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What To Do If You Think Your Teen Is Sexually Active

As parents, it is inevitable for us to worry about our children. We always want to be there for them and protect them from things that we think could put them in harm’s way—especially when they become teenagers. Parenting teens can be a daunting task, as this is the time that they get to open themselves out to the “real world”—they’ll learn how to drive, they go out to parties and come home smelling like alcohol, and they start experimenting with sex. Terrifying, isn’t it?

Though some parents are not bothered by the idea of their teenagers engaging in sex, as long as they’re protected, most parents that I know are unprepared, agitated and definitely upset when they find out that their teens are having sex. So how would you know if your teenager is already having sex? What do you do when you find out that they’re sexually active? And how can you help protect them?

 

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Is my teen sexually active?

Most parents believe that when their child enters a romantic relationship, they will also start “fooling around,” hence, the no-boyfriend-until-after-college rule. But, that is not always the case. Asking about sex, wearing revealing clothes, drinking and hanging out with friends, going to the gynecologist are not enough evidence for you to assume that your child is sexually active. More often than not, they’re just curious and they want to know more without doing the deed. However, if you find used condoms, packs of birth control pills, specific messages of sexual experiences in their possession, then, chances are, they are having sexual relations.

Side tip: Never assume. Judging your child and being paranoid will only make things worse.

 

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What do I do?

If you have concrete evidence that your child is sexually active, what should you do? First off, do not scream at them nor show them that you can’t handle the situation. It is understandable to be distressed and disappointed. However, projecting your anger towards your child may be putting them more at risk than protecting them. The best thing that you can do at the moment is to sit them down and ask them straight up if they’re having sex. Tell them calmly and reassuringly that you are there to help them. Do not reprimand them. Encourage them to be open and honest and foster that atmosphere of trust between you. Research shows that teens who have close relationships with their parents are less likely to engage in risky behaviors.

Side tip: It may be helpful if you share with them your experiences too! 

 

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"If you have concrete evidence that your child is sexually active, what should you do? First off, do not scream at them nor show them that you can’t handle the situation."

 

 

"Not talking to them about sex actually hurts them more"

 

How can I protect my child?

Parents SHOULD be the primary source of sexual information of children. However, because of the stigma surrounding sex and the notion that talking about it perpetuates and encourages sexual behavior, teens get their information not from their parents but from their peers, media, and much worse, pornography. These sources open them up to sexual misconceptions as well as to greater risks in contracting sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies. So you see, not talking to them about sex actually hurts them more.

Making teens fear sex will not work either. According to research, negative messages about sex only lead them to engage in sex without the proper knowledge and protection, but not necessarily stop them from doing it. As they become adults, they may suffer from sexual dysfunctions because of the fear, guilt and shame that they associate with sex. So if you want them to be sexually dissatisfied and confused when they get older, then by all means, scare them.

 

"Listen to their stories. Share them yours. Tell them how you feel. Yes, it may be uncomfortable, confusing, and downright embarrassing but know that it is your job and your responsibility as a parent. Because, if not you, then who?"

 

Whether sexually active or not, studies have shown that parents really make a difference in terms of their teen’s sexual behavior. Teens who have frequent conversations with their parents about matters related to sex are more likely to delay the onset of sexual activity, and use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do become sexually active. Aren’t those what we, as parents, want?

Thus, if you really want to protect them, talk to them. Provide them with facts that could help them in making informed decisions. Help them understand the consequences of being sexually active. Guide them in knowing their boundaries. Listen to their stories. Share them yours. Tell them how you feel. Yes, it may be uncomfortable, confusing, and downright embarrassing but know that it is your job and your responsibility as a parent. Because, if not you, then who?

Side tip: Want your paranoia to end? Supply your teens with condoms and/or put them on birth control. Accept that you cannot stop them from having sex, but you can definitely protect them.

 

OUR LOVE & SEX EXPERT

Rica Cruz, RPsy is a Psychologist, and Sex and Relationships Therapist with the Ateneo Bulatao Center for Psychology Services. She is also a faculty member of the Department of Psychology at the Ateneo de Manila University. Her expertise focuses on Filipino sexual behaviours with an emphasis on sexual pleasure and relationship satisfaction. She opines that sexual empowerment for Filipinos is sexier than sex.

 

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