I am worried that my daughter is being pressured into sexual activity, how do I talk to her?
Dear Stop It Now!,
My daughter is "in love" with a transgender boy. She is allowing "him" to fondle her breasts in and out of school. Making out in the school and trying to hide while on school property. She has never had a boyfriend and not permitted to date. Their text messages are horribly inappropriate, to the point I'm thinking this "boy" must be reading or watching porn. They've talked about giving each other hickeys in "places nobody will see." How do we make this stop without horrible repercussions? I can isolate her so he can't get to her but I don't want to make her suicidal or hurt herself. I also don't want to see anything bad happen to him. She is being used but says he loves her and that there's no way he's using her. We are a Christian family and have told her constantly how much we love her and have built her up, so why would she feel a need to do this?
Dear Concerned Parent,
I’m so sorry that your family is struggling right now with concerns about your daughter’s safety and her decisions regarding relationships. However, it’s great that you’re an involved parent looking to keep her safe and healthy in all of her relationships. Often it can be difficult to address issues around sex and sexuality in a firm but compassionate stance, but staying informed and active in your daughter’s life is so important.
What's Normal and What's Concerning
As a teenager, it is developmentally normal and appropriate for your daughter to want to have a relationship and/or physical intimacy with someone she cares about. However, you’ve shared observations of other concerning behaviors, such as sexualized behaviors in her school, sexualized texting and secretive behaviors that do raise a red flag. Additionally, it sounds like your daughter has had little experience in relationships. I also appreciate that you want both of these youth to be safe.
Communicating About Safety, Sexuality and Values
It sounds like you’ve already been having discussions around your own values at home - wonderful! This is part of working to keep your daughter safe. Keep communication open; continue to ask her questions about her feelings, her relationship and what she values about her relationship with this boy. Help her feel comfortable talking to you about him. This doesn’t mean that you are giving a stamp of approval but rather that you value her opinions and feelings. As you do talk with her about your feelings and concerns, do describe your specific concerns, letting her know why these behaviors worry you. For example, letting her know that texting sexualized content can put her and him at risk. As she is under the age of consent, sexual texts with a minor can sometimes lead to criminal charges. Also, texts with sexual content become the property of the electronic world, and your daughter loses controls over her words and images that she sends. She may think that this is private between her and her boyfriend, but indeed, she risks exposing herself very personally to strangers.
It is also important to affirm for her that being curious is healthy and normal, but that while she’s still a child she cannot consent to sexual activity. While I’m not sure of your feelings about her boyfriend’s gender, I can understand that it may still be a confusing time as a parent – watching your daughter enter her first relationship, and that this relationship is with someone who potentially is struggling with their own boundaries and safe decisions. Your concerns about possible pornography viewing and more mature sexual behaviors are warranted. Stay focused on the behaviors and situations, trying to refrain from attacks on this boy personally. A successful communication skill is to focus on behaviors, and not on intentions or character – because we just can’t always know what these are but we can speak specifically to the behaviors we’ve experienced.
These conversations are part of Safety Planning. Safety planning helps articulate what values you find important, and helps your daughter get information about sex and sexuality from a trusted source. It’s important to pair this talk with what she can do too. Perhaps you can invite her friend over for dinner, and discuss with him your expectations if he were to be your daughter’s friend. An open-door policy, as well as a dialogue on respect, consent, and privacy – and the consequences for not following the rules – would be important.
Involving Other Caregivers
Have you sought out this boy’s parents? You may want to join together to discuss what’s going on – and what the rules of this relationship are if they are to continue seeing each other. When both sets of parents are on the same page it can be easier to present a united front – and then you can also be clear about acceptable behavior in both households. Further, this would give you the chance to talk to them about what you’ve seen via her text messages so that they can take any necessary precaution’s on his devices.
As you mention worries about suicide, I’m wondering if she had a history of self-injurious behavior. If so, this pattern of concerns may indicate that she’s struggling with something that deserves attention, and involving outside Professional Supports would be helpful in ensuring that your daughter is able to heal from whatever is going on for her right now. You also may want to share with her a resource that is designed specifically as a support for teenagers, such as the Your Life Your Voice (1.800.448.3000) crisis line – in case she needs somewhere to talk.
I’ve included some resources below that may help facilitate your discussions with your daughter, and some tools that may be helpful.
- Why Sexuality Education Is An Important Part Of A Safety Plan
- Ten Things To Remember When You Talk To Kids About Sexuality
- Resources on Healthy Sexuality
- Internet Safety Resources
- Talking to Your Teen About Sexual Health: PDF Guidebook for parents of adolescents on how to talk to their teen about sexual health using teachable moments and a caregiver's own values to support their child's healthy development.
Last edited on: September 5th, 2018