What to do if Your Teen is Sexually Active
If you are reading this, your heart is probably sick and broken to know your little girl or young man is no longer sexually pure. The thing you dreaded happening has happened, or you have good reason to believe it may have happened. Before you get overwhelmed with, “If I had only…” let me say that there are a lot of things we can do to be better parents even now.
Remorse about your own performance as a parent will not help your young person at this point. What is important now is how you respond to the situation, that you rescue and salvage the relationship between you and your teenager.
Listen to what some teens have said:
“I am sexually active and I feel like it is unstoppable.”
“My mom knows that I am sexually active, but she doesn’t do anything about it.”
“All my mom did was take me to the doctor and have them talk to me about sex.”
According to George Barna Research Group, only 23% of the post baby-boomer generation claim to be virgins. Sexual activities among this generation are likewise disturbing. By age eighteen, 27% have experienced sexual intercourse, and 55% have engaged in fondling breasts.
Why do teens have sex? Girls and guys responded differently:
- 61% of girls and 23% of boys cite peer pressure from the dating partner as a reason teens have sex.
- 59%of girls and 51% of boys say it happens because they think they are ready.
- 45% of girls have sex because they want to be loved, while 28% of boys give that same reason.
- 38% of girls are afraid of being teased about their virginity, compared to 43%of boys.
In Josh McDowell’s Handbook on Counseling Youth, McDowell gives several reasons for premarital sex:
- Educational and Societal Messages. The message thrown at young people by society in general and by educational programs in particular are reasons for sexual activity.
- Low Level of Religious Commitment. More frequent attendance at religious services leads to more restrictive attitudes concerning sex and less premarital sexual experience.
- Family Structure. The effects of divorce and other family disruption and separation have been documented in numerous studies. One of those effects is sexual activity.
- Poor Sex Education at Home. Kids who don’t find the answers at home often learn the answers by painful experience. In the words of one teen, “Teenagers are ignorant about what they’re doing. All they know is that they were made with certain body parts, so they might as well find out what they’re used for. Sort of like test-driving a car just to see how well it performs.”
- Relational Needs. Many young people are uncertain of their parents’ love. One girl wrote, “When I was eight years old, I first had sex with a boy of 15. I did it because I lacked love and attention from my parents. I need love and my parents never show me any. Nothing changed at home, and at 15 I became pregnant…[and] had an abortion. Now I’m afraid to date anyone, and I cry myself to sleep every night.”
- Early Dating. The younger a girl begins to date, the more likely she is to have sex before graduating high school. It is also true of boys and girls who go steady in the ninth grade. Of girls who began to date at age 12, 91% of them had sex before graduation – compared to 56% who dated at age 14, 40% who dated at age 15, and 20% who dated at age 16.
- Peer Pressure. A study of a thousand teens showed that 76% would go far enough sexually to feel experienced and not feel left out.
- Alcohol and Drugs. The use of alcohol and other drugs hastens many kids to sexual involvement.
- Desire for a Child. Although most youth want desperately to avoid becoming pregnant, some teenage girls are motivated to become sexually active by a desire to have a child. She may feel so bad about herself and so unloved that she tries intentionally to have a child, someone she can love and will love her back.
The top reason teenagers have sex, according to the girls is, “a boy pressuring them.”
When a young person reaches puberty, it’s safe to assume the struggle with sexual desires has begun. You can make a number of observations to determine the intensity of your child’s struggle. How does your son look at girls? Have you found pornographic magazines in your teen’s possession? How does your daughter talk about boys? Does she emphasize only their looks and not their personality? When with a member of the opposite sex, does your teen constantly need to be touching?
How should you respond to your teen? First, be sure you show them you still love them. Sometimes the reaction can be so intense from a parent’s hurt, anger, and frustration that it pushes the young person further away until there is little hope of helping them regain their moral strength. Do not be so struck with shock that you fail to remember inside that they are still the same person. Most times the body has grown up a lot faster than the mind, will, and emotions. Right now your teen needs direction, someone who believes in them, and someone who is willing to help them gain wisdom in this situation.
The second thing you need to do is take a deep breath. Now that you have taken a deep breath and calmed down, let us backtrack a bit and ask a few different questions. How much have you talked to your child about sex? While 75% of parents have talked to their teen about sex, less than half discussed birth control, and only 55% discussed sexually transmitted diseases.
How much have you really explained to them? How many moral issues have you discussed with them? If you made it very clear to them that sex before marriage and any kind of petting before marriage is wrong, have you told them why? The world has inundated this generation with so much sexual indiscretion that it seems normal to a young person to have sex on the first date. The world promotes that it is morally okay to sleep around as long as you are not sleeping around with more than one person at a time.
With all that bombardment of the world’s values, what have we done to bombard our children with the right message? Fifty-eight percent of teens say they don’t have enough information on using different kinds of birth control. Seventy-five percent say they know how girls get pregnant, but lack of practical information about using contraception.
“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality.” 1 Thessalonians 4:3