Should you allow your daughter’s boyfriend to sleep over?

Guest post by Aubrey Honeycutt


I was recently asked this question: “So would you allow your child’s boyfriend/girlfriend to sleep over? I mean, what’s next?”

…Well, they probably have a wonderful sexual experience and want more!

What else do you expect to happen? Sex can be beautiful, loving and fulfilling, no, let me restate that: sex IS beautiful, loving and fulfilling, if approached with an open mind and heart, regardless of sexual orientation. Sex is an amazing experience that two people can share with one another. Unlike any other act two people can share, sex involves an intimacy few interactions can imitate. In my experience, the shared birth of a child is the only moment that brings about a closeness that rivals a shared orgasm; and that experience started with the shared orgasm!

It is because of this capacity for true intimacy that sex and its value should be one of the first things we teach our young adolescents. Sex is powerful, sex is beautiful and should ALWAYS be approached with kindness, gentility and a sense of awe. It is not something to hide away in the dark and shun any thought of; it’s fun! When sex is approached with an attitude of understanding, our children are infused with a feeling of self-worth that no team sport could ever provide. No amount of counseling, excellent peer interactions or parental praise can equal the pride in one’s self obtained by accepting the fact that your ‘secret’ desires are not only perfectly ok, but valid, useful inclinations.

What a concept — approaching self-esteem by telling a child their darker selves are loved. Only in our culture is the primitive drive to propagate a species seen as dark and dirty. We MUST change that. Sex is not dirty or disgusting, it’s amazing and should not be relegated to something we do in the dead of night when the house is asleep and the lights are off. Turn on the lights and make love at noon. Sex and pleasure are not desires that should be hidden, but valid feelings that when expressed appropriately, bring immense joy into your life. I believe this to be even more important to stress to children who identify themselves as genderqueer or gay. No sexual desire should ever be discounted or thought of as dirty. If it doesn’t hurt anyone else, it’s ok.

What happens now that you have been open and honest with your child about sex, and they are doing it not only with your blessing, but possibly under your roof? Well, I’ll let my daughter handle that part:

You know what I hate? I hate the way most parents think [their] kids don’t know anything. I hate how little credit they give [their] teenagers. How close-minded and judgmental they are of [their] children. And then they wonder why they don’t tell them anything, why [their] kids put them at arm’s length. How can you expect your kid to be open with you when you can’t open your mind to them? Why do you want them to talk to you, when you wont listen to them?

Your teenagers are going to fall in love, they are going to break sometimes, and they aren’t always going to do the best in everything. Who are you to expect otherwise? You know EXACTLY what it was like! You know how misunderstood you felt, you know how much you wished you could be open with your parents. And yet, now you are given the chance, and you throw it away.

I’m so thankful for my parents.

I can tell my amazing mother and father anything, and they will swallow [their] fear, and open [their] ears to what I have to say. THAT is love. That is good parents. They still discipline me, and still give me rules to follow, but they freaking listen to me. They hear what I have to say, take into account my feelings, and validate me.

And that’s more than I can say for most other parents out there.

I think she said it perfectly and will leave it at that. Allowing your child to make adult decisions in the safety of your home is the most powerful gift you can give before they set out to live their life without your constant guidance. Give them the gift that will carry them through the rest of their lives. Give them the gift of trust.

Comments on Should you allow your daughter’s boyfriend to sleep over?

  1. Great post. Thanks for being so honest and true to our real natures… I worry a lot about when my girls hit the teenage years, but your post was an inspiration. Thank you!

    • I was afraid for a very long time too. But after a while I began to realize that the only way our children will every become adults who trust themselves, is if they can be children whose parents trust them. They don’t always make the best decisions, but they always know I am here to help.

      Glad it helped!

  2. This is an interesting article. So, here’s something I’d like some feedback on:

    Sex can be a fantastic experience, and I don’t want my (as of now 35-week gestating) daughter and any other kids to internalize any shame with it. Given that sex is wonderful, and that sex comes with CONSEQUENCES, some positive (loving feelings, pleasure, sense of intimacy) but also negative (illness, procreation, emotional ties) that you have to grow into the maturity to understand. I want to imbibe a sense of the importance to waiting when you’re older and can handle the consequences, in the same way you don’t give a 13 year old a set of car keys even though they could probably physically handle the car, or letting a 12 year old operate a Harley. (I write that last one as a 5’1 woman whose Honda Rebel keeps her reflexes in check.)

    Do any of you have experience with teaching that “This is special, wait until you are almost an adult” type ideas? It seems that the ways people talk about sexuality oscillate between accepting nearly anything or shame-driven avoidance rhetoric? I guess an analog could be teaching that cake is great, your desire for cake is normal, but wait for dessert to eat it?

    • The way I have dealt with my kids from as early as 5 or 6, was to talk about sex and intimacy as though it were a normal, natural part of life; because it is. I took inspiration from native cultures where families lived in huts or tents and when the parents made love the children weren’t all asleep. While I would NEVER have sex with my husband in the presence of my children, I do not hide it when we make love in the afternoon or a Sunday morning. I show through action that sex is not to be hidden or ignored and is completely normal.

      I don’t discuss details with my kids because in my opinion it’s not appropriate, but I have from onset of puberty, talked about the consequences and responsibilities of sex. For example, when my daughter first started asking questions one of her most striking was, “When can I have sex?” When I picked my jaw up off the floor and composed myself I didn’t have an easy answer. I told her that sex was complicated and beautiful, but was not a venture to enter into lightly. If I remember correctly she was 11 at the time and I told her when she felt she could handle the possibility of pregnancy, she was closer to being able to handle the responsibility of having sex.

      Bottom line, being open and honest with your kids about YOUR sex life and YOUR feelings is the best way to go. We lead by example, not by preaching or showing them diagrams and statistics.

    • I’d like some feedback on this, too. My kids are young now, but we’re already trying to be as open and positive as we can be in discussions regarding their bodies and sex. My own teen years saw my parents being permissive of boyfriends sleeping over, but my husband is not as comfortable with the idea. I do view it as being an ongoing discussion and that discussing/being positive about the concept of sex among my teenage children is not the same as being positive about promiscuity. I see it as being important to talk regularly about the short and long term ramifications (positive and negative) of sex, the importance of choosing the right partners, and that people’s (theirs and their partner’s) feelings about sex can change at ANY time, before, during or after having sex. I also feel very strongly about explicitly teaching kids about sexual ethics. Not just “no means no” but how to talk with their potential partner about sexual activities, and how to be sure that not only are they not doing something that they aren’t ready for or may have future ramifications, but also that their partner is making an informed decision. I don’t feel it’s a matter of saying “hey man, sex is awesome, enjoy the physical pleasure!” though I would discuss self gratification as a perfectly natural and acceptable way of dealing with their physical and hormonal needs. Sex with my knowledge and in my home would come after many discussions, with a partner who everyone in the family knows, and when I feel that my child is really ready ( not when I’d like them to be ready, as I’m thinking that will probably be later than they would like).

      • It would be nice if we could be the ones to decide when and with whom our children have sex. The truth is it will not be when you are ready or with the person you approve of. That is where the communication and trust comes in. Just like our own teenage selves, our children are going to make mistakes. Unlike many people’s parents, my hope is that we can be supportive parents who help our children learn from their mistakes.

        I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this, and what I have come up with is this: ultimately, most parents want to figure out how to make sure their kids don’t screw up, sleep with the wrong person, end up pregnant or getting someone pregnant or come home with an STD. But the honest trush is that we can’t control any of that. All we can do is lead our children by example. They are their own little people with personalities and opinions that have nothing to do with us. We protect them as best we can; we teach them about safe sex, safe driving and how to recognize a dangerous individual. But the one thing we cannot do is stop our children from making mistakes, getting hurt and, hopefully, learning from the consequences. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t take that from them if I could. I want my daughter to make mistakes because mistakes are what makes us stronger. They build our repertoire of experience which will eventually become wisdom. You can’t bubble wrap your kids and you can’t keep them from having sex, no matter what you think. Give them the tools and trust they need to navigate life and you will be doing the best thing for them. You will be teaching them to trust themselves.

    • I dont necessarily believe that “waiting until you are almost an adult” is the appropriate thing to do. I am quit young myself. 25. And I dont think my perceptions of sex would have been any better if I had waited until I was 18 rather than 15.

      I teenager is biologically designed to have sex. Their bodies are intended to do it. If you tend their hearts and minds to be prepared for it and understand it then you wont worry about when they are ready for it because they will be capable of making that decision themselves.

      • I dunno. I waited until I was a few days shy of my 20th birthday, and I’m so glad I did. I don’t think I could have truly handled any potential consequences, or been emotionally ready, while I was still in high school, let alone a freshman. But, to each their own. I just don’t think teenagers need to follow that “biological design” anymore than I need to act on every fleeting impulse I have now. The idea of waiting until “almost adulthood” just seems to be saying that one must wait until they’re emotionally mature enough to have healthy communication and to handle any potential consequences. For some people, maybe that is 15. For others, they might be 30 and haven’t reached that point yet.

      • I disagree. To me, engaging in sexual intimacy with someone else is in the same category establishing a self that is independent of the family, as is the normal part of adolescent development. That is adulthood. One’s body is designed to conceive at an early age, but it would be very harmful to a girl’s still-developing body to carry a pregnancy. Our society does not encourage the maturity necessary to engage in procreative acts in their teens.

        Sexual activity, in my value system, is in the same category as every other activity: one should not engage in it until they can procure the means and cope with the responsibilities. It’s the same way one determines getting a job and securing one’s own fiscal resources, keeping track of one’s own responsibilities, be them bills, deadlines, and aspirations. One must be in a position where they can procure the means to engage in an activity (for sexual activity, their own space) and cope with the consequences (acquiring contraceptive devices, being prepared to raise a child) before they are mature and ready to engage in it. Physical capability is not enough. It is in the same vein that means not owning a car until they have saved enough money for it, and waiting until they have.

        That’s not shame, that’s responsibility. There’s more to sex than pleasure and shame.

      • The “problem” is: BIOLOGICALLY spoken, teenagers are not only designed to have sex, but also to have babies and be responsible of their own families.

        But today, becoming parents at 13 or 15 is not desirable in our culture. We don´t live as we are biologically designed anyway. For example, biologically we are also designed to go out and hunt our food, not sit down at the computer.

        So I think we have to consider biology, but it can´t take the decision away from us.

    • That’s exactly how my mom raised myself and my 3 younger sisters. Sex was taught as a wonderful experience, but at the same time it comes with negative and positive experiences.

      My mom basically said that we could have sex whenever we want, as long as we use protection (taught us how to take birth control and condoms) and as long as we could handle the not so nice consequences as well (getting pregnant, raising a kid, STDs, etc).

      It was kind of relief. Even with the thought that I could have sex whenever I wanted, I still waited until I was in my 20’s to do so. Namely, being a book nerd, I was too busy with school to deal with the consequence of getting preggers.

      Personally, I plan to raise my kids in the same way. =)

      The whole “sex is bad! Don’t do it! I’ll kill you if I catch you doing it” mentality is horrible. Like my boyfriend at the time (now my hubby), was so nervous about sex… and had no idea how to use a condom! I had to show him! Namely because his parents never gave him the same talk I had. They never taught him about contraception and instead had the whole “sex is bad” philosophy. >.< Crazy, huh?

  3. I have one caveat: “No sexual desire should ever be discounted or thought of as dirty. If it is part of you, it’s ok.” I suggest the author append a disclaimer that if it doesn’t hurt anyone else, it’s ok. Lots of people quite obviously have sexual desires that are harmful, to themselves and others. I don’t think there’s a need to list examples, so I won’t, but I do think it’s important to stress sexual desire should never mean it’s ok to hurt other people. I’m sure the author believes this goes without saying and certainly was not intending otherwise, but we’re still not far enough away from our rape culture … it should be said.

    • My statement was geared towards parents who are trying to raise children with a healthy understanding of sex and desire. If you are suddenly changing course when your child is 16, then absolutely, some of the child’s desires may not be healthy. This is especially true if a parent is coming from a background of shame and avoidance.

      My caveat, if I were to include one, would be that parents talk to their children about specific desires they may have that make them feel guilty. This is never easy, believe me, when my daughter started talking about how rough she liked it I almost cried. However, it opened a discourse that addressed some feelings of low self worth and led to her ultimately letting go of that boyfriend, and moving on to a loving gentle relationship.

      • Personally I would be slanting the conversation toward sex being about informed consent and open conversations about preference and outcomes rather than assuming that any desire that could result in pain is unhealthy and caused by psychological problems. Yes, sometimes that is the case, but it isn’t necessarily. It is not okay to hurt someone or have sex in a way that is harmful and unwanted by your partner. Different people have different desires though and some people do like rougher sex than others, some have different kinks, and it doesn’t make them dirty or psychologically at risk necessarily. So it’s important to be able to talk about that and be ready to help your kids sort through that, whether a behaviour or preference is actually harmful or if it’s something that you might not enjoy but they might (or vice versa).

        • Thank you for sharing Little Red Lupine. I have a background that involves abuse, so I am never sure how to address such things. I agree in that I don’t believe liking rough sex or even bondage has to come from a place of psychological dysfunction. But as I said, I have no perspective as I come from an abusive background.

          Anyone else agree with LR Lupine?

          • I am in a (currently) healthy relationship that involves some form of painful, forceful sex. The thing is, it’s totally consensual, and has pre-described boundaries. While the element of surprise can be fun and sexy, it can also be scary when you’re talking about some of the more “out there” fetishes. Things like breath-play, bondage, and anything that could physically harm your partner should be discussed ahead of time and limits and safe-words outlined.

            Having a husband that had a lot of problems having sex when it was “OK” because of a background of suppression, I want to be really open with our kids so they don’t experience the same problems.
            I think it’s best to focus on the communication and agreement of the partner, no matter what the fantasy or kink. What turns you on is what turns you on, and suppressing that isn’t good. But when we have sex, we (mostly) have it with another person (people), who’s desires and boundaries are just as important as ours. As long as what you want to do is what the other person wants to do, too, sex can be awesome. Emphasizing the sharing of desires and the respect of boundaries is more important than saying “these things are OK, but these things make you weird.”

            At least when our kids come to daddy and say “Seeing the lady tied up on the train tracks makes me feel weird in a good way” he can be all “me too, kiddo, me too” without batting an eyelash!

          • I think everything Little Red Lupine said is spot-on. Whether I could actually follow through with that last sentence as a parent is a little more questionable, but I do think it’s very important to teach people about consent. As I’m sure a bunch of people have said, “Consent isn’t about a lack of a no. It’s about an enthusiastic and informed yes!” To me, conversations about consent is a must in any talk about sex.

  4. having a son, i DO worry about this a bit. people tend to be a lot more protective of their daughters and boys are often villified. (sometimes they deserve it, but not always.)

    i can teach my son that these things are normal and healthy, and to be true to himself and respectful of his future partner’s wishes regarding her own body and sexuality, but i have no control over how his future partner’s parents will feel about that (assuming he grows up to be straight, which he might not, and that’s ok too).

    i don’t know. i’m fearing the persistence of socially-constructed gender roles among youth i guess, and how parents have a tendency to react to them.

    • My son is almost 5 and I shudder to think of how I will deal with him when he hits puberty. The girls are easier for me because we have similar bodies and similar experiences. My son must learn the majority of how to deal with the opposite sex from the example his father sets. I don’t believe in the socially-constructed gender roles either, but I do believe that we more often identify with the same sex. This is why I have worked very hard–as has my husband–to be a healthy example for my kids. I fail daily, but the important part is I try.

      As for other parents… can’t be what we want it to be for our children. All we can do is give them as many tools to deal with life as we can, and hope they come out on top. If they don’t? We are there for them, with a hug, with a word of wisdom, or just a look that lets them know they are loved. Parenting isn’t about showing our kids how to live; it’s about learning to live with kids. We are always learning and always growing. As long as you are moving forward, you’re doing ok.

  5. The only caveat I think I would add here is that parents and kids need to navigate sex with the knowledge that a great many people attach values to sex. I grew up in a home where sexual activity was not permitted because I was raised in a home that held the values that sex outside of a marriage was morally wrong. I do not hold those values today – I have adopted others. But I get that for a great many people, it is next to impossible to have a conversation about sex without discussing values. And on some level, I oppose that, but on some level, I get it.

    This is something that concerns me, even though my daughter is very young. My husband was raised without a specific religion, but as an adult, he has started to embrace his mother’s religion, which is Islam. He has made it clear that when the time comes to talk to our daughter about sex, he wants to speak to her about what kind of sexual behavior is expected in his religion and that we maintain a home that adheres to those rules. Thus, there will be no sleepovers. And I go back and forth. Are we infringing upon her liberty if we do this? I know that my husband and I pay for and maintain the home, so we have the ultimate ability to dictate the rules of the home. I also wonder whether it’s possible to be “sex-positive” while teaching a child that sex is wonderful, awesome and all that stuff, but alst that it’s supposed to be reserved. I don’t know. I guess I’m torn on whether we as parents have any obligation to allow our home to be opened to differeing values, as opposed to merely allowing it.

    • I agree that sex and values are most certainly intertwined. My issue comes when that value is based on a religion. That is a topic I shy away from because my opinions are strong. However, my husband and I are not religious, but we differ greatly on the sleepover topic. He says, “Never in my house!” I say, “What about when she’s 18?” and the discussion goes from there. I am constantly floored by how much my kids know about my relationship with my husband. They know when we fight, they know how we resolve problems, they watch us like little hawks, eager to jump on any flaw, yet open to learn from our mistakes. There is so much you can teach your child, simply by BEING what you want them to be.

      • Thanks for the response. I was mulling this little part of what you said over: “Allowing your child to make adult decisions in the safety of your home is the most powerful gift you can give before they set out to live their life without your constant guidance.” That sounds like an argument that parents should really want to open their homes to possible sexual activity, and to refuse to do so (for any reason, not just religious) is harmful to kids. I was trying to articulate that in my initial post, because it does seem to position itself as an argument that good parents should want to do this and to not do so is adversely affecting children. Which I am not totally certain of.

        I’ve very interested in the idea of sex-positive, but most of the info I’ve seen that mentions it tends to embrace a more open view. There is little about how to sex-positive if one wants to emphasize delaying sexual activity (until marriage or any other time) or restricting partners (for religious, health or any other reasons).

        • Ashley, I can see how my statements, given the context, could be construed that way. Perhaps I should have been more clear. I am not advocating that people allow their children to have sex under their roof. What I am advocating is a style of parenting that allows the child more freedom to make some of the mistakes it’s nice to have a safety net for. Like your first serious sexual relationship. It was pretty tough when mine moved in with me and I had no support network when things went south. My husband cannot abide our daughter having sex in his house. I would be ok with it providing she follow a few simple rules. As it stands she goes to her boyfriend’s house to have sex. The point is my house is not a place where my daughter can have sex. It is however, a place where she can find support and love and ideas any time she needs them. That is what I am advocating: a safe place where mistakes are talked about as avenues to wisdom; without judgement.

          • Thanks for clarifying that. I can agree with mostly everything you say here. Personally, I want my daughter to be safe. I think every parent has an “ideal” of what they want their kids to do – and I know that mine would be delaying sex until adulthood and limiting partners. I think there’s a line between feeling at least slightly let down if my child chooses to not act in accordance with my values – because, let’s face it, I think we all in some way hope our kids adopt our values. But there’s a line between being disappointed and actively trying to force it. That’s what I’m trying to avoid. I’ve seen some pretty scary examples of control, so I’m already very leary of navigating that river when it comes.

    • Both my husband and I came from religious homes, but had very different experiences when it came to sex. We were both told to “wait” but for very different reasons.

      His reason was “sex is dirty and a sin unless it’s with your wife, and then it’s really not supposed to be for fun but to have kids, so don’t do anything too crazy”.

      Mine was “Sex is awesome in general. It’s the best in a relationship with love and respect, and it the super-best when you’re married, because it’s designed to be enjoyed physically and emotionally. There are negative consequences to having sex in a relationship where there isn’t love and respect, so better to wait. ” God designed sex to be enjoyed, but in the context of a marriage, because only in a marriage will you have commitment, emotional stability, financial stability, the ability to have unprotected sex, and the ability to raise children.

      Now, I don’t believe any of that, exclusively. As an adult, I won’t be telling my children that marriage is the magic bullet that makes sex good. You can have mind-blowing sex with someone you don’t love. Lots of people have stable homes with children and unprotected sex without marriage.

      But the underlying message I got was “Sex is great, just not yet!” Where as his was “Sex is bad! Until you’re married” Both are strategies to keep us from having sex before marriage, but only one strategy vilifies the sex its self as a reason not to have it. It’s hard to turn off the switch then when it’s “OK” to have sex.

      If you’re going to have a household in which “wait for sex” is the message, then it’s the delivery of the message that’s important. Waiting for sex isn’t necessarily a bad thing, unless the only reason is “It’s dirty and wrong,and you’re a sinner for liking it!” Humans like sex. That’s natural. It’s awesome. Admitting to that will go a long way towards a positive sexual self-image, even if the end message is “wait for the awesome.”

  6. I’ve often thought that one of the best ways we can teach children about enthusiastic consent and bodily autonomy is the idea that sex should be fun and pleasurable. That if it hurts or makes you unhappy, something is wrong.

    • This is kind of brilliant, actually. Kind of enforces the “wait until it’s right for you” mentality without the “sex is bad and you must be an adult or it’s wrong” message. Heck, I think some of my grownup friends could benefit from remembering that something is wrong if sex is ultimately making them unhappy.

  7. Thank you for this! I teach a sexual literacy course at my four-year university and am amazed every semester at how my 19-22 year old students just don’t have the language (the literacy!) to talk about issues of sex, sexuality, desire, intimacy, and the body. There were physical gasps on the day I brought up “masturbation” in class. I wish more of my students had parents who were open about issues surrounding sex in all of its manifestations — gender identity, desire, sexual orientation, etc. — because these teens really need the ability to critically think about these issues. Again, thanks for this.

    • Geeze, even my kids (6, 3, and 1.5) are being taught that masturbation is OK! People play with themselves and it starts young, period. We get by (for now) by saying, “I know it feels good to touch your vagina/penis, but please do it in your room or the bathroom when you’re alone.” Eventually that conversation will get more complicated, but for now it works for us.

  8. I like the sentiments you offer in this article, but I want to point out that many children’s births, and the experience of those births by parents, do not start with a “shared orgasm.”

  9. While my dude and I don’t have kids yet, I do intend to try to be more open about sex with my kids than my parents were with me. I definitely agree that it is important to discuss sex as part of life, not something to hide but something that is, for most people, private. Like the original poster, I’m not going to be having sex in front of my kids and I would rather teach them not to touch their genitals in public (I have lots of friends with little boys, I’ve heard ALL about the calls from daycare).

    I agree that open conversations are really where it is at, both on the speaking and listening. It really is important to listen and to be willing to talk about things, and figure out how to bite back fears and judgments because your kid might have things figured out in a way you don’t expect. Being open to different ways of having health sexual relationships is important because a respect for other ways of doing things is really helpful for developing personal respect for what works for you. I also plan to talk to my kids about masturbation pretty openly so they get used to the idea that sex is not the only source of personal pleasure. I just hope I find useful ways to talk about the issue of responsibility and the fact that even if you think you are ready, you may not be.

  10. I hadn’t seen this mentioned, but I think it’s an important point – if you are allowing teenagers (even your own) who are under the legal age of consent to have sex in your home then what you’re doing is illegal. Of course it’s up to each individual to decide whether they’re going to follow this (or any) law, and whether the legal consequences are worth it, but at least be aware that this is what you’re doing.

    My daughter is seventeen, and one thing among many that I’ve discussed with her (and her best friend who I also claim as one of my own) is that teenage-girl hormones do very odd things to teenage-girl brains, and that can adversely affect their ability to make rational decisions. I’m sure this goes for boys as well, I just happen to have less personal experience in that area. This isn’t an experience or maturity issue, it’s a biological issue.

    • As long as their sex partner is under the age of 18, there is no law being broken. Each state is different, but statutory rape is only when one is a minor and the other is not.

      • Laws vary from state to state, even more so from country to country, but age of consent (not always 18) refers to the age at which it becomes legal to have sex. Prior to that, strictly speaking, a teen having sex even with another teen is breaking the law. Allowing them to do so in your home is legally comparable to allowing them to drink or smoke and if somebody – the other set of parents for instance – decided to make an issue of it you could be liable.
        In addition, in some countries I know that it’s possible for boys under the age of consent to be prosecuted for statutory rape if their partner is also under age. A stupid double standard but also a very important consideration for the parents of teenagers of the male variety.

        Of course all these laws vary in their nuances from place to place, but even if you decide that you disagree with the law in your area it’s best to be aware of exactly what it is – and the consequences of breaking it for both you and for your children/young adults. That’s what I was meaning to draw attention to.

        • In my state two teenagers can be charged with assault for sleeping together. Under the age of 16 they legally cannot sleep together. At 16 and 17 they have to have the parent’s permission. If only one child has parental permission, the the other can be charged with assault. Further, if the parent knows about it they can be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. So yes, it is very much illegal depending on where you are.

          • Mel – Do you literally mean sleeping side by side in the same bed or pull-out sofa or do you mean engaging in sexual activity?? And does the law in your state differentiate between same sex teens? What state are you from?

    • I’d also point out that the other teenagers parents need to be involved in these decisions. Do they know their child is staying over at their girlfriend or boyfriends house? Are they ok with it? Because if they’re not, there are going to be repercussions. Are there boundaries? Like, not on a school night?

      I had sex at 17. I was careful and used birth control and felt pretty well informed about what I was doing. But each child is so different. As a parent now, I plan to teach my son that sex is great and all, but it’s also a huge step in young relationships. I don’t think I’ll be allowing sleepovers, but I also know horny teenagers are incredibly able to adapt and find other ways to be intimate.

  11. “Allowing your child to make adult decisions in the safety of your home is the most powerful gift you can give before they set out to live their life without your constant guidance.”

    This speaks to me on the same level as the Love and Logic style of parenting. Arming your children with the knowledge and confidence to make their own decisions, giving them more and more room to do so until, as teenagers, they start making decisions as an adult would.

    Being pregnant with our 4th has brought my 6 year old daughter to have a lot of questions about where babies come from, and we’re very open; i.e. Penises and vaginas are for making babies (though, I have to admit, when she said, “I just don’t understand how a penis gets INTO a vagina!” I got a little uncomfortable and offered to find her a book that could explain it better than I). The emphasis I put on it, though, has everything to do with maturity, as opposed to age. At 16, I knew I wanted to be a mother, period. I grew up taking care of my younger siblings as well as many, many younger cousins and could think of nothing I wanted to do more. In childhood development class, I opted to take home the extra credit robot baby (you know, the one that cries, needs a diaper change, etc. at varying levels of difficulty) several times more than was mandatory. There are some people who are ready at a relatively (for our culture) young age to become parents, whereas others just don’t have the capacity for taking care of another person until nearly mid-life. As my children grow, I will take their individual maturity into more consideration than their age, and show them how to take their partners’ maturity into account as well.

  12. Very good article. I feel like I stand in a very weird position regarding this, so I thought I may add my experience. My parents had a very open-minded approach towards sexuality, and make it clear there was nothing to be ashamed of, and they would be ok with me having sex in their house. However, for reasons that are still not entirely clear I developed vaginismus and then I felt like a complete failure because sex to me was nothing but horrible, scary and depressing and didn’t say anything for a long time because stupidly I thought I was letting my parents and the whole sex-positive thing down. So I think it may be useful to also make it clear that for some reason sex doesn’t feel awsome there can be a reason for that, and it’s not your fault. It is true sex is natural but for some of us (not only those suffering from vaginismus, but also from vulvodynia, Interstitial cystitis and many more disorders) this mindset was very harmful to our self esteem, because it made it sound you can’t have sex = you are not natural/something is wrong with you/you are missing on something incredible every other human is experiencing. Plus, I think it’s important to address asexuality and how not feeling any sexual desire is ok as well. So, let’s talk about how great sex can be but also how it is not for some people, and that’s ok.

  13. I don´t have kids yet but I think to me the most important thing would be to tell them
    that sex is something that needs deep trust and a loving relationship. It´s a great experience and it´s so intimate that you only should share it with someone you really trust.
    And: no matter what kind of contraception you use, there is ALWAY a small chance to get pregnant. I think it´s best for teenagers to wait with sex at least until finishing school to have zero risk of teenage pregnancy and the too early end of “real” youth.
    But I know that parents can´t stop their teenagers from having sex, so I would tell them my thoughts but also talk to them about contraception.

    • That’s the thing: You can’t stop your kids from having sex, even if you feel they would be better off waiting until they’re a little older. My parents very much adopted the “Sex is dirty and wrong and you shouldn’t do it” approach when I was in high school, which really just meant that I had to do lots of lying and sneaking around once I started having sex at 16. I couldn’t talk to my parents about anything related to sex because they would have totally flipped out (and did, whenever they had reason to be “concerned” that I was doing anything remotely similar to having sex).

      I don’t know that I, personally, would ever be all, “Go have sex, teenagers! It’s awesome and you should totally go do it!” because I do think it requires a sense of maturity and responsibility and would encourage kids to wait till they’re really ready. But I also know that I started having regular sex at 16, and I want to be someone that my kids feel like they can talk to about anything without fear of crazy retribution. Honestly, I think being available to talk about their feelings, fears, and desires–rather than shutting down the conversation as “wrong”–actually EMPOWERS teenagers to make more informed decisions about their sexuality in the long run.

      Also, I remember the time a condom broke and my then-boyfriend and I had to pull some serious ninja moves to get our hands on some Plan B without our parents knowing. If my future-hypothetical daughter is ever in the same situation, I want her to be able to just say, “I’ll go tell my mom what happened and she will help me.”

  14. Love your article and the entailing discussion through all the comments. What do you and others here think about communication with the parent of your teen’s boyfriend or girlfriend? I have been struggling with whether the same rules for sleepovers should apply for two preteen girls (just figuring out that they are bi-sexual, maybe Lesbian) as for girls and boys. It is difficult to know if I should have a candid talk with the parent of the other girl about what that parent knows or does not know and approves of for her child since I do not want to be allowing a situation that would contradict the other parent’s values. If my daughter wanted a boy to sleep over I assume that it just would not happen because most parents of 12 & 13 year old boys I know would not even consider it. For older teens, if the boy’s parents are allowing it then one can assume they realize the potential for romantic/sexual interaction. But with another girl, at an age when girls are having sleepovers with friends all the time, if I realize that my daughter has a romantic interest in her friend and that the friend has expressed similar feelings – do I just let them sleepover and in the same room knowing what I know and not raise the issue to the friend’s parent? I don’t want to be “outing” someone to her parents, I don’t want to make my daughter feel weird or “dirty”, I don’t want to confront my daughter’s friend and ask if she has told her parents that she is questioning her sexual orientation in regard to my daughter and are they okay with her sleepover anyway? Yet, I don’t want to act like I don’t know and hope for the best. Should I not care if anything physical happens since they are both girls? But what about the emotional implications for my daughter who tends to get very attached and exclusive right away. I guess what confuses me a lot about this situation is so much talk about talking with a teen about waiting until she is mature enough to handle the consequences of a pregnancy. If pregnancy is not a factor with same sex couples, what should a parent tell their daughter about waiting until she (and her friend) are more mature? And what do others think about the need to discuss with the parent of the other party (boyfriend or girlfriend)?

    • First off: I know when I talked about “consequences” in my earlier post, I was not just referring to pregnancy, although of course that is one of the biggest concerns for parents of cisgender heterosexual couples. There’s STDs to worry about, obviously, but there are emotional considerations and potential consequences that one has to be mature enough to handle as well. Are the comfortable talking about sex with their partner? Do they know about “yes means yes” consent? This next applies to all couples, but maybe gay couples especially: are they prepared for their parents, and their partner’s parents to find out about their sexual activity, and do they have a sense that they can handle a bad reaction? Could they handle a resulting breakup?

      Secondly, and I am saying this as a bisexual woman: DO NOT, DO NOT initiate a conversation about this with that girl’s parents unless you are absolutely CERTAIN that they know. EVER. Personally, I think that you can have your own household rules without worrying about how other parents would feel about this situation. Your house, your rules and all that. Sometimes I think it’s *good* for kids to be exposed to different styles of parenting. This situation is a bit different because your daughter is so young, but I also think that as kids become teenagers, they deserve to have their privacy, even from their own parents. If you want to keep them from sleeping in the same room together in your house, I think that’s understandable. But I wouldn’t forbid any sleepovers at all –her coming out to you that young is a huge sign of trust. If I had done that, and then my mother had forbidden me from having a sleepover, I would probably feel a bit isolated, and would have some serious regrets about coming out.

      • Hello Radio. Please know that I appreciate any and all perspectives on this issue and especially so from a bisexual woman who has been there (as I have personally not been). You have sort of hit on my struggle with myself. Because my daughter is so young I still feel responsible to be aware of what she looks at on the internet, have her passwords, etc, with the understanding that I will not go poking around on a regular basis but I reserve the right to do so if I am concerned that there is something very wrong and after I have tried to talk with her about it. Last year, when she was in 5th grade, her questioning her sexuality came to light and she was very depressed the entire summer because the 10 year old girl she was dating near the end of the school year, who told her she loved her, would ignore her in front of other people, have her chase her around the school yard in a game of tag, never to be able to catch her, but then tell my daughter she loved her and wanted to be her girlfriend when they were in private conversation. I bit my tongue, gave calm advice about the down side of being in a “secret” relationship, about how a true friend should be treating her, tried to lift her esteem by finding other activities and friends for her to hang out with, but she continued to long for this one girl who clearly could not be honest with herself or her own family about what she was telling my daughter in private. I tried to explain this all to my daughter but she focused only on her idea that I was only against this relationship not because she was 11 and her friend 10,and not because her friend was not treating her fairly, but because it was a same sex relationship. I received advice from another parent that if I invited my daughter’s friend to our house or on our boat for one-on-one activity that I was essentially letting them go on an unsanctioned date without the other parent’s knowledge and I should not do that. I started to think that I would probably not want my daughter to be permitted to do something as significant as sleeping over a boyfriend’s house and being allowed to sleep in her boyfriend’s room or even in the same bed with her boyfriend (at the age of 11 or 12) unless I knew ahead of time that those would be the sleeping arrangements and I agreed with it. I wanted to extend the same courtesy to other parents as I would want. But how does one ask this question regarding an invitation to sleep over at a girl’s house without tipping the other parents off about the potential sexual orientation of their daughter. I thought maybe I should only allow my daughter to be in the one-on-one company of her friend in my house where I can be assured of the arrangements, but then I was given advice that now I would be allowing a date without the other parent’s knowledge. That is what prompted my question. Maybe it is more connected with the young age and with them being of the same sex, whereas this would not play a part in an older teen’s relationship or in a opposite gender relationship.

        • I think at that point, you should have a conversation with your daughter’s potential girlfriend. Ask her if she is out to her parents. Explain that you would like to get to know her parents, but do not want to accidentally out her if she is not ready for it.

          If she is out to her parents, then your dillema is solved. But if she isn’t out yet, you’ll need to decide if you can be comfortable with allowing your home to be a safe zone for the both of them without her parent’s knowledge. However, regardless of how you handle the sleepover issue, showing your daughter and her potential girlfriend that you can be trusted & confided in will be huge. If you decide you are not comfortable with sleepover between just the two of them, that’s fine. Just be open with your daughter about why and be open to discussing ways she can have sleepovers that you would be more comfortable with as a parent.

          • alkd, thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. It is so helpful to have objective comments to help me feel more confident in the way I chose to handle this situation when it first came up last year. At that time I explained to our daughter that I was not comfortable having her at her friend’s house one-on-one until I was able to ask her friend if her mother knows and if I can speak with her mother about what we are both comfortable with. Her friend was 10, turning 11 soon, and clearly was not ready to have this type of conversation and not ready to be clear with my daughter (or herself?) about what she did or did not want, saying different things at different times. It was a very tough summer. Recently, my daughter has expressed an interest in a friend who is about 5 months older than her and comes from a very open family and they have known each other as friends for about three years. I am not sure what will actually come of it, but at least I feel that I could ask this friend about what she has or has not shared with her parents (or her mom, at least). This makes me MUCH more comfortable and I think is a much healthier situation. Again, thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.It makes me feel more confident in how I am approaching this. 🙂

  15. I just wanted to pop in and say “I love this post!”. We don’t have kids, but this post (and others in the past) have really given me the tools to develop some actual opinions other than, “Ah! Potential offspring! Sex! Halp!”.

  16. Thanks for writing this. I am lucky enough to have 3 kids that are very open to talking to me about sexuality. I also have ended up being the dad that a lot of their friends come to to figure out how to talk to their parents or if they just need advice. I shocked many of my friends when I allowed my 15 year old son to have several of his friends both male and female spend the night after a party at our house. It was all platonic friends so it isn’t the same, but it did encourage the thought in all of them that you can spend the night and not have sex. It also opened up the conversation amongst several of the parents.

  17. I think you need to be open to talking about sex but there is definitely a time and a place. My 11 year old tween wants to have sex and believes she is ready despite the consequences. And I have no intention of telling her it is okay for her to have sex. Not all children are capable of making a decision of waiting until they are emotionally stable, because the key factors here are that they are not mature enough to make that decision.

    • I completely agree with you Mel. I made it a point to keep my daughter out of situations where sex was a possibility until I felt she was old enough. However, I talked to her about her desires, her feelings and her thoughts on a daily basis. Yes, kids often want to do things they are not ready to do and as parents it is our responsibility to protect them. 11 is far too young for anyone to be having sex. 16 on the other hand, is not. I don’t like it. I feel that she would benefit from waiting several more years, but I also know my daughter learns best by doing. We all learn differently, so allowing her to learn in an environment of safety and acceptance in the way that works best for her is a priority for me. It is certainly more important that my daughter feel she has the freedom to be who she is, than for me to feel I am parenting in a way that others approve of. I know how I do things is not popular. But following the herd is not always the best way to go. For me, controlling my daughter was a short term parenting plan. Guiding and teaching through example is the only long-term sure fire parenting strategy that allows for everyone to fully explore their own potential. If you had told me 5 years ago that I would cry when my daughter told me she had her first orgasm I would have laughed in your face. But I did. I hugged her too. That moment was important for her, regardless of how uncomfortable it made me.

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