THE BLOG
10/18/2007 08:40 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Dr. Mona Knows...How To Talk To Kids About Sex And Handle Blasts From The Past

Please send your questions to me, Dr. Mona Ackerman, by posting them in the comments section below. I look forward to answering them and continuing our conversation!

Q: My 14-year-old daughter is having sex with her boyfriend. I have no problem helping her with birth control but I do have a problem when she asks if he can sleep over. Isn't this hypocritical of me? I am also afraid that my friends will find out.

A: We have to deal with each of your concerns separately. First, you are comparing your own parenting skills to those of your friends and your community in general. It seems you're fearful that you will be judged as something less than a perfect mother. Here's the good news. I can assure you that behind closed doors your friends and others in your community are dealing -- or not dealing --with their obnoxious, difficult, inconsistent and downright scary adolescent children and not having the vaguest idea if they are doing it right. They probably think you have all the answers.

But your question also suggests that you feel your friends have the right to judge you because you yourself are questioning whether what you are doing is right. In fact, deep down what you really want to do is what you are clearly not doing: disciplining and restraining your child. Is that what you should be doing? More to the point, is this even something you can do?

Maybe not. You may have to accept certain behavior and accept, also, that you can't fight every battle. You are going to have to pick your fights and limit yourself to areas where you really can exert some control and influence. You've decided to accept that you can't stop her from having sex. And depending on where you live -Ogden, Utah is different than West LA - you're probably right. I am constantly amazed by my young patients and how early their sexual experience starts. No question about it. By helping her stay safe, you're condoning her sexual activity. At the same time, you're telling her that you don't want to know about it. You would rather not be aware of what's happening. That's a confusing, mixed signal to say the least. In your daughter's eyes, you might just look like a hypocrite.

But would you prefer that your daughter go elsewhere? That might happen if you put your foot down. Above all, your first priority is to protect her. You know what's happening. You want to show her that you accept the inevitable and that you respect her choices... to a degree. You want her to think about sex intelligently, to be aware of its dangers and to respect you as older, more experienced -- the one who always has her best interests in mind. Tell her that!!! Tell her, "I would prefer you weren't having sex at so young an age. There are other ways to be in love. There are other ways to show your love. But if you reject that, I still want to keep you safe. And I want you to be safe in your own home."

So, tell her that her boyfriend can sleep over. Make up a bed for him...in the living room. After all, it's your house, too.

Q: An old boyfriend called me after forty years. He is living with his wife of twenty years in Paris where he ended up after fleeing the United States to avoid the Vietnam draft. At first, his call was fun and flirtatious. He told me how his Mom always loved me and he reminded me of the many quirky and wild things we did together. But the second conversation was strained. He wanted to see me and I was hesitant. Then I received an angry and dismissive e-mail basically saying good-bye. What happened here?

A: What were you hoping for by connecting with the past? It seems that both of you had different goals in mind.

Aside from the universal illicit pleasure we all get from revisiting our pasts and reliving our youthful passions and fun (We did that? What, were we crazy?) sometimes we're going down memory lane for different reasons. Many times we take this path not to relive the past but to escape the present.

You seemed to take pleasure in recollecting an old boyfriend's admiration. And when after so many years he worked to contact you, the pleasure was only enhanced. He made the effort. Still, you could enjoy the new-found attention knowing you were protected by distance. But as soon as your old boyfriend attempted to break that barrier with a face-to-face visit, you probably panicked and began to retreat on the phone. Your voice probably dropped. The warmth leached from it.

He almost certainly was hoping for something else. Perhaps having had to leave his country many years before and having to adopt another country, made him nostalgic for old times. Perhaps something is going on in his own French family that makes him want to leave it behind, even for short intervals. Or perhaps he has not fully worked through his own separation many years before from his family and home. An unresolved conflict from a previous stage will always come back to be resolved during a transition to yet another stage. So, for example, if you couldn't effectively work through a conflict or a relationship with home, family, or lover in one stage, you will revisit that unresolved conflict in another stage.

Whatever the reason, your old boyfriend may have approached you to either escape from unhappiness at the moment or to relive an unfinished piece of his past. You put an end to that. You dashed his hopes, yanked him from the idyllic past to the less than idyllic present. Predictably, he became angry.

This is something you can't control. It is usually impossible to enjoy reheated scrambled eggs. They are not as good as when they were first tasted. The same is true of love. You move on. So should he.

Please send your questions to me, Dr. Mona Ackerman, by posting them in the comments section below. I look forward to answering them and continuing our conversation!