What's the best way to confront our teenage daughter with our discovery that she has become sexually involved with her boyfriend? We found an entry in her journal describing a sexual encounter. We can't allow this behavior to go unaddressed, but we don't want to create a wedge and close the door to future communication. What do you suggest?
You are quite right to do whatever you can to preserve your relationship with your daughter and to maintain open lines of communication. But you're also wise to take an active and aggressive role in addressing this situation. Aside from the threat it poses to your daughter's future welfare, this is a very painful discovery for you and it involves a certain amount of grief. It's in everyone's best interest that you confront it openly and honestly.
There are several questions you might want to consider as you think about the best way to approach your daughter. Have you noticed any significant changes in her behavior recently? Does she appear to be under an unusual amount of stress? How was it that you happened to read her journal entry? You can use all of these as possible starting points for your conversation with her. Take one question or sentence at a time and listen carefully to her response. Start out with something like, "We noticed that you seem to be more anxious than usual. Are you under some kind of stress?" You could also say, "You left your journal out the other day – are you trying to tell us something?" or "You deserve to be honored. Are you feeling honored by your boyfriend?"
The idea here, of course, is to nudge her very gently in the direction of bringing the subject up on her own. An effective way of doing this is to begin by expressing your love for her and reminding her of God's love. You might want to direct her attention to a Scripture like Isaiah 43:4, which says, "Since you were precious in My sight, you have been honored and I have loved you." If you can build her up in this way and encourage her to think of herself as a precious and honorable human being, she will have an internal motivation to embrace behaviors that are consistent with a positive self-image and to confess any actions that aren't worthy of a beloved child of God. But before she can do that, she needs to be assured that you won't reject her because of her failures.
Once the truth is out in the open, you will want to move on to a discussion of consequences. It would be entirely appropriate to require that she discontinue her relationship with the boy in question. You should also have a serious conversation with his parents. Meanwhile, encourage your daughter to explore alternative venues of interaction with the opposite sex – group dates, for example, or a higher level of involvement with a church youth group. Talk about the importance of pursuing a commitment to sexual purity and make it clear that, for the time being, you cannot permit her to go out on unsupervised individual dates.
If you'd like to discuss this situation with a member of our staff, feel free to contact our Counseling department.
Boundaries With Teens