So, your 16-year-old daughter wants to have her boyfriend over for a sleepover?
It can be doing difficult to navigate sexuality and intimacy with teens of this generation as this ” hook up ” mentality leaves us parents feeling that teens are far too gung-ho and blaze about sex and that they don’t give it the respect and boundary expectations that we may give it. We may have grown up with a very different sexual philosophy and this can be compounded if we have different religious and spiritual views to our teenager.
I remember in the early 1990s, a friend who grew up in the 1950s thought it was fine at 17 for her son to be having sex and would ask him if he had condoms but was upset that her 18-year-old daughter had started enjoying a healthy sex life. This would seem hypocritical now. The new attitude with some older teen girls is that, “I oversee my sexuality and I will make assertive decisions about it, and no one will define me in derogatory terms when I am proactive.” It’s part of the feminist empowering agenda to break the sexist stereotypes and create gender sexual equality.
So, this is a progressive positive shift in consciousness from women being labelled as “easy” because they enjoy a healthy sex life to one of “like the boys” where it is normal for them to “play the field,” and have fun. However, this shift still brings with it those same perennial issues such as consent, being emotionally and physically ready and age appropriateness.
The change in sexual mores and the competing influence of the internet and social media can leave you feeling that you don’t have much input or enough influence any more into your teen’s growing experience with sexual relations and their value system. What could you do to help yourself have more pull power in this area of their lives?
Some food for thought:
Start early talking about relationships. Even if you find it uncomfortable talking about sex, ease yourself into with your child at age appropriate increments. Probably the best time would be after there is sexual education at their school. Pick the best advocate in the family to discuss this! In our house it was my husband, who has a practical and respectful philosophy on age appropriate sex and teens.
Discuss your views as well as your daughters view on sexuality and relationships.
What does she think is an age appropriate time to have sex? If she is 16 she is legally allowed to have sex with someone less than 3 years older than her, (depending on state) even if it may not be your value system as parents. How will you deal with this?
Talk to her about your relationships. When were you ready? What did you expect from your partnerships? What makes your relationship with her other parent/ your new partner now joyful and thriving?
Tell her that sex and a healthy relationship go hand in hand. If her partner is verbally, physically or emotionally abusive and the relationship is peppered with unhealthy conflict than is not acceptable, and protecting herself is imperative. Give her some strategies as her exit plan and tell her to come to you if she needs support with this.
Talk to her about being empowered and making sure she is comfortable and happy with her decision and never feel pressured into anything she is not 110% sure about.
What does she think are the essential ingredients to “being ready”? When will see know that is the case for her?
Talk to her about being respected by her peers, respecting her body and being careful at parties where there is alcohol and drugs. What does that look like for her?
How will she be taking charge of her sexual health, protection and contraception?
Do you expect her to be in a long-term relationship with a partner you know and like before you will accept them sleeping over? Will it also be contingent on her grades at school and her contribution to the family generally, i.e., chores, etc.
Can she have casual sexual encounters with partners she likes in your home if she is sure she wants to, likes the person very much and is very careful about protection? Or do you believe in no sex in the home before marriage at all, irrespective of the status of their relationship?
Perhaps get her some books on healthy relationships and sex what they look like. Heather Corinna wrote a book called S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College, which is a great all round guide to supporting teens as they navigate this tricky stage of their psycho-sexual development.
My husband had all these kinds of discussions with my daughter before her boyfriend could sleep over. Because he had started initial discussions at about 14-15 years old with her, she did not die of embarrassment or roll her eyes, she would engage with him quite openly eventually and asked him questions.
Your sexual philosophy as a family is very important to communicate with her while she is living in your home. There must be clear expectations and boundaries. It’s an awkward discussion for some parents, but a worthwhile one if you can have it!
When we don’t have these discussions, we assume a lot and leave ourselves open to worry, and concerned unspoken expectations. Teens want to know that they are respected and trusted and including them in decision making is a great way to ensure sexual safety and a healthy attitude to intimacy and romantic relationships.
Go on, bite the bullet!