Dear Dr. Karyn,
My 17-year-old daughter just confessed to me that she has become sexually active with her boyfriend. Where do I go from here? I feel she is too young for this step but, obviously, I can’t change what has happened. Do I put her on the pill and just turn my head?
Oh, tough question, and I’m sure many parents are cringing at the thought of dealing with this situation themselves. The reality is you are absolutely right — you cannot change what has happened and you cannot control whether or not your daughter is sexually active.
Sex is one of those tough topics where parents and teens often share different values. My number one recommendation is to keep your lines of communication open with your daughter. Teens have so many difficult decisions they need to figure out, and I would much rather a teen go to her parent or professional for advice than trying to deal with the situation alone.
I think it was very brave of your daughter to be honest with you — that certainly speaks volumes about her trust in your relationship. I would communicate your value with her, and that you’d honestly prefer her not to be sexually active at this time and why — but that you also love her and respect her decision. Respect, by the way, does not mean you agree or condone a decision, but rather you respect the person’s right to make a certain decision. There is a big difference.
Since she has admitted to being sexually active, I recommend your next step be taking her to your family doctor. Have your doctor communicate the risks about being sexually active as well as recommend the different birth controls available. In this situation, you are not “turning your head,” but rather communicating your value and respecting where she is at. My hope is, through this, your relationship will get stronger and that when she needs some help, you will be the first person she goes to.
Bullying at schools
Dear Dr. Karyn,
I am writing about my eight year old son, he is being bullied at school. The bullying started with words but now has escalated to physical abuse. Our son is a very happy and well-adjusted little boy, but lately he has wanted to come home for lunch more often. Any insight you can offer would be greatly appreciated.
Bullying is so incredibly damaging to a child’s sense of safety and self-esteem. It does not surprise me that your son wants to stay closer to home. Here are some recommendations:
First, keep the lines of communication open with your son. It is so important for him to feel safe at home and that he has his parents to support him through this. It’s most important to encourage him to share his thoughts and feelings about what is happening. Listen carefully, validate his feelings and than start talking about solutions.
Second, it’s essential that you go to the principal of the school. Children at this age cannot nor should they figure out a solution for bullying on their own. Schools are supposed to be safe for our children and it’s the adults in charge that need to make sure this happens. Keep a log of everything that happens so when you go in to talk with the principal you have everything recorded. Ask about their procedures regarding bullying, what they will do to protect your son, and what the consequences are if children bully.
Breaking the silence and surrounding yourself with people who also want to protect your son is most important!
Dr. Karyn Gordon is one of North America’s leading relationship and parenting experts. She is a regular contributor to “Good Morning America,” founder of dk Leadership, best-selling author of “Dr. Karyn’s Guide To The Teen Years” (Harper Collins), and motivational speaker to a quarter of a million people. Visit her at www.dkleadership.org and on Twitter: @DrKarynGordon.