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A time to talk 
What if you find out your teenager is having sex?

by Dr. Cathleen McGreal

The wooden privacy fence surrounding my friend’s backyard sometimes corrals a dog’s happy explorations. It also creates a quiet retreat area for reading. Since my friend lives between a high school and a university, it is a great gathering spot for celebrations associated with school events. Imagine my friend’s surprise one evening to discover that an adolescent couple had decided the fence also provided just the right amount of privacy for sex. In this case, the teens were strangers. But what if parents walked in on their own teen having sex?

Have the teens talk to you - now!
Have the couple get dressed - and then it’s time to talk. Don’t wait. Ask them about the decisions that led to this point. How did this fit into their relationship at this time? What discussions did they have about pregnancy? About sexually transmitted diseases? Try not to dominate the conversation, so that you can learn about their views. If they mention love, then acknowledge that love is powerful but its physical expression carries responsibilities. Sex has different meanings to different individuals as well. Some teens view sex more as recreation than as an expression of intimacy or romance. Share your values - that sex needs to be saved for marriage and that marriage is a spiritual as well as physical relationship.

Self-mastery: a process occuring throughout life.
Our church acknowledges that adolescents are apprentices in learning to deal with healthy sexual expression. “Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. … Self-mastery is a long and exacting work. One can never consider it acquired once and for all. It presupposes renewed effort at all stages of life. The effort required can be more intense in certain periods, such as when the personality is being formed during childhood and adolescence.” (CCC #2339, 2342) One sexually-active relationship doesn’t commit a teen to sex in future relationships.

Let the other parents know.
The teens can help decide how to inform the other parents. Clarify the means of feedback so that you and the other parents communicate. Adults often picture teen sex as something that occurs in the back seat of a car, but contemporary adolescents often have sex in their own homes or the home of a friend after school. Make sure that rules are clearly established for the future. Research shows that first intercourse peaks with periods of less supervision: summer vacation (especially June) and Christmas vacation.

Remember that sexual passion is God’s idea! But sexuality is spiritual as well as physical; “… not … merely biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person … .” (CCC #2361)

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