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“Most kids want to please their parents,” says Ilana Amrani-Cohen, LICSW, PhD, director of the Families with Voices program at The Guidance Center in Cambridge, Mass. “If they see their parent getting upset, they’ll clam up.”

While fear and anxiety can make some moms go overboard, it prevents others from saying enough. Some parents think they’ve covered the bases with one or two comments, then leave their daughters to fend for themselves. Cohen suggests parents help their daughters think about what’s important to them and the kinds of choices they want to make.

Make Your Values Clear, Then Listen to Her

You might want your daughter to wait until she’s married. You might think sex is OK after a certain age, or in the context of a loving, committed relationship. “Parents play an important role in conveying their values,” says Kantor.

But before you tell your daughter exactly what she can or can’t do, understand there’s only so much you can control. Share your values, and then give your daughter room to explore her feelings. The best conversation is one that makes your daughter feel she can talk to you about anything.

Prepare Your Daughter for Peer Pressure

Peer pressure comes in many forms. It could be a boy in the back seat of a car. It could be kids at school. Or it could be your daughter’s personal desire to fit in. If she believes that everyoneelse is having sex, she may push herself, as well as her boyfriend, to move too far and too fast.

You can use facts to dispel the myth. For instance, less than half of high school students report having ever had sexual intercourse. And only 13% of teens report having sex before the age of 15. Kantor suggests statements like, “The fact is, most people your age are not having sex.”

Even as your daughter gains independence in some areas, when it comes to sex and dating you can and should stay involved.

“Parents need to set guidelines,” says Kantor. Don’t allow your daughter to spend a lot of unsupervised time with her boyfriend. And don’t allow her to date someone who is two years or more older than her. She might be relieved that she can use you as an excuse for saying no.

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