(The Vancouver Sun, September 17, 2001)
Q: Im a single dad, and enjoy a close relationship with my 15-year-old daughter (when shes not making my life miserable!). The other night we were driving home from watching American Pie 2 and she asked me how someone knows when theyre ready to have sex. I believe her when she says she is still a virgin, but how do I even begin to answer her question before its too late?
R.N., Surrey, BC
Saleema and Teresa: First of all, our apologies for having to endure that no-brainer of a movie! Hope the popcorn was good at least. In all seriousness though, congratulations to you for enabling your daughter to feel comfortable talking to you about sex. You must have been working hard over the years to create a safe, non-judgmental environment in which she can share her concerns. In our work with teens, we find it helpful to stress that the decision to become sexually active is one that only they can make for themselves (sorry, the chastity belt is not an option!). Because this decision involves many physical and emotional consequences, it is of utmost importance that they do some serious thinking about their values, beliefs and boundaries BEFORE they find themselves in the back bedroom alone with someone at a party. Here are some questions your daughter may want to consider when the time comes:
- What do my family or religious values say about premarital sex?
- Do I feel comfortable talking about sex with my partner? Do I trust him/her?
- Do I feel forced or pressured to have sex?
- Am I ready to accept the fact that sex can result in an unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease (STD)?
- Have I planned pregnancy protection?
- Do I know how to buy and use condoms?
- Would I feel guilty or be embarrassed if people found out I was having sex?
- Am I ready to deal with the emotional involvement of being sexually active?
- Am I having sex for the right reasons? (Reasons like "It would be a good way to get back at my parents" or "Its grad" are definite a no-go!)
In addition to encouraging your daughter to ponder these questions (and any others you can think of!), you may want to stress that losing her virginity is something she will remember her whole life. Not that it will be the most perfect experience ever, but one she can hopefully recall without regret or shame. Remind her also that doing drugs and/or drinking will cloud her judgment and dramatically increase the chances that shell cross any sexual boundaries she may have set for herself. Oh yah, and people lie. Teach your daughter not to fall for statements like "I love you so much I need to be with you sexually". And, last but not least, an interesting finding to share with your daughter: A recent Seventeen magazine survey showed that 85 percent of girls who had sex in high school wish they had waited until they were older. Think about ithave you ever met an adult who said "I wish I started having sex earlier."? Hmmmmm ..