What do I do?
Well, first, be thankful she came to you to ask! Considering the internet offers immediate answers, it says a lot that she trusts you enough to ask and recognizes you as a reliable source of information. Undoubtedly it required a lot of courage to ask, so first and foremost, thank her for coming to you. See this as an opportunity to have an open and honest conversation, which can be a rare occurrence for many teens and their parents.
If your teenage daughter is interested in birth control it would be a good idea to talk to her about all the risks, both physical, mental and emotional, of having sexual intercourse at such an early age, and with someone who is not her husband. It’s best to start with the facts before you interject your own opinion or feelings. This will build a firm foundation for why you feel the way you do.
After this conversation, if she is still interested in knowing more about contraceptives you should review the various types available, being sure to discuss the pros, cons, and risks of each one and reinforcing that contraceptives only offer limited physical protection. For example, the actual effectiveness of a condom is 82%, much lower than most people think. Be upfront and honest about the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. Include the latest statistics including the fact that over 20 million new cases of STIs and STDs are diagnosed each year and her peers- those ages 15 to 24 account for half of them. Make sure she understands that some STIs can be passed by skin to skin contact and not all have symptoms. Even the medical experts admit that there is no method that is 100% effective at preventing risk other than abstinence. She may not be sure that’s even possible – it’s understandable in our culture that is so saturated with sexual images and messages. But you can be the calm voice of reason that shares the truth with her. The truth being that only 30.1% of high school students are sexually active. That’s roughly one third, so it’s actually more normal to wait than to become sexually active. Abstinence is totally possible and it happens more often than one might think.
You should also be sure to explain that 67% of teen girls and 53% of teen boys who have been sexually active regret it. Nobody likes regret and no doubt you don’t want her to have regret either. If she has already become sexually active and shares that with you, try to remain calm and thank her for trusting you with the truth. Explain that just because she has become sexually active, she does not have to remain sexually active. Give her the invitation to imagine: Imagine a romantic relationship built on trust, mutual respect and admiration, instead of a focus on sex. It’s important to note, if she has been sexually active, even just once, it’s important for her to get tested for sexually transmitted infections. Clarity Testing Clinic is both affordable and confidential. Caring, trained medical professionals are ready to assist you should that need arise.
Above all, stay calm and keep the lines of communication open. This doesn’t need to be a one and done conversation; rather the first of many talks, a beginning of walking alongside your teen as she becomes a woman and makes choices for her future. It’s understandable to want to step in and take control but this is more about making sure she is equipped and able to make informed choices for herself based on the truth and guided by your family’s values. Even if she makes a choice that isn’t what you would prefer, following the steps above will ensure she knows you care and can trust you to be there to listen and love her.