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My son is 15 years old and in the 9th grade. Last night I read some of his text messages between him and his girlfriend and they were discussing "going all the way". I don't know how to handle this. I have talked in detail with my son about the risks and responsibility that go along with making that decision and I thought that he understood our position on this matter, but obviously I was wrong. What do I do? Do I forbid them from seeing each other or what?


Dr. Tom Greenspon Replied: You have done what every parent should be doing with their children: discuss the risks and responsibilities that go along with the decision to make sex a part of a relationship. You can be expressing your concerns about pregnancy, and about sexually transmitted diseases, and you can explore any religious concerns you may have about these topics. Invite your child to explore his or her own feelings about all of this, so that it isn't simply a lecture. Talk about sexual feelings that come naturally, and about what may be at stake for any particular partner, especially if any kind of pressure is involved in making the decision. Talk about how it is OK to resist peer pressure, and about how a great number of the stories your son might hear about his friends' sexual experiences are likely to be greatly exaggerated. This goes for e-mails and text messages too, by the way; sexual banter can be titillating and rebellious, and even seductive, yet it may go well beyond what two people might actually agree to in person. Forbidding young people to see one another is traditionally the least effective prohibition in all of parenting! Ultimately, though you express your concerns and your son hears them, once he leaves your sight you have little way of knowing what he will be doing. A more effective, and ultimately safer course, is to talk about your concerns, help your son to become knowledgeable about sexuality, and let it be known that you are available for any conversation, about anything that might happen, and that you want to be helpful to him in whatever circumstances might arise.
Posted On 2010-10-24 19:15:28
Dr. Vicki Panaccione Replied: Glad you asked. I assure you that you are not alone in this dilemma. Many parents are struggling with much the same issue. First off, does your son know that you read his text messages? Did you have some reason to be concerned? If he does not know, my first recommendation is that you tell him that you have read them, why you felt compelled to read them, and what your concerns are about the nature of the texts. Let this be the opening of a dialogue, rather than turn into a monologue/lecture that he will not listen to. Not sure if the text meant that they were discussing the possibility of having sex, or the fact that they already had "gone all the way." Either scenario, do you know: What is the nature of his relationship? Has he been going out for a while with the same girl? Does he have deep feelings for her? Is he being pressured either by her (yes, it happens more often than you would think) or by peers? There seems to be a new social norm: it's not cool to be a virgin. Some kids will just find a partner, to "Get it over with." Not exactly the way you may envision your son having his first sexual encounter; but there may be many factors at play here. Remember just because you tell your kids how you feel, does not mean that they will share your opinion. Understanding your position is not the same thing as adopting it as his own. Your son really does need to make these decisions for himself, hopefully taking into consideration your opinion and values. However, if they want to have sex, they will find a way to be together. So forbidding the relationship really just makes it all the more attractive. Talk with him…not to him. And, don't condemn him, or the girl. By talking, I mean having a conversation that actually includes listening to what he has to say…without judgment. Find out what it's like to be in your son's shoes, and the way he sees things in his world and with this girl. Then, you can certainly voice your preferences and why---give him real reasons, not just that he's too young. Then, because he still will make his own decision, give him information about having safe sex to protect both of them from sexually-transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Keep the lines of communication open. You want him to know he can come and talk to you about anything…even if it's difficult for you to hear!
Posted On 2010-10-22 20:16:14
Amy and Charles Miron Replied: We're assuming from the information in your question that your son knows that you periodically check his phone (as well as Facebook page, emails, etc.); something that we believe parents should be up front about. That said, we're so glad to hear that you have already discussed what your sexual values are with your son. That's critical and needs to be an ongoing dialogue. Dialogue implies a two way discussion. Understanding what your conditions are for engaging in sexual behaviors with others is one thing. Your son's agreeing with them is quite another. We'd strongly suggest that you open a conversation with your son about how he feels about his relationship with his girlfriend. You might listen first, and then say something like, "It sounds like you both are getting very serious." See what he has to say. Make sure you're a good listener by repeating back to him what you understand his feelings are. Stating what you've heard simply shows that you've listened well…not that you've agreed. Then state your position and why you feel as you do. You might want to say something like, "Even though you are very mature for your age, I don't think that any 15 year old is ready for the consequences of having sexual intercourse." And then explain why. We believe in explaining to teens that with their behavior they are writing their own personal history that they will be reading for the rest of their lives. First sexual experiences will be remembered until the day they die. Encourage your son to realize that. Ask him to make sure that he is taking good care if himself as well as others. Suggest to your son that he think long and hard about this decision. Reaffirm your thoughts and feelings and leave him with a positive message such as: "I have faith in you." Or "I believe that you are really smart and will do the right thing." As far as forbidding your son to see his girlfriend, we think that's not the best way to fly. Keeping him constructively busy with things he is interested in might be of some help. But forbidding a teen to have a friend is more likely to boomerang on you. You become the "evil parent that doesn't understand" and can easily become a force to bring them closer together. Perhaps, having your son's girlfriend over for a family dinner might give them less to push off against. Make it quite clear that it's the sexual behavior and their ages that you don't agree with. Not the friendship.
Posted On 2010-10-22 19:30:46
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