If you’re asking this question, then there’s a good chance the answer is yes.
Now for the follow-up question: Is this a problem for you?
Let me be very candid about where I stand on this. I don’t want you to feel surprised if you call me or any of the members of our team here at Teen Therapy OC. I think it’s a problem if your teenager is having sex. The other therapists who work here, Carrie and Seth, also think it’s a problem.
There are some parents who feel fine about this. There are other parents who are glad for their teenager. They want their son or daughter to have this experience. I actually do understand where you’re coming from. I can see your side of it and I’m not here to condemn you for they way you’re looking at this situation.
Here’s why I see it differently. Adolescents are all heart and no brain. Of course I’m being facetious, but they really do feel a lot more than they think. Their hearts are tender and vulnerable. They become extremely idealistic when they think they are experiencing love. Once they begin having sex this simply amplifies.
Your teenager is opening himself or herself up to a world of emotional pain once they are having sex with someone. Their partner is probably going to change his or her mind about your child. Right now they are lavishing compliments and all kinds of attention on your son or daughter. Your son or daughter is doing the same in return. As life progresses, drama unfolds, and teens are just teens, minds will be changed. Most likely the person who “loves” your child now is going to becomes spiteful and hateful. There simply isn’t the maturity to carry on as though nothing has happened when everything has happened. Also, your teen’s partner is very likely in their social circle. There won’t be the luxury of no longer seeing one another. It is a train wreck waiting to happen.
Your teen is opening himself or herself up to physical danger too. I’m not talking about being beaten or raped, although that is also a possibility. I’m talking about venereal diseases. These are absolutely real. While many of them can be cured, many of them cannot. Your daughter might contract a silent strain of HPV that she’s not aware of until she’s older and she keeps having miscarriages, or until she’s diagnosed with cervical cancer. Your son might get HIV. This is not some distant risk that wouldn’t ever happen to your kid. These diseases are rampant among teens. I have worked with hundreds of teenagers throughout my tenure as a therapist. Of those who are having sex, many have had multiple partners.
Let me tell you a quick story: One sweet girl I saw at one point started seeing a boy. Two weeks in she felt confident he was going to commit to her soon, so she started having sex with him. Time went by and he refused to acknowledge her as his girlfriend, “but that’s okay because he’s not sleeping with anyone else.” Her best friend was having sex with another boy who wouldn’t commit, and who told her he planned to continue “hooking up” with other people. Their other friend was in a relationship, but had about eight previous partners. Her boyfriend had never been with anyone but her, but he was exposed to the eight she’d been with plus all the other people they’d been with. Their other friend never had sex of any kind and was very comfortable with herself remaining patient and abstinent. The last member of this group of friends had sex with a different person every week. This last girl’s mother got her a birth control implant and essentially said, “good enough.” The risk with all these girls was that reportedly none of them used condoms. They were all only 16 years old. With the exception of the abstinent one, they all had self-esteem struggles. Just as an interesting aside, the abstinent one was the only one whose father lived in the home. You may think I’m making this up, but this is a real story from the trenches.
So, is your teen having sex? I hope not. If they are though, be gentle and kind. Have a lot of discussion. Teach them everything you can about their self-worth, love, and safety. When I have a sexually active teenage client (which I do all the time), I am patient and non-judgmental. I talk very openly with them about the risks, while trying my best to help them pick up the pieces when they get hurt (not if, but when). I try to help them see life is a journey and we all have things to learn. I know this first-hand because I was no saint as a teenager.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT