What do you do when you've learned that your teen is having unsafe sex?

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Prolific scribe

What do you do when you've learned that your teen is having unsafe sex?

Help! I'm a little too late and really could use some peer input on this one!

My daughter (17) has been struggling socially all year, battling with image/body issues, self esteem and mental health/depression and anxiety - and she is a beautiful, intelligent and caring soul.

She has been seeing a psychologist all year, with little improvement, and the psych has now ceased support for maternity leave ;( I am having trouble getting her to see someone else.

We used to be close, but this has gradually been disappearing as she recedes into herself.

After much deliberation, I decided to make for her diary and learned that she had recently engaged in a sexual activity that was unsafe and disrepectful. She doesn't appear to recognise this despite her feminist upbringing ;(

I am not sure how or if to confront her, for fear of pushing her further away. I am very conscious of raising this for her own health and safety; to support and redirect her energy towards working on her self esteem and not causing her shame.

Do I tell her? I have a whole 'curriculum' prepared that I was about to launch on her and my younger daughter, and though I have been so 'on the right page', I was actually two pages (eq. to a week!) behind!

I do look forward to some advice!

Thanks.

 

 

eyintas/Empowering Youth in Tasmania
Community Manager

Re: What do you do when you've learned that your teen is having unsafe sex?

Hi @taziness and welcome! Ordinarily I don't think it's unusual to lose a bit of that closeness with teenagers as they start to assert their independence. Are you seeing it as a red flag that she is not coping as well with her mental health as she used to? It's disappointing that her psychologist didn't arrange for another therapist to continue with the sessions while she is on mat leave. What is the main hesitation for not wanting to see someone else? 

 

I'm impressed that you have a whole curriculum prepared for discussing sex with your daughters! You said that she engaged in unsafe and disrespectful sexual practices. By unsafe, do you mean unprotected? If so, I think it's important that she visits a sexual health clinic and gets tested. When you say disrespectful do you mean disrespectful to you and your house rules about sex, or that she was treated disrespectfully? There are some resources here on teaching respect in sexual relationships that you might find useful. Having said all of that, I don't know how you broach the subject without confessing you got the information from her diary and shifting the conversation to an argument about privacy. Perhaps some other parents of teens can weigh in here?

Prolific scribe

Re: What do you do when you've learned that your teen is having unsafe sex?

Firstly, thanks so much for your input and care.

I guess the diary issue is separate in some way to the unsafe sex issue, but I have decided that the latter is most important and in the end broached both subjects with daughter in concern. So to begin with, I am currently in the 'silent treatment mode' from daughter (17) but I am glad that the encroachment on privacy has been disclosed now anyway!

I more concerned about her lack of care, which is clearly related to her mental health/self esteem issues. so some history, this began after a relationship breakdown with both an intimate girlfriend (her first relationship - though I'm fairly certain that this was due to more of a need for intimacy than bisexuality) and her bff of four years. It was a very difficult time, and still is due to still seeing these girls daily (who are now bff themselves not in an intimate relationship but both with image and eating issues which have sadly transposed onto my daughter despite her willingness to help them and then get them help - she was talking to me in more depth back then!) It has been an incredibly difficult transition from high school to college to say the least (which are separate in the state of Tasmania). She had a really positive group of girls in high school, all very close and this has fallen apart since college. She is also living 'independently' in town during the week due to our distance and she comes home on the weekends. It is a very difficult time.

Thank you for sharing my concern about the unsafe sex. I will take her to get tested immediately which will hopefully emphasise the issue to her. This is my main concern, her lack of care or regard towards herself. I believe that she is self harming (not sure to what extent) and admits to having a really low self esteem.

She says that she experiences life as a sense of surrealism - all the more reason to not engage in sex just now! - what is considered Depersonalisation/Derealisation. We are waiting on a clinical assessment for this. 

Her hesitation with going to a new psych I guess is feeling overwhelmed at having to 'tell her story again' and start over....her first pyschologist was not really helpful and it's a bit hit and miss I guess. I contacted Headspace who have contacted her and says that as she is unwilling to voluntarily go in, there's not much that I can do? I suspect I might be able to change her mind though with some more 'pushing'. I will certainly be insisting on an STI check.

My plan at this stage is to hold back a little until her anger at my reading her diary settles. In any case, school finishes for her next week and I don't think  that I could do the silent treatment thing so I will certainly being poking and prodding.

Any suggestions for the right directions?

Thanks so much!!

 

eyintas/Empowering Youth in Tasmania
Highlighted
Contributor

Re: What do you do when you've learned that your teen is having unsafe sex?

@taziness it seems you have quite some issues here with your daughter, but it is a bit confusing as to what the real problem is. @ElleBelle you have asked all the questions I am impulsed to ask. and I agree that if there is any physical or material consequence, we should attend to it immediately.

 

My daughter is younger, so we have not come to the point of 'having sex' yet, but we have extensively discussed about it and she shares stories about her peers with me. I am glad to know that most of the time, things are not too bad/dangerous as mothers of daughters would imagine.

 

I would purposely set up a scene/conversation, may be while watching tv, or mentioning about reading an article, a novel, or talking about a friend or even yourself when you were young and discuss the topic with your daughters. I don't know how old your younger one is, but it is never too early to discuss about sex. According to my daughter, many children discuss about sex when they were in primary school. So why should we not at home.


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Prolific scribe

Re: What do you do when you've learned that your teen is having unsafe sex?

Firstly, thank you so much for your input and support. I really don't know where to turn at the moment!

I realise I've not been entirely clear for a, feeling a bit overwhelmed and b, wasn't sure that I was going to get much feedback on too much information! Thanks for being there/here!

 

When I initially wrote the email, I was concerned how to broach things with my daughter at all as I had learned what I know from reading her diary! Now that the cat's out of the bag, I can move to the real issues, hoping that her anger will subside over the 'diary thing'?

 

I felt that I had to say something for several reasons. Aside (though not an aside at all) from her year long battle with anxiety/depression/Depersonalisation and very low self esteem (a result of a breakdown of her former high school frienships), she engaged in a sexual activity that was unsafe and disrepectful. Being unsafe, deems it dispectful, but if I put that aside (because I guess many of us have been there 'in the heat of the moment), then it was also disrespectful because she was the most (of the three involved) that was at risk. It was her first time, and both boys have had two or more sexual partners. It was also disrespectful, because of the acts she performed, none of which took into account her pleasure or first time as far as I can tell (I read the diary!). I admit that I may not know it all (thankfully I think), but essentially, she did not seem to consider her pleasure in any of it.

I have had to really step back emotionally from this in order to process it relevant to my daughter and her world. I have not been a part of her inner world for some time. She had been so happy in herself and immersed in her happy and close friendships during the high school years that there weren't any worries. We communicated well, were very close and then this past year it's just been a major breakdown. It is very challenging. If I put aside the details of the sexual activity, I guess the most disconcerting thing that I am left with really, is her response to it all. I have to be glad (though careful!) that she sees it as a positive experience. I suppose I have to see it as something for her to learn from.

 

Unfortunately, in her world (it's very very different for my 15yo daughter and many others I'm sure), gratifying young men is a perfectly 'normal' way for her to share her sexuality. In fact, she is a 'late bloomer'. Only weeks before this time, I had shared a facebook post with my daughters stating that girls were giving their first blow jobs before getting their first kiss.....

 

Anyway, on the weekend, I insisted that we were all going to watch Miss Representation together. We managed a bit of discussion about media, corporation, mainly really thoughtful and well balanced responses from my younger daughter who is free from feeling objectified (this year anyway).....My 17yo mainly felt that there was no escape from pressure to conform and perform in order to 'belong'.

 

Where do I begin? I've booked us tickets to watch Embrace in a few weeks. Perfect timing, though anything sooner would be great! I'm not sure how long I can bear this silence, and the term breaks at the end of the week!

 

Look forward to anything you can suggest,

 

 

 

eyintas/Empowering Youth in Tasmania
Community Manager

Re: What do you do when you've learned that your teen is having unsafe sex?

Hi @taziness it's understandable that you're feeling overwhelmed at the moment, it sounds like a lot to handle.

 

It's clear to me reading your posts that you love your daughters and are just trying to do your best to help them navigate teenager-hood. Your daughter, however, may not be able to see this and is possibly a bit blinded by her anger at the moment. 

 

The 'diary thing' aside, how did your daughter respond to you raising the idea of respectful sexual relationships?

Prolific scribe

Re: What do you do when you've learned that your teen is having unsafe sex?

She tells me that I'm making a big deal out of it and that it's the norm among her peers basically. Caught up in a surreal world of media images, devoid of real connection with herself and the wider world and feeling depersonalised. She has really enjoyed several good years of fun and friendship in a tight group of girls who fell apart between the transition between high school and college. This year was very difficult and confusing for her. She no longer enjoys very much about life at all and is struggling to break free from her negative thought processes and past. It's very sad really.

eyintas/Empowering Youth in Tasmania
Prolific scribe

Re: What do you do when you've learned that your teen is having unsafe sex?

I realise that perhaps I didn't answer the question. She doesn't agree with 'my ideas' of what safe or respectful sex is and believes that there is a healthy respect and friendship between herself and these young men. From what I have seen and read, it's simply teen boys being teen boys who are taking advantage of her need for friendship and intimacy.

eyintas/Empowering Youth in Tasmania
Founding member

Re: What do you do when you've learned that your teen is having unsafe sex?

When I read your posts, taziness, it makes my blood boil. Our daughters are being treated as objects, commodities and simply depersonalised. I hate that. I hate that they have been brainwashed by various parts of society to accept that as normal. Nowhere is there the slightest regard for their needs and wants or any acceptance that they are people, not walking blow up dolls. Rant mode off.

I'd love to have a magic spell you could speak over your daughter, that we could all speak over our daughters - I have three - that would move their hearts to demand respect and insist on being treated as people, not objects. I also wish for a spell to speak over our sons to move their hearts to treat women, young and older, as people. But I don't. All I can suggest is that we all treat our children of both genders with total unconditional love then, if it's offered, take opportunities to influence them to think rightly about their sexuality. It's not much, sorry. Communication is vital and when we have it I suggest we use it to plant appropriate concepts into the minds of our children. It's tough - we're parents, what could we possibly know? We must not give up on our kids though.

Sorry to rant and offer no real help but it's a subject close to my heart raising three daughters. Just know that you, taziness, are not alone here. Good luck!

Community Manager

Re: What do you do when you've learned that your teen is having unsafe sex?

There is a lot going on here @taziness, no wonder it has been so overwhelming.

You said your daughter lives away and isn't willing to 'tell her story all over again' with another psychologist but has been maintaining a diary. Has your daughter been using any other positive ways to cope in this past year? You could possibly encourage her to use what is in her diary when talking to someone, especially if she finds it hard to begin talking. This article might help with ideas to model behaviour and reconnect with your daughter.

There is also an article on peer pessure that might provide some insights in this case.

 

Wishing you well! You have some hot topics to navigate but it sounds like you've got a good plan in place.