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13-year-old sexual activity

answered 02:36 PM EST, Tue April 30, 2013
anonymous anonymous
My 13 year old son is in puberty and his dad is not around so I think he has a hard time with what is going on with his body. I tried explaining the birds and the bees to him last year but it was so uncomfortable for both of us that I cut the discussion short after it seemed like he already knew everything I was trying to tell him. They teach it in health class at school. I came home today and I found him on our couch with the neighbors daughter. She is 10. They were both almost naked and fooling around. I sent her home and I haven’t really dealt with him yet. He is grounded. To me she is clearly still a child but his body has already changed a lot to be more man like. But the age differences are not that great. I am worried that there is something wrong with him to be acting that way with her but I also know that 13 year old boys are all hormones and have a hard time controlling themselves. I am so scared that there is something wrong with him. Should he be more interested in girls his own age? Should I be worried about this?

Raffi Bilek Says...

Well, it really doesn’t appear that something is “wrong” with him for doing some sexual exploration. That, as you noted, is pretty normal. There are really a couple of different issues at hand here:

- Consent: was this girl a willing or unwilling participant? (Note: this is NOT to be construed as legal advice, as legally speaking NO 10-year-old can give consent; and different states have different rules about what age difference is legally acceptable for underage sexual partners. You may want to check with your state’s child abuse hotline to find out what the rules are. Or you might not. Again, I’m not offering legal advice here.) If she was willing, then yes, I’d say it’s normal – especially if she too is beginning to develop physically (which you did not mention). If he had forced her into this, or convinced/seduced her, there might be a bigger problem. You’d have to provide more information.

- Guidance: this child is going to need some. You didn’t specify where exactly Dad is, but I will assume he is simply not available. If you cannot assume this role, it might be wise to find a teacher (health class?), guidance counselor, coach, “big brother,” etc., who can discuss these sensitive issues with him. It needs to be clear to him that sexual activity has to be consensual (and that concept itself needs to be explained). He also needs some good information on safe sex. Nobody wants a pregnant 10-year-old. It’s possible that these issues ARE being discussed in health class. You can look into that.

- Communication: even if you’re not going to be THE person to talk about this stuff with him, he should know that he COULD in theory talk to you if he needed to. To that end, I am not even sure why you grounded him. Are there rules in your house about sexual activity? (And if there are, does he even know them?) Are you perhaps from a religious family where this kind of behavior is considered out of bounds? (And if so, does he even know that?) By grounding him, you are sending the message that this behavior needs to be hidden, which is probably not what you want, and possibly not what you even believe. You are much better off with him doing this on your couch in your home than going off somewhere else and doing it where you will never find out. And by leaving the door open to talking about these things, uncomfortable as it may be, you will be leaving a lifeline for him should he ever find himself in need of parental help. (Of course, there are many more factors that could be at work here in terms of your approach to the whole situation, which you would have to tell me more about to give you more specific ideas.)

I hope this is helpful.

Raffi Bilek, LSW

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Page last updated Apr 30, 2013

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