Question: My 14-year-old daughter is the middle of three girls and has always been the responsible type who gets top grades. So I was shattered when I leafed through a notebook she’d left downstairs and found an account of how she’d had sex with a classmate. I’ve always been open with my daughters and discussed why it’s important to delay sex until they’re emotionally mature and in a loving relationship.
Now I feel as if I’m a terrible mother. My daughter isn’t talking to me because I read her notebook, while my husband wants to talk to the boy’s parents. What’s the best way to proceed?
Answer: Please don’t beat yourself up. You are not a terrible mother. You just happen to be the parent of the most difficult and contrary creature on the planet: the teenage girl. I write as one who vividly remembers the hellish times I gave my own beloved and sage mother.
The main difference is that the rebellions my friends and I enacted at 16 or 17 often happen three years earlier nowadays.
Girls are reaching puberty quicker than previous generations and there’s also more peer pressure for them to grow up swiftly. This means girls of 14 often look and behave like young women. It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault if they sometimes listen to their hormones more than their moms.
The truth is no one except a prison guard can monitor their children 24/7. And the flipside of fostering independence is that your offspring will make questionable choices.
It’s also notoriously hard to make decrees about when people are mature enough to have sex. Some individuals are children at 20.
This helps explain why the age of consent varies so wildly across the globe: 13 in Spain, 14 in Germany and 15 in France, while Turkey sets the bar at 18.
One thing is certain: you’ll find you’re not the first mother who’s been shocked to discover her teenage daughter is sexually active at a tender age.
One GP friend of mine found her 14-year-old was shimmying down the drainpipe at midnight to meet older boys on the local common.
Nor is any of this new. If I look back to my schooldays in the Eighties, around a quarter of my friendship group (middle-class girls from all-girls school in Kent) lost their virginity at 15 or 16.
The only difference is that because my classmates were so good at subterfuge, their mothers didn’t have a clue. The fact your daughter wrote an account and left it laying around suggests a part of her wanted to be discovered.
It’s vital you keep calm and maintain good communication with your daughter. You need to avoid the blame or conflict that might turn her into a sullen teen rebel.
Don’t chivvy her into feeling that she has to make a choice between good grades and having a boyfriend. Remind your child you’re her foremost ally. It’s probable she would like to talk it through.
After all, how many women describe their first experience of sex as sensual or satisfying? If your daughter is feeling disappointed, this may be the best time to convince her she’s not mature enough for a sexual relationship.
You need to gently remind her of the real risks of falling pregnant or catching an STD. Don’t be dour. Just explain that sex, like all life’s greatest gifts, comes with big responsibilities.
You are the caretaker of someone else’s happiness, which is a daunting undertaking at 14. As for your husband: he can go round and talk to the boy’s parents, but I wonder what will be gained other than red faces and the fury of your daughter at your interference.
Just imagine how you would feel if the young man’s family knocked on your door and accused your daughter of seducing their son!
It’s important to remember that this is a decision two teenagers took for themselves and not a moral reflection on anyone’s parenting skills. Assuming the young couple aren’t pining like Romeo and Juliet, there’s no need to behave like an interfering in-law.
Your own family are the most useful people to harness at this time. Enlist your older daughter’s help in counselling her sister, since youngsters generally heed their peers above their parents.
The main thing is that you don’t want to turn your daughter into a rebel with a just cause. Your aim is to let her slip back into the safe haven of childhood for a while.
The fact that you describe her as responsible and academic indicates she’s responsive to judicious parental advice. Point out that what you’re asking for is that she puts this level of romantic involvement on hold for a year or two.
She may appear stroppy as she listens to your advice - but you’ll have given your child the greatest parental gift: security. - Daily Mail