Carolyn Hax: Readers’ advice on teens, sex and parental limits

Carolyn Hax
Columnist July 5, 2012

While I’m away, readers give the advice.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

On allowing teenagers to have a boyfriend/ girlfriend sleep over:

None of your business. Get a life and let them have theirs.

Lived in Denmark 40 years ago. Was invited to breakfast at an 18-year-old friend’s parents’ home. Was stunned when friend and his girlfriend joined us at the table with sleep still in their eyes. Wild-eyed, I must have been, as I watched parents and son and girlfriend interact . . . not a single iota of an indication that anything unusual had just happened.


Spent seven years in Denmark watching with wonder how the Scandinavians allow their children (and one another) independence of thought and action far beyond anything I ever saw in the States. Much healthier environment in my opinion.

G.

I think for me, the distinction I would make with my son (if faced with this question) is that I:

1. Understand he has his own life and choices to make.

2. Want him to be as safe as possible while making those choices.

3. Think the choices he is making are better left to adults.

4. Do not want to encourage choices I think are not timely.

5. Can feel all of these things simultaneously.

Empathy and understanding don’t have to equal agreement with a person’s choices. Teens are SO good at beating us down with “logic” and persistence, especially if they’ve been encouraged to disagree and question (a double-edged sword!).

So parents might want to try a huge dose of understanding and even saying to their kids (respectfully): “I know it’s what you want. And while it may not make complete sense to you, your [other parent] and I are saying ‘no.’ Period. You can be as mad as you like and disagree as much as you want. We are not concerned that you agree or disagree with us, although we respect your right to your feelings on the matter.”

I tell my kids “I’m not here to win a popularity contest.” When I’ve made any tough decision that I knew in my gut was right for my family/kids, my kids have always (and I don’t say that lightly) come to a place where they respect me even more for it, even if it’s taken years — although that’s never a given and not why I make the tough choices.

J.

My daughter came to me around 16 or 17 years of age to share that she was planning to become sexually active. I took her to the doctor and paid for her birth control pill. At some point after that, she approached me to ask if Boyfriend could spend the night. I told her I wasn’t comfortable with that, and then said, “I know what my job as your mother is: I am responsible for making sure — to the extent that I can — that you don’t screw up your life by having a child before you are ready. It is not my responsibility to find you a place.”

It was pretty easy for her to understand that because I owned the seeming contradiction of getting her the pill.

D.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/
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