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Your Baby Is Growing Up

answered 03:14 PM EST, Thu January 16, 2014
anonymous anonymous
My 13 year old daughter wants to go on the birth control pill. She talked to my ex wife about this. WTF am I supposed to do about this? Should she get some kind of therapy?

Rev. Christopher Smith Says...

Rev. Christopher Smith C. Smith
LCAC, LMHC, LMFT
Google+

There is a lot not represented in this question that could easily change how someone might answer it, so you will have to consider your own situation to make decisions about it. Let me address some of those aspects first.

The first factor is that women (young and older alike) may begin taking birth control pills for a variety of reasons. The most obvious of which is to prevent conception when they are sexually active. Depending on your faith tradition background and your own spirituality, you may find that this is not an option that is acceptable regardless of the age of the woman. There also are cases where young women (and yes, your thirteen year old daughter qualifies, at least physically) desire to begin use of oral contraceptives even when they are not sexually active. This could be because they believe the occasion could come up where they would become sexually intimate with someone and want to be prepared in case this would happen. In some communities, it could be the result of fear of being sexually attacked. Depending on lots of things around this and whether you feel your daughter is being impulsive or has really thought things through, there might be a need to have someone for her to talk these things through with.

However, it is also possible that your daughter's desires have nothing to do with sexual behavior. There are different types of pills that can be used and they have a range of other benefits. These benefits can include things such as reducing menstrual cramps and make the woman's periods lighter as well as preventing certain types of diseases. There are also women who go on the combination pill to help with a variety of other conditions including acne, iron deficiency and some PMS symptoms. Some birth control methods will to limit the number of periods in the month or to eliminate them all together. These motivations are quite different than those in the last paragraph. These, too, could require counseling before she should start using the birth control pill. However, rather than a therapist, her physician should be able to provide this counsel. If it is really affecting her then entering therapy might be appropriate.

Another dimension to the situation that the questioner originally raises is that his daughter spoke about this with his ex-wife. This is an area of life where it is natural for a daughter to speak to her mother rather than her father. Some sensitive topics are difficult for people to talk about with certain parents. However, if you are your ex-wife are not on the same page around parenting issues, then this will add difficulty for your children as they get different messages at different points. If this is drastic, but not volatile, the two of you as parents may benefit from therapy or at least mediation to help you be able to provide more consistency and to have appropriate communication between you. It also raises the question of how involved you are in your daughter's life. This will also affect what role you might have in this situation. Interestingly, research that has come out in the last five years (for example Mendle et al in Child Dev., 2009 Sep-Oct 80(5)) has found that absent or partially absent fathers can affect the mean age at which young women have their first sexual intercourse by lowering the mean by as much as a year. There are lots of factors that go into this.

Looking across all teenagers, not paying attention to factors that tend to earlier or later sexual activity, studies state that half of all teenagers have had first intercourse before the age of seventeen. There is certainly variability in this age based upon the other factors (for example half of black male teenagers in these same studies have had sexual intercourse before fifteen). With these being median figures, there are people who will have had sexual intercourse before these ages, even years before. Some people have said that we should expect this as there is some evidence that puberty is occurring earlier. The average age for puberty among girls/women is generally seen to be eight to fourteen. This raises the question of how this affects the child/young adult to physically have matured and be physically ready for sexual activity but yet to have not matured emotionally and not be ready to have children. This is an issue that can cause tension for someone in that situation, as well as for their parents. In an ideal world, there might be some form of group therapy for these children/young adults and space for their parents to process, but this is not commonly offered. If you were trying to find a way to give your daughter space to talk through these issues in a group, it might be in a normal therapeutic setting but it might also happen in another setting, such as a church or community group.

Your daughter is growing up. This will provide challenges for her as well as for you. If this becomes too much at any stage, then seeking out therapy is appropriate. Talking with each other can also help. If you have instilled good values in her, then she will come through these challenging times. There is hope for a future where she will experience wholeness and peace, as ill you.

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Page last updated Jan 16, 2014

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