Raising a teenager can be complicated sometimes. As a parent, you’re dealing with a person who’s going through some significant physical and emotional changes, who is beginning to become more and more independent. It’s not unusual for teens to start becoming sexually active, and once this happens, many parents find dealing with their teenager even more difficult. However, communicating with your teen, teaching them about sexual responsibility and safety, and encouraging them to be open with you is often the best strategy to deal with a teen who is having sex. There are several steps that you can take to effectively deal with your sexually active teen.
Understanding the Age of Consent:
The first thing to consider is the age of consent in your state. This will vary from state to state, so check the relevant laws for your area. Eighteen is the age of consent in most states, although some are lower. The law may also not apply if both parties are under the age of consent.
For example, the age of consent in Texas is 17, meaning that once a teenager reaches their 17th birthday, it is legal for them to have sex with anybody who is aged 17 and over. However, if both teens are under the age of 17, they are protected by Romeo and Juliet laws. In short, this means that teens as young as 14 can consent to sex, provided that the other party is no more than three years older than them. These laws are there to protect young lovers from being prosecuted and cannot be applied to any other situation, for example, a teacher-child relationship where the two are close in age. These laws may vary between states, so research specific guidelines and laws for your state.
You may not be thrilled at the idea of your teen having sex, but it’s always far better to constructively communicate with them and educate them, rather than leave them to do it behind your back. The best way to do this is by asking questions and encouraging productive conversations. Approach your teen carefully about the subject; try not to spring it on them as many teenagers may be embarrassed to talk to you about it.
One good question is to ask them if they are practicing safe sex, and if they need anything from you to be able to do so. Remind your teen that this is a perfectly normal part of growing up and you’re not judging them; you just want to make sure that they are safe and happy.
Keep an Open Mind:
It’s important to try and put your personal feelings and emotions to the side when it comes to talking to your teen about having sex. Although you have a right to your own values and beliefs, you don’t want your teen to feel that it isn’t OK to talk to you. Make it clear that you are willing to listen to them objectively, even if you’re not the greatest fan of their sexual partner or do not fully agree with their decision to become sexually active.
Bear in mind that blowing up at your teen and forbidding them from having sex is more likely to only lead to them doing it in secret and being worried about talking to you about any questions that they may have about problems that may arise. Instead, make sure that your teen knows you will always love, support, and be there for them, regardless of your personal belief regarding sex.
Begin the Conversation Early:
It’s a good idea to start talking about sex early on; don’t wait until your teen becomes sexually active to have a conversation with them about it. The specific age at which you do this is up to you, but most parents find it most appropriate when their child is about to begin sex education lessons at school. Not only does this prepare them for the lessons, but also creates an honest foundation of communication between you and your teen for when they are sexually active in the future.
It’s a good idea to start by simply explaining what sex is and let your teen know that it’s nothing to be ashamed about; make sure that they know you are open to talking about sex with them and answering any questions that they may have. This way, when your teen becomes sexually active, you will have already established some rapport with them around the subject and it’ll be easier for them to talk to you about it.
Educate on Safe Sex:
One of the most important things to do is to provide your teen with resources for safe sex. This could include providing them with condoms or showing them where they can access them. If you have a daughter, it’s a good idea to talk to her about the various options for birth control and help her decide which one might be the best option for her. Let her know that birth control works differently for everybody, so it’s okay to try a few different options before finding one that is a good fit. Make sure that she knows you will support her choice for birth control and be there for her.
You can also use science to educate your teen; provide resources about sexually transmitted diseases and encourage them to have regular check-ups and tests, even if they don’t think that they have caught anything. Lastly, it’s important to have a conversation with them about the importance of consent and make sure that they know they can always say no to anything that they are not comfortable with. Explain to them the importance of being with a partner who cares about and respects them.
Finding out that your teenager is sexually active can be a big shock and difficult for many parents to deal with. Taking your time to educate your teen, encourage honest communication with them, and be there to support them will help them stay safe and happy whilst they go through this necessary and exciting part of growing up.