You may want to ignore the fact that your teen could be sexually
active or could become so, soon, but keeping the lines of
communication open and facing the problem head on is a better choice than
denial. After all, you don't want to be raising a grandchild, too—do you? "Teen
girls are at peak fertility," says Dr. Scott Carroll, a child psychiatrist in
Albuquerque, N.M. "And emotions are far stronger than rational thought
in a teen." Inevitably, your teen will be in situations where she could have
sex, and it only takes one time to get pregnant. So here's what to do if your
daughter asks for birth control or if you suspect she needs it.
Don't Freak Out
Whatever you do, don't freak out. Remember, it probably took a lot of
guts for your daughter to bring up the subject. So put on your
poker face and have a calm, nonjudgmental discussion about why she's interested
in birth control, says Dr. Carroll. She
may tell you she wants it for an acne remedy or a solution for menstrual
cramps, which may be true, but she could also use these reasons if she plans to
have sex. Either way, "just go along with the story because you can't actually
stop them from having sex," says Dr. Carroll. And suggest an appointment with
your pediatrician or a gynecologist.
Look at the situation as a blessing in disguise: Your teen actually
wants to protect herself from getting pregnant and feels comfortable enough to
talk to you about it. Since she's opening the gates of communication, this is
also a good opportunity to discuss having safe sex and the importance of using
condoms even when taking birth control pills. If you're uncomfortable having
"the talk," taking your daughter to the pediatrician or a gynecologist can be
helpful. Some doctors will spend time counseling your teen on safe sex issues
and may even encourage her to talk openly with you about her relationships.
Get Past the Denial Stage
But you don't think your teen is having sex. "Pull your head out of the sand!" says Dr. Carroll. Even the "good girls" you least suspect of having sex could be doing so, and therefore at
risk for getting pregnant. Don't get caught up in denial.
Dr. Cheryl Perlis, a gynecologist in Lake Bluff, Ill. tells parents
that if a girl has a boyfriend, you should assume she's having sex. While it
isn't always true, Dr. Perlis believes it usually is, and therefore it's a good
time to bring the teen to see a gynecologist. Your teen may also come up with
other ways to get to the gynecologist like complaining about cramps, with
the goal of getting birth control pills.
Even if your teen hasn't asked for birth control yet, you shouldn't
ignore the issue. Some teens will never feel comfortable asking a parent for
birth control, so no matter how badly you don't want to, you may have to be the
one to bring up the option. Dr. Perlis suggests saying to teens, "If you're
thinking about becoming sexually active, it's really important that you use
birth control, and if you want to go to the gynecologist, that's fine."
Remember, suggesting birth control or saying yes to birth control is not the
same as encouraging sex.
Be Wary of Encouraging Abstinence
While praising the benefits of virginity
and waiting until they're older may sound like a smart strategy, experts
disagree. "Abstinence pledges and classes have been scientifically proven to
increase the rate of unprotected sex," says Dr. Carroll. "So preaching to
teens just backfires." It's best to give your teen the tools she needs to be
Decide how Young Is too Young for Birth Control
Ideally, a teen's menstrual cycle should be developed for two years
after she starts getting her period before suppressing it with birth control
pills. So if your daughter's period started at 11, you should wait until she's
13. However, Dr. Perlis says that if your daughter is sexually active, she
should start taking birth control pills anyway.
Explore Options Beyond Just the Pill
Birth control pills are a popular choice for teens, but they should be taken at the same time every day for maximum effectiveness and some teens
have trouble remembering to do so. For these reasons, some teens and parents of teens are
opting for other birth control options. A copper IUD can be inserted by a
doctor and lasts for 10 years. The Mirena IUD, which releases small amounts of
hormones directly into the uterus, lasts for 5 years. Or there is the birth
control implant, which is placed under the skin of the upper arm and lasts for
three years. Encourage your daughter to discuss the options with her