A parents' guide to talking with teen daughters about guys, sex and relationships

Samantha’s mother to her sixteen year old daughter.
“Bye dear. Have a good time on your date with Kyle.”
“Oh, I will, Mom, don’t you worry. I have a few surprises for him that he’s really going to like when we’re alone in his room.”
“Love you.”
“Love you.”

Well, maybe not quite. But it certainly seems that teenage girls today are more forward, more sophisticated when it comes to the world of sex and romance than they were in the past.

In the course of any given day through the electronic media they are flooded with increasingly frank information, stories, images about the world of love. And of course they hear all about the love lives of their friends.

But for all the volume of their apparent knowledge, it is quite another thing to be out in the real world and live it. They may know lots of stuff, but it is a totally different deal when you are actually experiencing it. And more often than not it can be overwhelming.

A sobering reality is that in the world of teenage sex and romantic relationships, though girls may be more sophisticated than guys, it remains girls – not guys – who still far more often end up as victims.

For all the information that they get -- some of it good, but some of it not so good – they remain very vulnerable. Which is why, as a protection to them, maybe it is not such a bad idea for you to get in your two cents.

Maybe they do know it all. Maybe talking to them is unnecessary. But there are certain basic truisms with boy and girl sex and relationships that definitely are good for teenage girls to hear anyway.

Hopefully, what they hear from you will allow your daughters to enter this passionate realm with their eyes a little more open. Hopefully, they will be a little more able not to have it all just happen to them. They will make choices. They will be more in control of what happens -- less likely to be victims.

They may not want to listen. They may not be interested.
“Mom, this is so lame.”
But they do hear and they remember every word.
“No, I don’t remember any of it because it’s so stupid.”
But she does.

What should you say? Whatever you feel will be useful to your teenaged daughter in navigating her way through this rather tricky realm. Below I offer some suggestions. And a list of cautions.
Guys often do mean what they say at the time, but don't assume he feels that way later. Sexuality, and the intimacy that comes with it, can powerfully influence how people feel. But once the physical intimacy ends, so can many of the feelings.

Don’t assume that having sex with a boy makes a relationship any more than it was. It may be part of a deeper commitment and a growing bond between two people. But it may not. The best judge of that is how he treats you over time, not whether you did or did not have sex.

Don't count on what you do with a boy being private. Especially in the age of Facebook, Twitter and text-messaging, what you did last night -- or just this afternoon -- can rapidly become public knowledge. And also remember, images of you that you would find embarrassing may be private while you are still a couple, but if the relationship ends, you can’t be so sure.

Drinking -- by you, him or both of you -- makes the probability of sex considerably greater, and the meaning of what goes on considerably less.

If you are in a situation where sex may happen - alone with no adults around - it is more likely that it will happen.

If he's always jealous and controlling, end the relationship – now. It doesn’t work and in the end only leads to bad places - namely more and more of his need to control you. And his anger with you if he can’t.

If he in any way is physically hurtful -- hitting, hard-grabbing – end the relationship – now. Even if you think you provoked it. It is never okay for a guy to physically hurt a girl. And do not keep it a secret – even if you are embarrassed by it. Talk about it with friends and adults.

Never hit a guy. Just because you’re the girl and he’s a guy doesn’t make it okay to hit him. Also it can be dangerous to you – he might hit back. If you feel that mad, leave.

Try not to have him be everything in your life. Keep time for your friends. If he is too much the center of your world, you can become too dependent and too vulnerable to being hurt. If you break up you don’t want to risk being completely alone. You want to have your network of friends who are still there for you. Exclusively being with just him can alienate your friends. And don’t always assume that when he’s no longer there, your friends will welcome you back into their lives with open arms.

If you seriously don’t like the way he’s acting and he promises that he will change, he probably genuinely means it. But don’t count on it happening. Maybe you can change him, but more usually you can’t. Give him a chance. But don’t give him a very big chance. If you seriously don’t like the way he’s acting and he promises that he will act better, but he doesn’t, sooner rather than later you have to end it.

If you are in a serious relationship do not always require that you know where he is and what he is doing. You may desperately want to know, but it is so much better for your relationship to have times when he is separate from you and you not monitoring his every action.
The benefits of this policy are huge. He won’t feel you’re too clingy and want to push you away. And it is better for you in future relationships – you learn not to worry about it so much. You learn to give him his space.

Finally, in any love relationship try to learn the difference between a guy’s interest in you because of a purely physical component, and a genuine caring about you and who you are.
This is not always so easy to tell.

Does he seem interested in what you have to say? Does he enjoy sharing his experiences with you? Does he treat you with kindness? Does he want to know and give value to what you want, to what are your feelings?

To be able to recognize this difference is an investment in future relationships. For a long term relationship to work over time, beyond a physical attraction, there needs to be a genuine interest in you.

Ideally, of course, is that whatever you say becomes not a lecture, but a discussion. The above are possible places to start. Hopefully the end will be a genuine back and forth between you and your daughter.

Anthony E Wolf, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist for children and adolescents. He is the author of numerous parenting books. His latest is “I’d Listen to My Parents if They’d Just Shut Up: What to Say and Not to Say When Parenting Teens” (Harper Collins).