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Mother Worried About Putting Daughter on "the Pill"
Q: My 15-year-old daughter told me that she wanted to go on birth control pills. I'm glad she came to me, but I felt she was too young and was frightened for her. She said she didn't need my permission and that she could get the pill anyway. I had her doctor write her a prescription and talk to her about all the problems and consequences of teen sex. Since then my daughter has had sex with two other boys besides the first one and I have set up an appointment for her to see a psychologist. She has become harder to deal with and is making poor choices. Did I do the right thing by putting her on the pill?
A: As you know, birth control pills will help but they cannot prevent an unwanted pregnancy or contracting STDs. I won't preach morality to you regarding your decision to get birth control pills for your daughter. You faced a very difficult decision and consulted a physician to help your daughter in a most responsible manner. I believe that you did allow your daughter to emotionally manipulate you into doing what she wanted you to do. I would suggest that you not allow yourself to be emotionally bullied in this manner in the future. Your daughter needs you to remain true to your values and to explain to her why you hold these values. You can do this without blaming her for not sharing your values on particular issues.
What is clear at this point is that your daughter has begun to have sex in an unhealthy manner, now having slept with three boys (it could be more) since she has been on birth control pills. Sexual promiscuity in female adolescents is often a sign of depression or low self-esteem. She's not having sex as part of being in a deeply committed relationship. Instead, she's caught up in an unhealthy behavior that also demeans her. Although she will protest loudly that there is nothing wrong with what she is doing and that you can't stop her from having sex, you need to get her some professional help.
My bet is that behind that anger is a frightened girl who needs some compassionate support. I know that you feel helpless regarding your inability to stop your daughter from hurting herself. Believe me, your daughter is out of control and your job is to love her, to stand by her even in the face of her anger toward you, and to get her the help that she desperately needs. I'd also suggest that you read Venus in Blue Jeans: Why Mothers and Daughters Need to Talk About Sex, by Bartle and Lieberman. Let me know of any progress.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.