her that it is safe to tell you what on her mind and in her heart. If you're going to eventually offer her guidance support, you will have to be "invited to the party." She won't listen to you if you crash it, giving advice she doesn't want to hear.
Even if she is eager to have sex with this young man, she is also going to feel some confusion and uncertainty. By making it safe for her to talk out loud about all the facets of their relationship and this decision, you will help her discover what is ultimately in her best interest.
Talk about the fact that it's normal to be excited and curious to find out more about sex, but that feeling a strong desire without acting on it is part of becoming a grown up.
If there are other people close to your daughter who she is comfortable with -- perhaps an older cousin or auntie, arrange for her to have time with that person as well. The more she feels part of a tribe of loving, caring family and friends, the less likely she will feel the need to prove her worth in this young man's eyes.
If your daughter is close to her father, encourage him to strengthen her sense of value so that she does not feel so tempted to find it in the approval or validation of a boy.
Most young girls become sexually vulnerable because they long to feel important, seen and adored. Let your daughter know how special she is and how much you want her to be cherished by someone who genuinely appreciates her wonderful qualities; someone who has taken the time to truly get to know her and has proven his love and loyalty over a long time. Make sure she can talk openly with you. Keep her busy and set limits that make it difficult for her to have time on her hands that might lead her to get into trouble. Help her make a choice she can later be proud of: one that reflects her understanding that sex is something very special and worth waiting for.
Susan Stiffelman is the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected. She is a family therapist, parent coach and internationally recognized speaker on all subjects related to children, teens and parenting.
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