What Do You Do If You Discover Your Daughter is Having Sex?

When You Discover Your Teen is Having Sex
I received a desperate tweet recently from a woman who said:

Just found out my 16-year-old daughter is sleeping with her boyfriend. What do I do?

That’s so difficult. Most parents desperately want their children to avoid the heartache and potentially devastating consequences from early sexual involvement–and indeed even sex before marriage. I’ve written before about why it’s important to wait.

But what do you do when you discover that your teenager–whether your son or your daughter–is already having sex? Here are some action steps:

1. Express “Disappointment FOR”, not “Disappointment IN”

You want to keep the lines of communication open, so it’s important not to go ballistic. If you yell and scream, you’ll only push your child further away, and you want to still have some influence in his or her life. It may be best not to have a conversation right when you discover it. Take a while to calm down and to pray.

Then, when you do talk to them, avoid saying things like, “I just never thought you’d do this,” or, “I’m so disappointed in you.” It’s far better, instead, to express disappointment FOR them. Say something like, “I just wanted the best life for you, and I’m worried that now you’ve made some bad choices that could really endanger that. I wanted this to be something special between you and your husband, and I’m just disappointed for you that you won’t experience that now.” It’s important that they know that you disapprove, but it should still be couched in love. You disapprove not because this reflects badly on you, or because they have hurt your feelings for rejecting your counsel. You disapprove because you love them, you want the best for them, and this is not the best.

2. Don’t Make Rash “You Can’t See Him Anymore” Pronouncements

If your child is sleeping with his or her significant other, threatening them by saying, “I forbid you to see them again” isn’t likely to work. You can’t force someone to feel something differently than they feel, and chances are they’re quite “in love” at the moment, or at least fancy themselves that way. If you try to stop them from seeing that person, you could create a situation where they’ll go behind your back, or you could create more of an “us” vs. “them” scenario, where you inadvertently push them towards their boyfriend/girlfriend because you don’t understand them. For a teen, being understood is the most important thing in the world. They are likely with that boyfriend or girlfriend because they feel understood. If you then forbid that relationship, you’re showing that you don’t understand. And now your son or daughter is even less likely to listen to you.

3. Limit Your Teen’s Activities

At the same time, while we can’t forbid feelings, and likely can’t sever a relationship, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing we can do. Quite simply, you are still the parent, and thus you are still responsible for your child’s safety. And having sex at 16 is not safe.

You also still have power over the purse strings and over your child’s movements. Use that power.

If your teen is having sex, then they have to be having sex SOMEWHERE. It doesn’t just happen; they need a private place to do so. What I would suggest, then, is minimizing the chance that such privacy can happen (and indeed, this is something all parents should do, not just parents who discover their kids are having sex). So make it clear that your teen cannot have friends over when you’re not home. When they are together, they have to be in a public space, or have the door open. I remember as a teen many of my friends had the “no blankets” rule, too. When they’re watching a movie together, they can’t be under the same blanket.

If your child has been having sex at someone else’s house, then they’re not allowed to go that house anymore. If they’ve been having sex in a car, then they can’t go out alone in that car.

Yes, your child will likely kick and scream, but their safety is more important.

Part of the tricky nature of this, though, is that the place could easily be at the girlfriend’s/boyfriend’s house, especially if the parents don’t share your concerns. I’d talk to the parents and tell them that you have a rule that they cannot be alone in the house, and you would ask the parents to support that rule. If you feel as if they don’t (and I have known parents to lie to other sets of parents), then tell  your child that he or she simply can’t go over there anymore, and you expect them home after school.

Remember, you do have some control. You control the car. You control the money. You can ground them. It’s difficult, but you can do it. And don’t hesitate to do so if you feel that your child is doing something that is very harmful at someone else’s house.

4. Embrace the Girlfriend/Boyfriend

This may sound counterintuitive, but I’d firmly suggest embracing the child’s girlfriend or boyfriend. I know you’re angry right now, and you want them to separate as much as possible. But there are two possible futures here: either this is the person that your child is going to marry, in which case you had better get to know them and have as good a relationship as possible; or the relationship will peter out. And one great way to get a relationship to peter out is to involve that person in the family, so that your child can see that he or she doesn’t fit. So have them over for dinner and a games night. If you’re going out for a hike, take them with you. Involve them in things where you are all together.

If the relationship isn’t going to last, it’s likely because your child will see that the person really doesn’t fit. Chances are the majority of the interaction between your child and his or her significant other has been spent making out, telling each other how much they love each other, and telling each other how much no one else understands them. That seems to be quite typical for teenage relationships. If you suddenly encourage this other person to do normal, family things, then you force “regular” interactions between the two of them. And that’s when personality or value clashes become more evident.

I’ve seen this happen in several families that I’m close to. One particular friend, whom I’ll call Diane, has decided that anytime her teenagers date she’s going to embrace that significant other, and treat it as a discipling opportunity. So she’ll bake cookies with him or her. She’ll take them out for chats. She’ll send them encouraging notes on Facebook. And slowly but surely she starts being able to speak into their lives more.

In both cases that I’m thinking of, Diane was sure that the particular girl was not meant for her son. But she knew that her son loved these girls (not at the same time; don’t worry!) and so she couldn’t push them away. But they both grew in Christ by being close to Diane, and when the inevitable breakup came, it was largely because these girls realized that they didn’t fit into Diane’s son’s world (which they didn’t). But God still used that relationship and Diane to bring those girls closer to Himself.

She still had strict rules about how they couldn’t be alone in the house, but she didn’t forbid them from seeing each other, because that doesn’t really work.

That, then, would be my strategy. Embrace the girlfriend or boyfriend, but limit the opportunities for them to actually have sex. Don’t come down on the relationship and forbid it; just tell your child that you want the best for them.

And then, when a breakup does happen (as it does in almost all cases), at least you haven’t broken the relationship with your child, and you’re still there to help pick up the pieces.

What about you? Has this ever happened to you? Or were you on the other side of it as a teen? What did you parents do? Let me know in the comments!


  1. I was that teen. I was having sex at 16, but my parents didn’t discover it until I was 17 or 18. I think they handled it very well, especially considering how devastated they were.

    1. They forgave me. It was clear from their faces that they were heartbroken, but they made it clear with their words and their actions that they still loved me.

    2. They explained birth control. This made me a little mad because I thought they were awfully late to the game on this one, but the (small) positive thing I saw in it is that they were (finally) treating me like a grown-up. They didn’t explain it with an attitude of “this is okay,” but “if you continue to make this bad choice, at least protect your physical health.” I should note, though, that this was before AIDS and before STD’s were so rampant. Today, any parent should take their child to the family doctor to be tested for both, and make sure the dangers are clearly understood by the teen. Let the doctor deliver the message.

    3. They drew a boundary, but not a permanent one. They grounded me from seeing my boyfriend, but only for the remainder of the semester. (This was in January.) And because I went away to college and my BF was in my hometown, this worked. If we had been in the same town, I’m not sure it would have.
    But the fact that my parents drew a firm boundary with a limited time span said three things to me: 1. this was not okay; we don’t condone this, but also 2. you are becoming an adult, you’ll need to make this decision without us some day, and 3. we don’t reject this guy. (Had it been the previous BF, I’m not sure they would have been so gracious.) Which turned out to be a good thing, since I married him — and am still married to him.

    What I wish they had told me then:

    Before I ever went on a second date for the first time, I wish they had told me that wanting to have sex would be strong, and that it would *feel* good and right, but that giving in would take a long term emotional toll. Not to mention destruction.

    If you don’t have a plan, you will get there (having sex) bit by bit. You need to decide ahead of time what your boundaries are. (Not sure I would have heeded completely, but it might have delayed my fall.)

    A condom *might* protect you physically, but there is no condom that protects the heart and soul. Your heart and soul are attached to your body; when you give your body to someone else, you also give them some of your heart and soul. When the relationship ends, all three of those will be torn. This will hurt! If you do that repeatedly, you will either be in ongoing pain, or you will develop a very calloused heart. Neither is good.

    And a comment about preventing teens from having a place to have sex… This is good advice for those who haven’t yet started, and still a good thing to put in place if it’s too late, but just know that once teens have had sex and want to do it again, they will find just about anywhere to do it. I know: I have the shameful memories to prove it.

    • Thank you so much for sharing that story. You’re so right about there not being a condom for the heart. If parents can talk to their kids about this earlier, and explain WHY they want them to wait (and not just because it’s a sin), then perhaps more kids will make that decision from the get go!

    • I love your advice about helping your kids actively plan to wait (ie face temptation). My parents didn’t have that conversation with me, but my boyfriend/future husband and I did set some pretty clear boundaries for ourselves. For us it was no kissing if/until we’d decided to marry. We also didn’t toss around “forever” words unless we were actually talking about our potential future (for example: talking about how we’d like to raise kids was great, but talking about how “our kids” would be backpacking at age 3 wasn’t). If/until we were engaged we couldn’t just assume a future together, and I think that mentality helped us tremendously because it was very clear (down to the words we said) that we didn’t “own” each other. My husband and I were virgins when we married, and it wasn’t because we never had a choice.

      • That’s great, Natalie! My husband and I made the same choice. And that’s something important to say: it’s fine for parents to set boundaries, but eventually the kids are going to have to instill those boundaries themselves. I went away to university at 18, and I had to set the boundaries. My girls will be going to school at 18, too, though they’ll be sharing a house with other Christian girls. But still, they won’t have parents to set the boundaries, and eventually we have to trust that they will enforce those boundaries themselves.

      • Yes, and I’d like to add that I began this discussion with my own daughter when she was about 9, by reading through “Secret Keeper” by Danna Gresh with her. This opened the door to discussions about modesty. I also kept a watch on what she was reading. Only once did I forbid her reading something, but I frequently had discussions with her about the ideas subtly conveyed in seemingly innocent romances. And I talked to her often about giving away her heart too easily.

        I also have a son, and I told both of my kids that although it’s easy to say “I’m not going to have sex before marriage” when there’s no partner on the horizon, once they were dating, it would be a lot harder to resist, but that it’s worth resisting. And that although others may make fun of them or call them weird for being a virgin, that this is the healthiest choice, and when they are older, they’ll be glad they waited.

        My kids are twenty-ish now, and by God’s grace (though they probably don’t see it that way!), neither has had a boyfriend or girlfriend, so time will tell.

        I also want to make clear that I don’t intend to brag! I did the best parenting I knew how, but I am not ultimately responsible for their success — or lack of it.

    • Megan G. says:

      I so agree with what you said about how you were unprepared to want to have sex and wish you’d had a plan to wait. I have shared that my story was similar – I grew up being told nothing more than “don’t do it,” and sort of a “nice Christian girls don’t want it,” message. When I fell in love and DID want to do it, I was totally unprepared and figured I must not be such a nice Christian girl after all. I have only had sex with the man who is now my husband, but we really regret that we didn’t wait, and it took us several years after we were married to work through the issues that having pre-marital sex caused for us spiritually and relationally. We talk a lot about how we want to send a different message to our kids as they get older. I’m glad that there are places, like here, to talk about these things!

      • Megan, so glad you and your husband have worked through that guilt. That’s actually a message I want to share more with young women–that if they have sexual feelings, it doesn’t mean they’re “bad”! I do think we talk about sex too much as if it’s a bad thing that miraculously becomes good when you’re married, and for many people that’s just too much of a switch to make, and it’s not true to their personal experience (because it’s not really a full picture!). We do need to talk about this more to single women.

  2. I am a young mother, so this is something I don’t have to be concerned about for hopefully a very long time. However, as someone that is only separated by her teen years by less than 10 years, I can remember clearly the feelings I had for my high school boyfriend. I think that boundaries are very important and also agree that sex outside of marriage is detrimental to future relationships. Teenagers truly feel that they are in love and to do something to try to stop them is going to romanticize the relationship even further for them. If it feels forbidden, it’s that much more exciting. It’s not likely that once they start having sex that they’ll stop (at least with their current partner). So while it’s important to express your feelings, I honestly believe there’s little a parent can say that would change their daughter’s mind as long as they are in that relationship. I think it’s most important to encourage them to be safe and smart. (of course this is if they are over the age of 16). I think that speaks volumes to a teenager vs. sounding preachy.

    But overall, I completely agree with you here. I DO want to mention the photo that you used in this post though. Using a picture of a girl with a seemingly rebellious piercing and a scowl is not the picture of a teenage daughter who is having sex. It’s the sweet girl who has lots of friends, it’s the shy one who keeps to herself, it’s the one that you’d never expect to “rebel”. Trust me. I wasn’t a rebel, but I WAS in love.

    • Emily, good point about the picture! Thanks for pointing that out. I was actually searching for mom-daughter pictures, but I couldn’t find any free ones! It’s tremendously difficult to find photos for posts that are free sometimes! :).

      And you’re right, too, that once a child starts having sex, they’re unlikely to stop. But that shouldn’t prevent the parents from at least enforcing boundaries, because I think it’s the parent’s job. If the child gets around them, so be it. But the parent should at least try, because that’s what we’re here for! But we should never assume that things will be 100% fine now, either.

      • Okay, Emily, I’ve thought about it more and I’ve changed the picture! Not sure this one is much better, but I thought you had a great point.

  3. I am struck again by how WISE your words are. Thank you for this post.

  4. Oh, I wish I had Diane’s advice about really embracing the boyfriend or girlfriend. My children didn’t sleep around with their boyfriend or girlfriend because we did enforce strong rules about them not ever being alone together. They thank us for those boundaries now but I never did openly embrace the ones that I didn’t think were right for them. That would have been the Christian thing to do.
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  5. Very well said but thought that I’d mention something. Our family unit has been damaged because of a family member who was sleeping with his teenage girlfriend. His mother went to the girlfriends mother and did ask for help with setting boundaries and was scoffed at. Instead this person has constantly over the years set up roadblocks in his relationship with his family. It all started years ago when theybwere having sex in their teens and has continued into their thirties. Good advice though and we can only hope and pray that this doesn’t happen on other families.

    I especially like your comment about accepting whomever our children bring home as their date – it is something that I thought important, as hard as it might be.

    • Yes, Tracy, I have seen that dynamic quite a bit. One teen’s parents are very permissive, and then the other teen’s parents decide to enforce boundaries. Unfortunately, often the teens gravitate to the family with no boundaries. That’s why it’s so important to keep talking to our kids and keep as good a relationship as we can with them so they won’t turn away!

  6. Wonderful points, Sheila.

    One thing I would add is having a discussion about how you leave a part of yourself and take a part of the other person with you for life when you have sex with them. A great visual we were given once was being shown two pieces of paper and then a random dot of glue placed on each one of them. Stuck the paper together, let it dry and then tried to take the pieces of paper apart so they are back to two single pieces. Of course holes occurs as one piece sticks to the other. The hole represents the hole in your heart/soul and the corresponding piece of paper stuck to the other side is the part of you being taken from you forever. The process was repeated several times and the papers became more and more damaged. Was a VERY powerful visual and one I never forgot. Granted, this is probably best pre sex, but it could be a great tool to have your child describe what occurs and allow you to bring to light the emotional impact of sex .

    Second, pray, pray, pray and pray some more!!! It’s a spiritual battle clothed in physical form and God can thwart their attempts to have sex and give you insights/intuition on their activities as well as softening their hearts and convicting them of their actions (that is if you have taught them God’s commandment to wait till marriage) . A recommitment to purity when their hearts are softened is also an option and a great opportunity to show God’s grace in our lives.

    • Great points, Marisa. When I did the Passport to Purity with my oldest daughter we used that example of glue, and I thought it was very powerful, too. And the good thing is that it’s not judgmental: it doesn’t say “you are a bad person for doing this”. It says instead “I’m worried about you because you’re missing out on what God wants for you”. I think kids respond better to that.

  7. Wow Sheila, this is amazingly good advice. I’m not a parent yet, but can see (as being a teenager once myself) how much better this would be for a parent(s) to tackle it this way!

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  8. withheld says:

    I grew up in a God-fearing family, but I was sexually active by age 15. I was the good girl: grades, morals, friends, never in trouble. But no one, not my parents, teachers, or friends, or my pastor or youth leaders, talked about what sex would do to my heart–because I was the good girl, & good girls don’t do that stuff. Over the course of 15 years I gave myself away to multiple partners, trying to find the “one” who would fill that gaping void, still calling myself a Christ-follower, but pretty much ignoring the cries of the Spirit on my life. It’s true that once you start having sex, it’s hard to stop, and it was like a drug for me, I think because I attached guys’ desiring me to my own self-worth. It became a very slippery, entangling slope. I only wish a spiritually strong, mature adult had noticed and called me out. I’ve had to do some hard work in the last 10 years. Now I have a 7 yr old daughter. These anecdotes & ideas are greatly helpful. Thank you all for your candidness & faith.

    • Thanks for sharing your story! I think it’s so important for Christian moms to know that we should never, ever assume that our kids will follow in our steps and automatically do the right thing.

      I’m also so glad that you’re finding healing. Yes, you’ve done some hard work, but it’s so neat that God has been there for you and that your daughter will be raised by a mom who is even more committed to sex for the right reasons. I pray that God will continue to do a real work of rejuvenation on you, because that’s His specialty!

  9. Great insight and wisdom. I am preparing an event at our church to encourage discussions among parents and children about sex and intimacy. I am thankful for your words to encourage women who feel it is too late to make an impact. It is never to late to be redeemed by God and restoration in relationships is possible through Him.

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  10. Sheila,

    I love the way you phrased it – that you’re so disappointed FOR them – for what they’ve lost. Yes, we condemn the sin, but we love their hearts and want to protect them.

    And AMEN to limiting the opportunity for temptation. Though we’re not in the throes of romance or attraction to the opposite sex yet, we’ve started with the principle of avoiding temptation. For instance, our boys (10, 13, and 15) are old enough to be home alone, but they know they are not EVER allowed to have other kids (of either gender) here without a parent home. Nor are they allowed to EVER be at a friend’s house without a parent there. It just removes a lot of temptation.

    All I can speak to is the prevention, while your post is dealing with the fall-out, but Sheila – I love your heart in this post. We’re motivated by LOVE, not by power over our kids. And when we do exercise that authority it’s to provide and protect.


  11. My Dad shaped my view of sex as a very young girl. I was flipping through the glossary in the back of the Bible and the word “sex” was there. I said “Oooohhh, Daddy! The Bible has a bad word in it!” (I was only about 7!) He looked at the word and said: “Sex isn’t a bad word and sex isn’t bad. It is a beautiful gift that God gives to husbands and wives. It is only beautiful when it is held within marriage. People make it bad. But, God intended it to be good.” That was it. He didn’t belabor the point or paint it as dirty. His words were age appropriate. I have never forgotten them and I’m now 37! He and my Mother made sure to tell me that I had to know what I would do in certain situations before I found myself in them i.e: offered alcohol, drugs, sex, etc. They were right. These discussions were had at all ages in my life so they never felt forced or uncomfortable. And, I always knew that I was loved. I knew if I ever did make the wrong decision, they would be there to help me pick up the pieces. Their guidance saved me from untold emotional scars! I pray daily that my husband and I can guide our son (9mths) in the same loving manner!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Great post and fantastic discussion in the previous comments. What I noticed was missing was that nobody suggested asking the teenager WHY they are having sex in the first place. Ok, so maybe that might seem obvious, I don’t think it’s a simple answer. Did they just lose control in the moment and now it’s a habit? Are they seeking out something in that relationship that they should be finding elsewhere?

    I had sex at 17 and my mother never knew. Thank goodness I was not discovered or I might not be alive writing this post right now, and I’m only partly kidding! If she had discovered what I was doing and she had asked me why, I would have been insightful enough to articulate at the time that I didn’t think I was ever going to find my forever guy so I figured there was no point in waiting. The discussion that was needed for me was very different than with a teen who simply lost control in the moment.

    As for being disappointed FOR a teen, I understand that sentiment, but it also conveys a message of hopelessness. The teen might come away with the message that they have messed up anyway, so there is no point in trying any more. After I got married, I saw an object lesson on this once (similar to the one about the paper above), but one that conveys the message that it’s still better to stop having sex than continue, even if you’ve already done it. This one used duct tape. The speaker put a strip of it on the back side of her forearm, and had someone in the audience come and pull it off. The idea was that when you have sex with someone, you are bonded to that person. If you get pulled apart by breaking up, it hurts. You stick again to the next person, but your bond is not as strong as it was the first time. Each time you “stick” and get pulled apart, your ability to bond becomes less and less. Painful for the speaker? I’m sure it was, but I haven’t forgotten it since then and plan to use that with my children when they are old enough.

    • GREAT point, Anonymous! Thank you so much for your comment. It is so important that we ask our kids WHY? Often we really don’t know what’s going on emotionally in our kids’ hearts, and it’s important that they still have a safe place where they can share that.

  13. learning is fun! says:

    I think that there’s a lot to be said for ‘training’ about dating from church youth groups, as well as from parents – but parents MUST realize that there’s a big difference between the ‘dating’ that their teenage kids are about to experience, and the dating that they went through a couple of decades before.

    I remember at 14 or so, my youth pastor talking about the ‘third date rule:’ this meant that, by the end of your third date you should be able to tell your date where you feel the relationship is headed. Now, that doesn’t mean that you should be proposing marriage after 3 dates, but by that time, you should know whether or not they are a suitable boyfriend / girlfriend. This also means that ‘dating’ should mean more than ‘hanging out,’ or changing their facebook status to show ‘in a relationship’ – they should be TALKING to each other, and finding out who that other person IS.

    I had a bible study leader in my 20s who also caused me to consider these two questions, when considering a long-term relationship with someone: first, can I see myself married to this person, 5 years down the road? How about 20 years? Second, can I see myself parenting children with this person? The other consideration here is, how old is the person asking these questions? As much as we’d all love to believe the romantic notion that someone will wait for us through the twists and turns of early adulthood. What if you go to college on opposite sides of the country? Are you really prepared to see your significant other once or twice a year, until after graduation? Then what? What if employment opportunities continue to keep you apart?

    Going back to parental input, I’ll relate my own past here. My parents were married in the early 60s, and their wedding took place within a few months of their 20th birthdays. Neither attended post-secondary institutions, and for that time in history, that was ‘normal.’ They dated for less than a year before their wedding, and had several dating relationships before they met. Although this doesn’t really sound like a recipe for success, they will celebrate their 50th anniversary in the not-too-distant future. When I was a teenager, and tried to talk to my dad about asking girls out, I would get responses like “well, the worst they can say is ‘no.'” And for my dad, that was true – but the difference was, he had some ‘yesses’ to balance out a few no’s. I didn’t, and as a result, the no’s really started to sting. It had an enormous impact on my self-confidence, to the point that I didn’t have my first real relationship until I was nearly 30. My dad, who I love dearly, and have a great deal of respect for, couldn’t relate to what I was going through at all. As a result, when I did have that serious relationship, I was so desperate that I either ignored, or manipulated my own advice, telling myself that things were better than they actually were. I gave away part of myself that I cannot take back, and the relationship – an engagement by then – failed. My parents don’t know that I was sexually active with her, and it’s not a subject that I ever plan to bring up with them again. I’ve been married for nearly a decade now, and am truly blessed by the wife God has given me. She does know what happened in my prior relationship, and in many ways, has helped me to deal with it. And with her, we waited until marriage.

    All this to say that, yes, there are ways to handle the ‘discovery’ of your child’s sexual activity – but there are also ways to guard them against it.

    • So true! And I would definitely recommend the PROACTIVE approach instead, and really speak into their lives from the time they’re very young (and I’ve written about this before). At the same time, as this woman’s tweet so dramatically showed, sometimes we parents can be blindsided, so that would be my advice if you’re blindsided. But honestly, I’d really recommend that we try to avoid this instead!

      I’m so glad that God brought you and your wife together. You do look like a very fun couple (when I’ve seen you in person!) Thanks for so faithfully reading this blog.

  14. Wow! Your last point, of “embrace the boyfriend/girlfriend” and thus developing relationship and being able to speak into their life strikes me as being sooooo much more effective that shunning them and thus alienating your child. My daughter is only 16 months right now, but I am saving this article for when she is older. How I wish my family & my husband’s family had done this when we were dating. Though premarital sex was not an issue, differences of family opinion and theology were, and they expressed much disappointment IN us and our lack of ability to make “good” choices (good according to them!)
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  15. Well written and sound advice!
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  16. Melissa says:

    I love this post! I have no children and I am just getting married in a few months yet, I have pondered this question often before. I work in the public school system and I see/hear on a daily basis the sexualization and peer pressure on our youth. Your advice was all around great but, I am still left with the question of birth control. I’ve heard too often of girls who told their mothers they were having sex and wanted birth control only to have their petition denied as a statement in disapproval of the girls having sex. Then, the girl gets pregnant. What is your stance on giving contraceptive to teens?

    I also wanted to add that my mother talked to me about sex from the time I was pretty young and set it up as a big, special event that was important to share with your husband. She made such a big deal out of it that it really stuck with me in the face of a culture that portrays sex as a casual act.

    • Melissa, many may disagree with me on this, but here’s what I’d say about birth control. I think it is absolutely essential that all kids understand how it works and what you should be using.

      But at the same time, facilitating that is something else altogether. If they’re going to be having sex, and they think they’re old enough to have sex, then they’re also old enough to get condoms on their own. Schools hand them out for free. Drug stores sell them. They’re not hard to get. And if they want to be having sex, then they should also have to bear the embarrassment of having to get the birth control. I wouldn’t get it for them.

      (And they should be using condoms, not the pill, because condoms protect the most against STDs, though nothing is 100%. And I do have some moral issues with the Pill).

      If they wind up pregnant anyway, then that’s also the repercussions of their actions and you help them deal with it. But it’s a fundamental tenet in Christianity that you reap what you sow. If we step in the gap and make things easier for our kids to do what’s wrong, then I don’t think we’re doing them a favour.

      So I’d say have a frank discussion with them about how birth control works, and the responsibility they need to think about, but I would not provide it for them. Others may disagree, but that would be my take on it!

      • AMEN!!! We should not be supporting any destructive habits that our children choose, such as providing alchohol in our home so they are at a “safe” place or providing birth control so they don’t get pregnant. By providing protection we would be condoning an unsafe practice!

        • I did take my 17 year old dd to her doctor when I found out she was having sex for a frank discussion about STD’s, emotions, birth control, importance of using a condom, etc. She ended up getting on the pill, however, I will not pay for them, she will need to figure that out. Prior to this she and her bf had gone together to buy condoms. I’m not happy about her having sex and have expressed my disappointment for her, however, my mother got pregnant for me at a very young age, and I do not want that to happen to my daughter. I’d rather have her be protected from an unwanted pregnancy and have also told her she MUST use a condom, too, to protect her against disease. I will continue to have open discussions with her about this issue, however, I am worried about turning her even further from God. I think she feels like she already messed up and is planning to continue messing up so God has turned his back on her. I want to assure her that God loves her no matter what, as do her dad and I and that we will continue to pray for her. Our Lord is a loving father and I want her to continue believing that in the hopes that she will turn back to him in the future.

          • Southernmom says:

            This is such a tough topic! We are in the same boat–a 16 year old whom we discovered has had sex with her bf. Both families are Christians, and both have taught the kids God’s plan for sex within marriage. The birth control issue is the big question we are facing now. I cannot condone her actions, but also do not want her to become pregnant. As an honor student and athlete, this would be devastating. The emotional consequences will be difficult enough for her to live with later on…should we risk pregnancy too?

          • I’m not sure if this is the right approach, so please don’t think I have special insight directly from God for you. But my gut feeling is this: if she’s old enough to have sex, then she’s old enough to a) get her own birth control; and b) look after a baby if it comes. So I would sit her down and make sure she knows all about birth control and where to get it, but tell her that you will not help her, any more than you would buy drugs for her. And then make it clear that if she does not get birth control but ends up pregnant, that she will be responsible for raising that child. You will support her, but she will be responsible.

            If she wants to do adult things, then she should have to act like an adult. And that means making a doctor’s appointment, or going to the drug store, or something.

            I’d still say, though, that you do have power here. You can deny her a place to have sex, and privacy to have sex. And once the sex stops, she may find that he loses his allure.

            And, of course, pray hard!

  17. What a great post. My kids are all still young (5 and under), but since both my husband and I failed to wait (and deeply regret it), I have been thinking about how to prevent the same mistake in my children since before they were born. I found your advice, especially about involving the boy/girlfriend in family activities to be great. I can see how that could’ve made my decisions different and it can only benefit your family to make the effort. It plays nicely into our family attitude of treating everyone with love and respect. Thank you!

  18. Thanks for this Sheila. As a pastor working with families in these types of situations, whenever I have seen families take a heavy-handed approach, it has always made things worse and not better. I like your balanced approach, and especially appreciate what you say about reaching out to the boyfriend.

  19. I was that teenage girl. And although I did not stop or listen to my parents, I was much more receptive to my dad (who is not saved) who agreed that we were being somewhat responsible. My mom was very angry and just freaked out, and that immediately turned me off to whatever she had to say. I really don’t know what they could have done to make us stop. They tried to prohibit us from being alone at my house, but it just didn’t work. Plus we worked together, so we were together a lot, and my parents didn’t necessarily know when we were working or whether or not we were at work at a given time. Aaaanyways, what I’m trying to say is I know what it’s like to easily be turned off by your parents when they’re angry at you. And it’s hard to wait till you’re married when you are young and in love, and, as you said, your boyfriend seems to be the only one who really understands you! Fortunately for us, we DID end up getting married, so at least we don’t have the baggage of having had sex with other people before we were married. Ok, I’ll stop rambling now. Thanks for this post, Sheila- I definitely relate to this.

    • Leanne, I think when you said, “I really don’t know what they could have done to make us stop” you were exactly right, and this is important for parents to hear. You can do all the right things–laying down the law while reaching out with love and grace, and your child could still choose to do the wrong thing. Your child is a separate person, with their own accountability to God, and one of the hardest things to learn as a parent is that you cannot control your kids’ behaviours.

      That doesn’t mean that we’re not responsible to try to limit opportunities for sin, but it does mean that if our kids choose to do the wrong thing, we shouldn’t be blaming ourselves! Thanks for the reminder, and I’m glad that you married the guy and that you’re doing well!

  20. Hi Sheila,

    My daughter is 20 and has been dating her boyfriend for 2 years, they “plan” to get married.

    I found out about 7 months ago they are having sex. I have always been open with my kids about sex and the importance of waiting until marriage explaning the mistakes I made when I was young. She does not live at home and so I can not restrict her anymore (can I?).

    My daughter and I are very close. We talk everyday sometimes several times a day but he seems to not want to be around us as much (which is effecting her not wanting to be around) and when he is he seems uncomfortable even though we do embrace him. She has not been to church since December and that concerns me. I’ve tried to do an online bible study with her but she didn’t seem to get into it. We like him very much and want her to make the right decision with him and him with her. HELP!!

  21. Christina says:

    First off I just found your blog and really enjoy everything that I have read so far but felt I had to comment on this.So I am not a mother nor married but I am a young adult where I have received all the media and talk about not having sex, oh and I want to make sure that it is known that I was raised in a Christian household. For me sex was nothing every secretive, if I had a question about it I was allowed to ask my parents felt that it would be better I learned or heard it from then instead of my friends. My mother is European and their views on sex are different then what a traditional North American view is. I was always told that I knew when the right time would be for me to have sex, and then worked out well because I didn’t ever feel the need to have it before I thought I was ready which also forced me to think about things. Also I think the open door or blanket idea is kinda silly, I feel that we should trust our children and ourselves that we have done the best in teaching them. I get it things happen but maybe if we were more open about the whole topic things wouldn’t, maybe sex wouldn’t be sooooo appealing to a 16 year old if they really understood what it meant. TV makes it look sooo glamorous and that everyone is doing it that they of course want to do it too. Maybe I was an odd child that could be, but it never really seemed to interest me because my parents didn’t make a big deal out of it and I thought it was something that if I waited I would be glad that I did. Hope I didn’t offend anyone and at some point everyone has to make their own choices just thought I would share mine.

    • Christina, I understand what you’re saying, but let me reiterate that my girls CAN talk to me about anything (and do!). We certainly are not secretive. But I think the blanket and door rule are just common courtesy when you aren’t married. You should never make other people feel uncomfortable. And it’s good for people to get used to the fact that “we’re not married, and so we have to have certain boundaries”. I think parents should enforce those boundaries in their own homes, understanding that when the kids move out those boundaries are up to the kids to enforce themselves. But I think when a child is 16, they still should have to be respectful of their parents and siblings and just maintain a certain distance with their significant other, you know? But I think it’s wonderful that your parents raised you to be able to talk about sex. I firmly recommend that all parents do that. I just also think it’s appropriate to put boundaries in place as well.

  22. David Davis says:

    I just learned my daughter now 16 is now having sex. Currently going through divorce and bad custody. Very nasty divorce where wife has lied about abuse to forbid contact with daughter. So anyhow daughter called friend to tell them so I would know. She never lies and we can always talk about anything. Tomorrow I will get to see her. I always raised if you want adult privledge u must except adult responsibility. She always has mature way beyond years now very scary due to no contact. Mother is bad influence. I am not mad but have always explained the order things should happen. Pregneat is fear knowing mother would like it. I plan on only calmly talking and again explaining the terrible risks with being a teen mom.

  23. I love your blog Sheila, I find it very helpful and full of wisdom.

    I have a couple of questions if that’s okay:
    – How do you handle the conversation about waiting when neither of your daughters are practising Christians? Mine are 15 and 13 and sadly right now declare that they don’t believe in God and won’t go to church, church youth group or our midweek cell group any more.
    – How do you present safe sex without making it sound like you condone them having sex? If they do decide (whether planned or spur-of-the-moment), I want them to be prepared, but on the other hand I’m worried talking about being safe will make them think I think it’s okay if you see what I mean. A non-Christian friend of mine has a jar of condoms in the bathroom so her daughters (17 and 15) can help themselves if they need them and has had them there for the past 3 years! That’s perhaps a step too far…?!

    • Someone else posted this earlier, but it covers the emotional side of having sex without touching on the sin of premarital sex:
      A condom *might* protect you physically, but there is no condom that protects the heart and soul. Your heart and soul are attached to your body; when you give your body to someone else, you also give them some of your heart and soul. When the relationship ends, all three of those will be torn. This will hurt! If you do that repeatedly, you will either be in ongoing pain, or you will develop a very calloused heart. Neither is good.

    • unmowngrass says:

      I think it’s important that all teens get information about safe sex, birth control, etc, maybe even pregnancy. I’m a 29yo woman getting married soon, and it was only in thinking back to teenage health class that I was aware of some of the options available for me and future hubby, so we could at least narrow down a couple of options for when the time comes. I know it’s embarrassing for teens, but it would be even more embarrassing to have to go to my family doctor now and actually ask for information about this stuff!! So, put it in those terms? “I don’t know when you will need this information, it may not be for many years, but here is a good grounding in the basics.” And stress that adult behaviour requires adult decisions… they are probably smart enough to put two and two together if it’s sooner than you would like :)

  24. I need help! My daughter just confessed to having sex for the first time. I am reeling. We haven’t had a chance to sit down and have a heart to heart yet because she first confessed to her dad while visiting him this past weekend. Your advice helped so much and expressed what I was feeling. I have tried really hard to not react yet. I want to keep her safe, have open communication etc. I didn’t have that with my mom. I don’t know how to communicate it without it seeming like I’m coming down on her and creating shame in her heart. She has already expressed to me that she feels like I expect her to be the perfect “preacher’s kid.” The fact that she is talking to me says a lot but I am so fearful of this repeating. I don’t want to push her to the boy by “locking her in her room.” (figuratively speaking). Nor do I want to give her cart blanch without any consequences. How do you know when trust is restored so freedoms can be given again? I need prayer.


    • I might add, I have a 21 year old daughter (Tayler) that is now a single mom due to not planning for temptation. We have a very close relationship and have walked this difficult journey together. I felt like I “did everything right” as she was growing up. From the time she was 10 years old we had “the talks,” I limited alone time with the bf’s, I used the glue example, I had her read books before she could date, made sure she had a mentor, etc. only to find out that she was sneaking around the whole time. She was passionate about God and wanted to live for Him, yet secretly struggled. She finally got her life headed into a good direction and became pregnant. Now we have a beautiful grandson but she has had to totally change her life’s plans. She is doing well, but it is a difficult journey. She has been a good resource for her younger sister, but my 16 year old doesn’t want to hear any of this. When I have tried to have honest conversations with her she just says, “I’m not like Tayler, I’m not going to have sex.” I don’t know where to begin. I read all these comments, and just feel hopeless. I feel like it doesn’t matter what I do as a parent she is going to do what she wants to do anyway. I know that is a lie from the enemy, but my heart is hurting. I don’t know how to protect my daughter without recreating the rebellion I went through with her older sister. I am thankful that I my instincts have been right on track with your 4 points. so that is encouraging. I will continue to follow the wisdom God is giving me.


      • Julie, it sounds like you are doing the right things, and it sounds like your older daughter is coming along well, too. I think all you can really do is pray, and just keep those lines of communication open. I don’t think it’s a matter of figuring out when to trust her again, because I don’t think the rules should really change. She shouldn’t be alone in either house, or alone in a car with him for a long period of time. That just should be the rule forever.

        But remember you’re the mom, and you’re allowed to set rules. It sounds like you’ve kept your head and you’ve talked to God, and that’s all good. Now you just have to take a deep breath and trust God, and try not to see your younger daughter through the lens of your older daughter.

        I know it’s really, really rough, though, and I’ve said a prayer for you and your daughter!

        • Thank you! It really helped having a forum to ask for advice and read other mom’s stories. We had a very encouraging conversation this evening. She is very angry at God right now, but at least talking. She really opened up and didn’t argue with me about the boundaries. She understood.

          I think she has some deep wounds about her dad and I’s divorce and has gone through some emotional trauma. She was the last one to speak to her Grandfather before he killed himself, and just recently a friend at school killed herself. She won’t talk to me about it and is not open to the idea of talking to a counselor. I’m kinda at a loss as to how to help her, other than listening and tons of prayer. Any advice would be appreciated.

          • First prayer answered! She decided on her own today at school to break up with the boy. Now the healing process. Praise God!

          • Oh, Julie, that’s wonderful! See, God is working! And He cares about your daughter deeply. Praising God with you!

  25. Andrea Forrester says:

    I just found out today, my 15 year old has recently had sex. I have tried to instill in her to make good choices. Well that didn’t work. I was upset, but held back my anger. She could tell I was upset and started crying. I asked her about protection and she said none. Then as I do the math I see she was active towards the end of her ovulation. We had just left the obgyn when she told me. I know you say to embrace the boy but I just don’t know how to. I know my daughter was equally responsible in this, but it is hard to look at her and kniow that she could possibly be pregnant. This is just soo hard. But I did tell her that I was not mad at her, but disappointed in their choices and I will love her no less no matter what she chooses to do. But no more going over to his house since the other mother is obviously not keeping her eye on them and birth control asap.

  26. I discovered today that my 17 year old is having sex with her boyfriend. She grew up in church, although she has pushed away the last couple of years. Her dad and I divorced when she was 3. She has not had much of a relationship with him. I remarried a great man and we have been married 10 years. He has really tried to be that father figure for her but she has just pushed him away.

    Her and her boyfriend have been together off and on for a little over a year. She has been going through extreme depression, seeing a psychiatrist, counselor and for a long time has been emotionally unstable. We’ve had all the talks about premarital sex and risks, consequences from the time she was probably 10. We up until the last couple of years had a very close relationship.

    I had suspected the were having sex. I tried to have open communication with the BF’s parents, but they are not christian and just didn’t care. When I would talk to her, she would say “no mom, we’re not, I’m not stupid”. Well, for the second time due to her emotional instability her boyfriend broke up with her. I found a letter (yes I was snooping) and it was very evident they’ve been having sex. More concerning she talked about having a friend with benefits as a good distraction (re a boy that likes her). There was also indication that protection was not used all of the time.

    I confronted her with the note and said “clearly we have things to talk about”. She admitted they had been for about 3 months (she was on birth control for about 2, I did not know). I basically made the decision that immediately she is going to see a Dr. and be screened for STD’s and be put on a reliable birth control, one that does not involve her taking a pill everyday, which she said is why she quit taking them. We talked about all of the risks both physical and emotional.

    I don’t know if this was the right decision, however I know she or my husband and I are not ready to raise another child.

    I always told her I was not going to be the “cool” mom that takes her and gets her on the pill, but would hope that if she made the decision to have sex that she would be sure she takes care of herself. In light of this, well, it’s not being the cool mom, it’s being the mom that needs to protect her child as much as she can. Even though her and her boyfriend are not together right now, I know there is risk that she WILL make a poor decision.

    I then, as painful as it was revealed to her that her father had cheated on me and had given me an STD, he 100% denied being with anyone else. Fortunately for me it was curable, I explained not all diseases are!

    Just really hurting and conflicted right now.
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  27. The other day I found birth control pills in my daughter’s purse and I’m devastated and I have no idea what to do. She is 17, grew up going to church, but recently stopped. As a Christian she knows about waiting for marriage to have sex and we even took her for few years to youth conferences where they taught on the subject. She goes for sleepovers at her boyfriend’s place, but says they sleep in different rooms and his mom is always there, he also has his own vehicle so I wouldn’t know for sure where they go every time . Should I let my husband know about the pills and how would you advise me to deal with the situation? I would greatly appreciate any help.

    • Bobbie, definitely let your husband know. You have to be a team on this. And then you have no choice but to talk to your daughter. You’ll also have to decide whether you want to let her keep going over to her boyfriend’s house, or whether you want to insist that they spend time together at your house instead. Sleepovers is likely not a good idea!

      Sorry that you’re going through this; prayers for wisdom as you try to walk through it. I know it’s tough, but God really does love your daughter even more than you do! Pray that He’ll keep talking to her and drawing her to Himself.

      • Sheila thank you for the fast response, I just let her know I found the pills and she admitted to having sex with him. I did tell her that there will be no more sleepovers, but I have to pray before I let my husband know as this will upset him very much. Reading all the previous posts gave me the courage to confront her. Thank you for your ministry!

  28. Hi there,
    No offence but some of the things you mention I completely disagree with. For example, the whole ‘I’m disappointed’ thing. If you’re child has decided to share the fact that they have had sex, then a parent should respect that, not make matters worse for them but forcing the two love birds to become a bit more distant. Every couple needs there privacy, and this should not be limited at all. Or be up to the parents to decide.
    If you’re child is sixteen then the likelihood is, they want privacy and space! You can’t protect them from everything, it is their body and their choice, and contrary to what most parents think, there comes a point where you don’t control then anymore.
    Also, if they didn’t tell you that they were having sex in the first place, it’s something that the parent has done wrong because if you had a good relationship with your child, they would feel like they could tell you. I dislike all the comments on here because you should let your child come to you first instead of forcing them to admit that they have had sex.

  29. Thank you! This is the best advice I have read. I have been freaking out about how to deal with this issue since I found out my dd and her bf are having sex.

  30. I recently found a pregnancy test ( used-negative) in my daughters drawer while I was helping pack someof her stuff. She is 17 until April but going to room with another girl that she works with. I have suspected that her and her boyfriend have been having sex….but now I know for sure. They were both raised in a good church, went through purity seminars, have been talked to about sex since early years…and yet, thet have chosen this. I am sad. my husband and I really like her boyfriend and have included him in many family events. I thought we made good boundaries but now feel angry (at myself) for not being more strict….although I believe that they have been living lying to us about some things. I have’t told my husband….I am afraid to. He will take it the hardest and I know it might change his feelings for her boyfriend….afraid he will react in a way that will push my daughter away. I need advice. Thank you already…your post has been encouraging.

  31. I grew up in a VERY conservative Christian home. Sex was NEVER discussed. I had a very short curfew and was not allowed to do very much. I ended up having an abortion at 19 (something that I do not regret to this day). I have adult children and one is a daughter. When she was 16 and started dating her boyfriend I made sure she went on birth control. Even though she said they were not having sex, I knew that it could escalate to that down the road. They have been together for several years now, and are off to college together. They take vacations with each other, and we just went on a family vacation where we paid for them to have their own room. I know, I know, you can’t understand. :) My daughter and I have a very close relationship and I want her to go far in life. I do not want her to have children while she is young (I had my older ones when I was very young and it ruined my hopes and aspirations). My daughter knows I want more for her. I know what drove me away from my parents, and that is why I am parenting the way I am. Yes, I consider myself a Christian and yes, I go to church (fairly conservative) though I think most Christians get it all wrong.
    As to my husband, he is the one who made me step back and look at this in a different light. He told me I could place all sorts of rules and make up all sorts of punishments, but in the end it would only drive her away (like my parents did to me) or I could just love on her. I chose love.

    • Anne, I’m glad you have such a great relationship with your daughter, but if I may say, I find it odd that you would assume that she would have sex. It really isn’t inevitable. I didn’t. None of my friends did (we were all virgins when we were married and got help from the one who married just before us). I’ve helped girls recently who were in their early twenties and getting married as virgins. It really does happen. In fact, the rate of sexual activity among teenagers is lower today than it was in the 1980s. I just think a lot of parents can get rather defeatist about it–“I know you’re going to do this anyway”–and thus not set the expectation, “I want you to have the best, and the best is to wait”.

      There are so many new SECULAR studies out showing that waiting until you’re at least in your twenties to have sex leads to better relationships in the long run.

      If we know that’s best, don’t you think it would be the loving thing to teach this to your kids at a young age?

      It seems to me the problem with your family of origin wasn’t their beliefs but the fact that they never talked about sex. But it isn’t an either/or at all. My girls and I talk all the time about sex, and we’re quite open. But they also are quite determined to wait until marriage.

  32. My 15 yr old daughter has been sneaking off before school with her boyfriend and engaging in intercourse and oral sex. She was a virgin until recently and we discussed sex in depth over the past few years and she assured me she wanted to wait until she was married. But her behavior made me think she was not truthful. She is a high school freshman and seem attracted to seniors. She has been taking the school bus to school and meeting this boy before class ( bus drops them off an hour before first class). Getting in this boys car and driving out into the wood to have sexual relations. When I asked her if she has been having sex, she gets angry and tells me no and says she is insulted that I would even ask. I had a fathers gut feeling she was lying, so I was distancing myself fro her for a day and she asked me why. So I asked her again if she was having sex and she emphatically said no. I could tell she was lying and I told her so and that I knew she was. She got white as a ghost and wondered how I knew and when I told her I gave her ample opportunities to come clean she said she didn’t know how to tell me. It has been going on for three weeks. She says she enjoys it and is going to continue in spite of how I feel and intends to do it several times per week and no matter what I do to try to stop her, she will find a way to do it. She wants my blessing to continue but I can not give her my permission or blessing. She even wants me to allow her to bring her boyfriend home and have sex in her room, while I go to a neighbors house. I know I need to get her counseling, since she is on a self destructive path. She is seeing a counselor at school, but I feel she is enabling her, and this may be beyond the scope of a school counselor.
    Any suggestion, thoughts etc would be appreciated. There is only me, no mother figure in the home.

  33. kelly rapley says:

    I love your responses to this issue! My daughter, who is now 16, just confided in me that she and her bf are having sex. I’ve taken your advice and have talked to her just like you said. Now it’s in Gods hands. Although I am reeling from this news, I do need to trust God with her choices! I have a new question though. Should we tell the bf’s parents? I no longer will allow my daughter to go to the bf’s house unless I know the parents are there and I’m going to have to now follow up with his parents each time my daughter is there. They may wonder why I’m always asking so many questions!

    • Personally, I’d tell them. Think about it this way, if the situation were reversed, would you want them to tell you? Likely you would. And they probably want to be very sure that their son doesn’t get someone pregnant, either. So I think it’s a good idea myself.

  34. Wow.
    I read this and wished I could go back in time and show it to my mom.
    When I was 16, my mother found out I was having sex, and y’know what she did?
    She moved me across the country (literally, from Utah to NH) in a matter of 2 DAYS. She packed 3 duffle bags of clothing for me and put me on a plane to like with my aunt, the day I was supposed to start my senior year of high school. She took away my phone and all forms of communication, and bugged the computer I needed to have for my new school.
    Needless to say, all it did was grow deep resent in my heart, a resent that is only nurtured to this day. He wasn’t right for me, but she cut any trust I had in her.
    Excellent advice. I like to read things like this to know how I will raise my children.

    • Sarah, so glad you enjoyed it! And I’m sorry your relationship with your mom is so strained. Life is too short to keep it that way, though. If you have any way to try to repair a breach, I encourage you to try. I’ve got breaches with people in my family and it’s no fun at all. I hope you can rebuild, but I know that isn’t always possible!

  35. I work with teenagers and have been for over 5 years. Unfortunately for the first time in 5 years one of the teenagers came to me and mentioned she had sex for the first time. On a positive note, she understood that it was wrong and she didn’t want to experience it again. She has not mentioned anything to her parents, however, as she feels as though her parents will overreact and be very angry. As required, we must mention this to the parents but I am not 100% positive on how exactly to handle the situation and present it to the mother in a way that will benefit the both of them.

    • That’s really tough. You definitely should tell the parents, but I would go perhaps with a book or an article you can leave them about the best way to go forward now. Sometimes it’s also good to tell them with their daughter present, so that you, the third party, are present when the news breaks and you can be a bit of a buffer. I pray God will give you wisdom and discernment so you can all be a team together helping this girl.

    • I would say to convince her to tell her parents with you with her as a support with her. Let it be her to tell them and not you.

  36. What do I do my sister in law who lives at her parents house just down the road who I have basically raised cause her mother has as andoned her and shows up her and there and her dad is working and taking care of some of his grandchildren that he just adopted because their mother just abandoned them. She has no rules no one watches ber beside me her dad tries but he is super busy. I just found out that her and her boyfriend have lied and she snuck down to his apparment and they had sex. They have only had sex once but the big kicker is she is barley 15 and he is 19 in collage. He is controlling and manipulative he gets her to lie to us which she has never done before. And she is feeling loved and getting attention I understand that. And when I told her I knew she was lying and that she needed to tell me the trueth then she told me and I did fly off the handle and I told her she couldnt be around him until she told her parents and she got on birth control. I found out who she got a ride down with to see him and I informed his parent and asked if they would please make it clear she is not to get rides with him they have been very supportive they know the boyfriend as well they told him to break up with her and that it is wrong he is not listening. I have had long talks with her that go very well until she talks to him again and then she flies off the handle and says things like “well now he is gonna break up with me” we talked for along time before she left for girl camp and she broke up with him. Im just scared that when she gets back they will find each other. And I am worried that when her mom finds out she will encourage her to see him and I could see her taking her to him. I dont know what to do. Should I not have incouraged her to break up with him I know she loves him well as much as she knows what loves is. But I dont trust him he has had sex with lots of girls before and this is her first time and there has only been one time for her she says she doesnt want to it again but then she wants to be alone with him. I am really worried about her getting something from him I told her she should ask him to get tested and she said she couldnt. I am just lost because everything in me wants to call the cops but I know this tearing her apart and I am having a really hard time watching not sure what to do. Her mom is going through a mid life crisis or something and has moved out and she is around just enough to cause damages she will tell my sister in law about how she had sex at 13 and if she want her to sign the waver for her to marry this guy she will. But then her mom tells me that she want her to break up with him. Her two oldest girls she signed a parental waver for them to get married at 15 and 16 and those girles life are really messed up now and the mother tells everyone how they are so great but her third daughter that finished highschool with honors and now is in college she tell her and other people she is a failure so this is what the 15 year old has grown up with and sees and hears from her mom. Her dad and mom are still married mom just lives somewhere else and whatever mom says dad enforces because he is afraid she will leave him for good please help me I cant let them ruin her life with this do I push her to tell them or dont I becasue she is somewhat listening to me right now and I worry what will happen if they find out she is to young to get married and not to this guy I am pretty sure he has been doing things with other girls as well what do I do

    • Hi Kia,

      That is such a tough thing you’re going through! I’m so sorry.

      And this may be hard to hear, but the truth is that there is very little you can do except to be there for her and pray. I wish there were more, but there’s not. Unfortunately her mother has too much influence, and you can’t do anything about that.

      Here’s something that may help: God only expects you to be responsible for the things that you are actually responsible for. He doesn’t expect you to fix the things that are outside your sphere of influence. He doesn’t hold you accountable for that–and you mustn’t hold yourself accountable, either. You must let yourself off the hook and you mustn’t feel guilty.

      Keep talking to her. Keep telling her you love her. Keep telling her she’s worth more than that. Certainly talking to the parents of the boy that drove her is smart, and doing more of that is likely a good idea. But ultimately you aren’t responsible for her, and you must let yourself feel free.

      I know that’s hard because you love her, and it’s such a ridiculous situation, and the adults in her life are acting badly. It’s infuriating. But you can’t do anything about it.

      The only caveat would be statutory rape. Some jurisdictions have different definitions of what counts as statutory rape. If this is statutory rape, then I would report it, even if it gets people mad at you. But I think in many places sex between a 15 year old and a 19 year old wouldn’t count. I’m not sure.

      I’ll say a prayer for you.

  37. Anonymous says:

    I think telling your children you’re disappointed in their actions opposed to saying you’re disappointed in the child themselves won’t change their reaction. Instead of making your child feel like they’ve done wrong, you as a parent should support them to ensure their maximum safety. I know finding out your child is having sexual intercourse is a parent’s worst nightmare, but instead of the strategies listed in the article, I think it would be much more useful to the child’s well being (now and in the future) to educate them. Talk to your child about birth control, and using condoms etc. I disagree completely with some comments noting that the child should deal with and pay for birth control. If your daughter doesn’t have a job and cannot afford birth control, would you rather her fall pregnant from your neglect or support her instead, avoiding the inevitable hardship that would follow?
    I completely understand the Christian values of sex out of wedlock being a sin, but I think the approach to it is ineffective. Instead of drilling into your children how wrong and bad it is, you’re better off educating them on the facts, the possible consequences (both good and bad; you must be objective), and then your religious views. Even if you bring your child up in a Christian environment you ultimately cannot control their beliefs.
    Just because your child may disagree with you, does not mean you should shun them for having their own belief system.
    Your role as parents is to protect and support your children through their decisions. If you educate your child, trust they’re making a decision that is right for them. My mother always told me to wait until I was with the right person, in a strong relationship built on mutual respect, trust and love. Tell your child about the value of sex and how it should not be treated lightly, but don’t talk about it as if it’s a crime – we should not be ashamed of our human instincts.
    Having a fairly open relationship with my mother, I’ve been able to ask her questions and advice on sex and relationships, which have aided me in building a well-rounded view. I’m still a teenager now, and have been in a relationship with my boyfriend for over a year now. Having sex for the first time was not a spur of the moment decision, not an instance of me ‘losing control’ or ‘giving in’. Having that strong knowledge built up and that open communication to ask questions, I was well aware of the risks and consequences involved, and heavily thought out my decision before going through with it. Obviously if your child doesn’t have this sort of support they won’t think to use barrier protection contraceptives as well as a hormonal birth control as well, which leads to those consequences and the ‘downward spiral of emotions’.
    It’s 2014 everyone, I don’t know anyone who would stop loving someone, or decide not to marry someone just because they found out they weren’t a virgin anymore.

  38. Sarah Johnson says:

    I found out my daughter had sex with her boyfriend within 24 hours. They have not been allowed to see or talk to each other since. She will see him for the first time at school in 2 weeks. We have been told by his parents that he was a typical boy that just talked her into this… She is so hurt and really never expected this from him. He always seemed to adore her.

  39. Just ran across this blog because I stumbled onto it. I was looking for advice for a Christian parent who just discovered that their just-turned-16 year old daughter was having sex with her boyfriend . My daughter and I have a good relationship and I feel if I use this advice and confront her, she may respond well. The problem lies with my husband. He has a tendency to overreact, would be the one to scream and shout, and ground her until the cows come home, forbid the relationship, generaly cause lots of stress, plus permanently damage an already fragile relationship with his daughter. So my question is more for me than how to handle this situation with our daughter. If I handle it alone, it may turn out better for all, at the same time I feel very alone in handling it. I’m just not sure what to do.

    • Hi Stunned, that is a tough one. I don’t think you can keep it from your husband, though. He has a right to know. Can you talk to your husband first about it before you confront her? Or even if he does overreact, maybe within a week or so you could talk and calm the punishment down a bit? I’m not sure, but I do think that keeping it a secret from your husband would make it worse in the end. Prayers for you!

  40. melissa says:

    I just found out that my 15 daughter is having sex with a 18 year old boy I always tslk to her a sex ..I don’t know what to do any advice

  41. I just found out my 16-year old daughter has been having sex. I’m heartbroken. I love your article and how you say be disappointed for and not in. It’s hard though. I feel betrayed because she has been lying straight to my face and really playing the sweet, innocent girl act. My husband read her journal. In it she writes that at a time she was afraid she was pregnant, “but good thing in (state we live in) abortion can be done without parental consent.” First of all, in my faith, we believe abortion is murder. It pains me to know that my daughter does not believe as such. So we questioned her and her knowledge of spiritual consequences. And her reply was that she did not plan on continuing in our faith when she “grew up.” That was an even harder blow than the sex. Right now I’m torn. My husband keeps saying we need to love her and show her support, but I just feel distant from her. I’m hurt beyond words. She is my honors student, athlete, aspiring doctor, beautiful first-born child. I just feel so sad for her knowing personally the emotional toll pre-marital sex has. It’s only been a couple days since we confronted her. We also did everything your article said not to do. We told her she can’t see him anymore, grounded her, took away her phone, Facebook, and Instagram. Why is it that so many of your readers commented that their bright, active in sports and extra-curricular activities children have low self-esteem? My daughter wrote that she can’t love anyone since she doesn’t love herself. She has sex with this boy but can’t reply when he tells her he loves her. I feel like she just threw away her virtue to someone she doesn’t love and is fine with that since she doesn’t value herself. I feel like a failure as a mother. I’ve taught her right from wrong, but obviously I haven’t taught her self-respect. I’m just all around SAD.

  42. So I have a little sister that is 15. She is active my mom just found out that shes been with more than 1 person and all this is happening at school and also from her sneaking out. I know my mom is really hard to talk to but she tries being patient. My little sister doesn’t get to go hangout with friends because she was caught in lies before. What can we do to help her understand that its very unsafe for this kind of behavior.??

  43. It was really cool to read this post from a teenagers point of view. I am a 17 year old Australian woman, I just came across your website and I love it. There were just a few things going through my mind while reading this and the comments.

    – I seem to get the vibe that most parents think it best that the teenagers breakup after they have sex, and that that is the best solution. And that kinda really gets to me. So the kids stuffed up, ok you’re gonna try to prevent it from happening again. But how is breaking up the ultimate goal for you mums? Wouldn’t it be better for them to learn how to control their urges as they continue to grow in love and maturity together. I know that it is most likely that they will keep on having sex. But are you mums saying that it’s better the relationship ended (and God may have planned for them to marry) than the chance they have more sex?

    – If I had sex before marriage ( of coarseI don’t want to), I would not want my parents to say “I just wanted the best life for you, and I’m worried that now you’ve made some bad choices that could really endanger that. I wanted this to be something special between you and your husband, and I’m just disappointed for you that you won’t experience that now.”
    Why? Firstly because this just screams “hopeless” to me. You literally just said that sex was meant to be “something special between you and your husband” and that “you won’t experience that now”. I’m sorry are you saying that because I had sex before marriage that it can never be special with my husband. That is just so wrong. That is why kids don’t want to tell their parents of they’re having sex. Because they’ve heard all their lives that if they do then they’ve ruined their wedding night, and themselves. That is such a hopeless thing to hear. I guess I just can’t believe that that’s true.
    Secondly: ” I just wanted the best life for you, and I’m worried that now you’ve made some bad choices that could really endanger that. ” Really? I know sex before marriage is a sin and it’s not God’s plan. But you’re not seriously telling me that it will endanger the chances of me having the best life. We sin everyday in many ways, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still follow God’s plan for our lives and have the fullest life we can. How is this such a game changer? Please will someone explain? Maybe I just don’t understand.

    – I think the open doors rule is very reasonable and helpful. My parents have that rule and I agree. However the blanket rule… I’m sorry but I think that’s taking things a bit to far. Don’t you guys trust your kids? Watching a movie under a blanket is not gonna lead to sex 90% of the time. Especially if others are their too, or they could be walked in on (open door rule). If your child and their partner are Christians and want to honour God, then you should not be treating them like they’re pagan animals who only want to get at it. Give them a chance to exercise self control, instead of controlling their relationships with other. I would feel like my parents didn’t trust me if they were forever placing restrictions on every single part of my life and relationships. I’m so happy that my parents have got the balance right, they are relaxed and firm. And you know what? I want to honour God because it’s my decision, not because they are forcing me too.

    I loved the article. So many good points in there :)

    • unmowngrass says:

      “Secondly: ” I just wanted the best life for you, and I’m worried that now you’ve made some bad choices that could really endanger that. ” Really? I know sex before marriage is a sin and it’s not God’s plan. But you’re not seriously telling me that it will endanger the chances of me having the best life. We sin everyday in many ways, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still follow God’s plan for our lives and have the fullest life we can. How is this such a game changer? Please will someone explain? Maybe I just don’t understand.”

      As someone who has, regrettably, been there and done that… it is HARD to come back from. It almost broke me. Turns the heartbreak valve up to 12 (if/when it happens). And, it adds, like SO much confusion to the relationship whilst it’s going on: “what does that mean? how serious is this? does he love me, or is he just using me? how does he feel? how do I feel? just because we did it once, are we going to do it again? is that a thing we do, now? now I’ve done it once, what happens if I don’t want to do it again? what happens if I do? what will my church think? do they still love me? what would they say if they knew? can we get married? that’s the biblical suggestion. do I want to get married? do I want to get married to him? does he want to get married to me? should I mention that to him? if so, how? etc. etc. etc.” It goes on and on and on and on. Which, apart from anything else, steals your peace, and, acts as a major distraction from other things in your life that you could be getting on with, and usually distracts you from God, too, so you kind of get sucked into a little bubble of just you and him, and it skews your perspective about everything. That’s without the practical side of, pregnancy and/or STDs. Hope this helps a little :)

  44. I grew up with a mother who refused to have an open line of communication about sex with me and my siblings. In fact the only thing she ever said was, “If he gets you pregnant, he better be ready to marry you”. Well, I got pregnant at 13 when I lost my virginity. I had a very brutal miscarriage and to this day my mother doesn’t know. When she eventually learned I was having sex, she forced me to break up with my boyfriend. He and I are still friends, and still love one another. It was extremely difficult for us. I knew that I’d be different as a mother, and I have been. I have always kept an open dialogue with my daughter. For the most part, at least until recently, she has always trusted in me & been open with me about all matters in her life. My daughter is now 15 & she’s been dating her first serious boyfriend for about 2 months. I ADORE her boyfriend, and he seems to really like me, as he is always saying “your mom is SO cool”. I can say that I trust both of them, mostly, but not entirely, especially because of what my roommate recently discovered. Last night it was brought to my attention that my roommate had found my daughter’s wallet in the bathroom cabinet, with a condom in it. Now I know I should be relieved to see that she’s thinking of safety, but I am deeply hurt. I’ve told her countless times that when she is ready, even if I don’t approve, I want her to tell me so I can provide her with the proper protection and knowledge. I’ve even told her boyfriend this. Anyone who knows us, knows that she and I are closer than best friends. So the fact that she has a mother who is die hard supportive of her, and who she can trust with literally anything, is what makes this discovery so hard to deal with. I feel lime I can’t trust her now and that breaks my heart. I don’t know what to say, but I have to talk to her about this. If my love for her hasn’t been enough for her to trust me and feel safe opening up to me, then what else can I do? I am terrified that she will make the same mistakes I did. What can I say to her, and how can I say it, without pushing her away?

  45. So thankful to stumble across these comments. In the last 8 weeks I’ve had the biggest shocks of my life: first my husband died unexpectedly in his sleep, then last weekend I caught our only child, age 15, having sex with her boyfriend in our den. I am reacting to both events with equal grief and sorrow. I’m just reeling. It is hard to think clearly while in the throes of all this shock.

    I have told my daughter, with whom I have strained relations with anyway, that I am sad, shocked, disappointed, but not judging since I too succumbed to the temptation of premarital sex and even had an abortion. I assured her that God forgives and redeems, but that He will not erase the consequences of sin, as I can certainly attest. She does not quite grasp the gravity of what has happened to her. I told her I would need some time to collect my thoughts before I could respond fully this event.

    In the meantime I have informed the bf’s parents and told them he is not to contact her until I’ve had the to think. I’ve taken her phone and have been sickened to discover texts about the secret life she seems to have been living, bragging about her actions, using vulgar language and showing zero self-respect. I’ve scheduled grief/family counseling for us, and I’ve taken her to see the Obgyn. I am weighing the options of birth control or abstinence, whether or not to allow the relationship to continue and under what conditions, how to rebuild trust, how to move our discussions to a deeper level — ie, the long term heart and soul issues, what it means to live out our Christian principles, how she can repackage her purity for her future husband by stopping any more premarital sex, etc.

    Her birth mother had her when she was a teen, and my daughter knows full well the painful hole in the heart of an adopted child and a birth mother. I’ve described the disaster of the abortion route. And we’ve discussed the game-changer a baby would mean to her future. But sex is about more than an unwanted pregnancy. It’s true, there is no condom for the heart. Anyway, I appreciate the illustrations, perspectives and road maps presented in this forum. They are helping me as I decide how to proceed.

    Embracing this boy will be a challenge as I really want to kill him for taking advantage of a vulnerable girl grieving for her previous father. My daughter is guilty as well of using this boy to fill a void he cannot fill. But Jesus calls us to forgive and love as He does, without compromising the truth of right and wrong. Surely He will teach us all as we walk this path. I pray my decisions will reflect Biblical truths. Pray for us!

  46. Wish Dad Were Here says:

    My husband died 4 years ago, when my son was 12. We have done well together until lately. I just discovered he and his girlfriend had sex in our house when I was out. I really felt something was in the works, and didn’t want her to come to our house as I had to take a family member to the doctor. But I ended up letting him bring her over for 4 hoursto watch TV & told them they had to leave when I did. They were to get a sandwich, and he was to take her home. I tend to have a 6th sense sometimes, and I asked a family member who lived nearby to check if my son’s car was in the driveway when I was gone. I got home first and called her. She said the car was there earlier. When my son got home I point blank asked him if they had sex, because I noticed things as soon as I got in the door. His room is upstairs, and upstairs light was on, his bed covers were completely off the bed, the curtain was open part way (so they could see outside if someone pulled in the driveway I assumed). He walked directly to the trash and threw away a bag, which contained 3 used condoms. The biggest concern I have, is that my son confided in me that the girl had sex with another boy, and thought she was pregnant, while my son was away for a bit during the summer. She said the other boy told her to get rid of “it” and obviously has no conscience. She told this boy that my son drove her to get an abortion and he didn’t have to worry about it anymore. She then said they needed to use condoms in the future–WHAT? She actually talks about having sex with this other boy again!! So…then she told my son it was a false alarm and she’s not pregnant. Fast forward about 2 weeks and, after dating all this time, she suddenly has sex with my son. I can’t help but think she really is pregnant and would rather pin it on my son, than this loser other guy. The girlfriend is younger (15 when started dating, now 16) and experienced in sex with more than one boy. My son was 16 and is now 17. He never had a girlfriend and has poor self esteem, even though he is musically talented, an honor student, and loved within our church family.They have been dating about 7 months. I have seen & heard things, but tried to ‘kill her with kindness.’ Her mom did nothing as far as their ‘relationship.’ I gave my son money for gas, taking the girl out to eat, to movies,etc. She spent about every Friday night at our house watching movies, I made dinner, snacks, etc. Her mom even asked my son to take the girl to her counselor appointment and other things which I feel is the mom and/or step-dad’s job. But he did it. She has serious mental issues; she calls and is verbally abusive to him until he actually cries. He is constantly saying he’s sorry to her. Yes, I’m bad…I listen on the phone sometimes. But the hatred she spews towards him is ridiculous. He is in many school activities and she gives him the “me or them” speech, along with saying he doesn’t love her. The third time she was at our house I found her straddling him on the couch and covering up with a blanket. I said “no” to all that and she didn’t want to come over for about 3 weeks, which suited me fine. I’ve been trying to tell my son all these months that she was being too intimate. I did tell him about protection. Sure, I’m glad he used it. But I can’t help but feel the girl is setting him up. Yes, I told him he was grounded dfrom her. Which seems like everyone on here says is the wrong thing to do. But he is a senior…his last year of school, taking some college courses in high school, in the National Honor Society, in our local musical symphony and of course all of the band courses at our school. He is working one class period as an aide for a teacher. He has 3 nights a week out for music activities and practices. And he finally found a college he hopes to get into, with the thought of becoming a music teacher. I tried to explain he could lose all that if she ends up pregnant. He will have to get a job and support the child (if it is his). Girlfriend has told him in no uncertain terms she does not want him to go away to college. She is in 10th grade so has 3 years of high school yet. This is his last, and I wanted it to be his best. I told them they need to break it off for a bit because temptation is hard to resist after giving into even once. Every time they are together, there is a chance for ann outcome none of us want, which could affect their futures. I was nice to them. But HER mom texted me and said even though we parents didn’t want this to happen, I was hurting them by making them break up. And that she didn’t want her husband to know about it. So she’s the cool mom I guess. But I would rather them hurt a little now than hurt later by the responsibilities a child brings. I didn’t tell her mom the other things I know. And I have been very open with the two of them in the past because I have a stepdaughter from a relationship my husband had when he was 17, AND this girl’s mom got pregnant with her when she was 18. I feel sorry for the girl because I think her mom would just be glad to ship her off to my house with a kid to raise. I told her about 3 months ago that they were getting too intimate on my couch and I had to make some rules. The mom told me she certainly wasn’t going to raise any more babies. I even hinted maybe she should put her daughter on birth control. How do I tell someone that their daughter is all over my son every time she is here and I have to stay in the room with them? I”ve been trying to give them some “cuddling” privacy recently by going in another room (with the door open to the living room). I told my son if something ever happens her mom is going to blame ME. And I guess so, because HER mom has NEVER let my son come to their house to watch movies, or do anything at all. Sorry to go on. I really wonder if my son should have some counseling. I don’t understand his loyalty to her after she admits to having sex with another guy and possibly getting pregnant. Why was that not enough for him to break it off with her? By the way, this other guy is also a person she accused of sexually assaulting her in 8th grade.I was told no one believed her and it was dropped. Tell me why she would even go to his house? And a friend said she told this other boy they were a couple, but he couldn’t say anything at school about it. Could that be because MY son thinks HE is her boyfriend. I could go on forever. She also thinks she may be bisexual and has been with a girl. SO…the question is, did I do the right thing by telling them to break it off for a while. I told them they were grounded from each other and I did not want him driving her anywhere or dating. I told them I knew they would see each other at school, and I know they text. I didn’t take that away from them. Of course now my son is cold to me, even though I think deep down he knows I am right. My husband would have probably grounded them after the first signs of sexual aggression from her. Help, someone….I have been praying for months and will continue to do so.

  47. I’m really sorry you’re going through this alone. It does sound very difficult.

    But it also sounds like your son and his girlfriend are being intimate at your house. They aren’t allowed at her house.

    When the cooling off period is over, then, you can just tell them they can’t come to your house.

    So why don’t you just tell them, “you can see each other school, but she can’t come to the house?” Or when she does come to the house, insist that you all be in the same room?

    I’m just saying that you do have some power, and while it’s uncomfortable, you can say “no”. Telling them to break up won’t work; but you can make it difficult for them to have sex.

    And you can get him more involved in your church perhaps and get him in with some other male role models so you don’t feel like you’re doing this alone? The more interesting question is why your son has such low self-esteem, and perhaps trying to tackle that may help?

    Hope that gives you some ideas!

  48. Wish Dad Were Here says:

    Sheila: Thanks for the input. Worth Noting—just saw a picture and some posts of his girlfriend with another girl, who says she is interested in men and women. Maybe this thing will solve itself, since the girlfriend had told my son she thought she may be bisexual. What a world! I feel like she is stringing along 3 people, my son, another boy and possibly a girl. We are very active in our church. My son has been there since birth and is a youth group member (I am one of the leaders). The other leader (also a mom) and I were hoping a male would help with the group also, especially for the boys, but so far there are none. Ever since he met the girlfriend he has started to ‘question’ things somewhat. And that may be natural anyway for his age. But she spoke out against ‘religion’ due to her beliefs in homosexual rights for marriage and children. She did go to church with us one time. I was happy, but she never came back, even though my son asked her. You’re right, I am basically trying to keep them from being alone. I’ve told him he can’t drive her to and from school, other activities, or date by going out together. And she is not to be at our house. I’m not ready for that for a while. My son’s best mentor is probably his band teacher, even though he is only about age 30. He is a cancer survivor and he and his wife are expecting a baby soon. My husband was ill from about the time our son was 5. He really didn’t have a dad who could play with him. But I took him to Scouts, basketball, 4-H…trying to give him some social interaction. He is overweight and I think that is the biggest problem he feels insecure about. Also, I did have him in counseling for a bit in elementary school when his dad was becoming more ill. There were days he would just start crying. Some of the other kids made fun. He finally told me every day he thinks his dad might die. The last year my husband was alive, my son and I cared for him and there was a lot to do. But we have no regrets. We had some help from Hospice for about a week, before he died. Thanks for sharing and the support. I know I just need to remain strong and not let them push me into letting her come over here. It’s hard, because I do feel sorry for her.

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  1. […] You've discovered your daughter or son is having sex. What do you do? Four thoughts on strategies that can keep your child on track, without damaging your relationship with him or her.I'm convicted lately that we focus so much on prevention with our kids (not just sex, but lots of stuff) that we forget we need a plan for follow-up and grace, too, when mistakes happen.  […]

  2. […] What to do if you discover your daughter is having sex […]

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