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She can't handle the truth when granddaughter admits having sex

She can't handle the truth when granddaughter admits to sex

Q: I am so lost right now, maybe more mad and disappointed at my granddaughter, whom I raised since she was less than a year old and is now 16. (As part of a larger conversation) I asked her if she had sex, and she said yes. I asked why, and she replied, "We were in the moment at his house and it happened."

I did not know what to do and just went for a drive, then went to work and tried to sort things out. I built up anger thinking, what did I do? Did I make a mistake somewhere?

She has a laptop, iPod and cell phone, and I got so mad that I took them all away. Then I told her, "You need to figure out what you really want to do in your life. You have so many opportunities for success." She is very bright in school. I have taught her to be independent and to appreciate what she has in front of her. I'm so afraid she is going to throw all that away.

She says she is going to graduate and go to college, and to trust her, but it is so difficult to really trust what she says. Do you have any suggestions?


A: A bunch, the most urgent of which is: Breathe.

She did not mug a pedestrian, bully a vulnerable classmate or cheat on a chemistry test. Tweak the context a bit and what she did was natural, love-centric and in many situations encouraged. It's important not to lump a lapse in self-discipline with mistakes that are meant to do harm.

And. She told you the truth.

That's why the next thing you need to do is to give her back her e-toys and apologize for overreacting. Admit you were caught off-guard, and that the first thing that came to mind was to dock her allowance and send her to bed without supper, when that's not the way to treat someone on the verge of adulthood.

Then explain that now, with your wits about you, you realize she needs you to act like the adult you are, and to give whatever help she needs to keep this new stage of her life from going off the rails.

I suggest you phrase that help in the form of questions: Does she feel safe with this boyfriend? (Never underestimate how important that is to a happy ending.) How does she feel about what happened — is she okay or does she regret it? What precautions has she taken, before and since?

If none or not enough, then: Does she feel ready to become a mother? Cervical cancer and a life-altering infection are other possibilities. Does she know what to do to avoid these things? If abstinence isn't her choice, does she realize she's accepting both responsibility and a certain level of risk?

If she's mature enough to have sex, then she's mature enough to know "it happened" isn't good enough when it comes to taking care of herself. Maybe she knows this already and has been to her doctor or a clinic, but you won't be the one she talks to about that as long as hyperventilating, self-flagellation and punishment for truth-telling are the only utensils you have in your drawer.

You can say you don't condone teenage/premarital/oops sex, while still agreeing to steer her toward the responsible version of whatever she's going to do.

Why? Because you can — and need — to show love and acceptance of her, the person. As badly as you may want to, you can't stop her from making choices you don't want her to make. But you can stop yourself from reacting your way into irrelevance.

She can't handle the truth when granddaughter admits having sex 10/04/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 4, 2011 6:28pm]
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