Should I start my daughter on birth control?

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Question: “I’m in a pickle. My daughter is 16 and could be having sex, …  I think. I recently found some condoms she had hidden in her bedroom when I was looking with her for an outfit she claims I lost in the wash! I was shocked and then asked her about it and she said she had not had sex but that she had the condoms just in case. She has a boyfriend but denies having sex with him. I don’t have evidence that she is sexually active yet I now have the condoms, how do I proceed? My husband says it may be a phase and that we should take them from her but not over-react. If she is having sex shouldn’t I start her on birth control? I am an active Mormon mother and don’t want to over-react nor do I want her having sex! I’m eager for some answers, thanks in advance.

teenagegirlAnswer:  I appreciate the question. Yes, you are in a pickle but you still have many options and solutions that are within your reach. I don’t have all the details per your posted question but do have enough to at least begin to start answering the questions you posed and give you some guidance. First to clarify, adolescence can be such a beautiful time for growth and self-exploration. Many teens seem to reel with excitement when given attention and at times affection from those of the opposite sex. Their understanding of themselves and how they relate to others is just beginning to blossom in new ways. At the same time, they are also coming to understand that they are sexual beings. Sexual feelings begin to stir when your daughter is engaged and ‘hanging out’ with other boys. These feelings, unfortunately are starting earlier and earlier in girls as a result of spiritual bombardment in the media with images, innuendos, and provocative dress. Your daughter is on a journey to find herself and the journey of connection and intimacy is normal and healthy. It is clear that she likely is wanting support and affection from her boyfriend as well. Seeking validation and a ‘litmus test’ on whether or not she’s worth it and beautiful is a process that most adolescents pass through. Her boyfriend is on some level providing this. So to sum this part up, your daughters having sexual feelings and wanting to act on those is completely normal. The real key here is what she does with those inner stirrings.

Now, you stated a few of the facts that I’ll reconfirm. She has stated to you that she intends or hopes to have sex in her reply to you with ‘just in case’. I’d interpret the ‘just in case’ as a clear statement that she intends on having sex with her boyfriend if she has not already. Possibly, she already is and replied with a retort of ‘just in case’ to fend you off. Often teens lie in the heat of the moment but later will disclose more of what is really happening. I’d conclude and presume that she is having sex until you can confirm otherwise.

How to proceed? First you need to get on the same page with your husband. I’d suggest having a long discussion with him about his impressions and thoughts. I’d also suggest prayer and pondering as well. Pleading for answers and promptings for moments to ‘teach’ your daughter are key.  You’ve really got a few options.

I’d recommend sitting down with her after you have found a ‘open’ window within which she will not just hear you but can engage and listen. Don’t do all the talking, pace the conversation with questions and dialogue about how she feels and gently but clearly tell her of your concerns about the condoms and inquire more about her sexual behavior. Listen, Listen, Listen. Too often parents are so busy telling, preaching, pleading, explaining the spiritual ramifications, etc that they fail to listen to what the teen is trying to say. For example, if she were to put her head down and get really quiet she may be saying, “Mom I feel really embarrassed and ashamed. I don’t know how to talk about it.” Reading this cue can help guide your next comments and the way you listen. There is no ‘right way’, but listening and really talking openly about it without shaming, guilting, or threatening is the only way you can open up a dialogue with her to find out if she is having sex with her boyfriend or others. Ideally the conversation opens up dialogue in more depth about intimacy. You then can share your understanding that the feelings she is having are real and natural yet need to be controlled with in the guidelines the Lord has set, within a marriage. Again, don’t preach too much but simply listening and dialoguing is key.

Ideally you will be able to discuss with her and help her see that sex prior to marriage is not only spiritually harmful but also risky and leads to more problems for her. Hopefully following your conversation with her you will feel more connected and aware of her needs and where she is at with the issues.

Now, if you find she is having sex and she is unwilling to stop I’d suggest putting her on birth control. I’ve had LDS parents upset with this recommendation, that did not follow my advice and end up with their teen daughters pregnant; in fact I’ve had two cases like this in the past few years. They feel that if they give the teen birth control then it gives them more freedom. While this seems true on the surface is really is not upon further review. Often if they are going to have sex no matter what their parents say, they end up doing it with or without a condom. I do not and have not advocated birth control in schools or that parents provide it but when you have a teen that is continuing to have sex you have two choices: gamble and hope they don’t get pregnant, or put them on birth control and work with them to get grounded with principles and gospel truth with the hope they’ll come around. The decision is up to the parents but clearly one to be made by fasting and prayer as well as thoughtful consideration.