Dear Family Coach: I've always been close with my 16-year-old daughter's best friend. Recently, she confided in my that she is sexually active and would like to acquire some birth control. Her mother is a strict believer of abstinence and won't entertain the idea of birth control. Would it be wrong to take her to the doctor myself without discussing it with her mother? — BFF Mom
Dear Mom: That's quite the tricky situation. Dealing with an unintended pregnancy at 16 would surely cause difficulty for this girl. But being sexually active and taking medication behind her mother's back could also cause considerable strife.
In many states, minors 12 years and older may legally obtain birth control without parental consent. If you live in one of these states, you only have to deal with the moral implications of helping this girl. I can imagine the fury that would come over me to find out another mother took my child to get health-care services without my knowledge. To avoid crossing the line completely, I would simply advise about how one could find out more about birth control options in your area. For example, you might mention the local Planned Parenthood or community clinic that accepts teen patients. Then, it will be up to the friend to secure the birth control on her own. And if she is old enough to have sex, she should be old enough to begin to care for her gynecological needs.
If you live in an area that requires parental consent, I would not lie to help this girl. Instead, focus your attention on offering to intervene or speak with the girl's mother on her behalf. However, tread carefully and only with permission from your daughter's friend. It's possible her parents could be so strict that they would refuse to allow her to live in their home if she were to continue to engage in sexual activity. Plan for every possible outcome before having that discussion.
Dear Family Coach: Every time I try to talk to my 13-year-old son about anything important, he blows me off. He cuts me off, and tells me he knows everything or that my advice doesn't apply to him. I'm so frustrated because I want to be able to have dialogue about cybersecurity, dating, consent, drinking and other important topics. How can I make him listen and engage? — Frustrated
Dear Frustrated: Teenage know-it-alls are hard to crack. As soon as the hormones start to trickle in, they suddenly become more worldly than their parents, at least in their own minds. The problem is that teens can be naive and woefully unprepared for the adult world without some coaching. Despite your son's best efforts to push you off, keep at it.
To begin, don't worry about a dialogue. He may not engage with you. That doesn't mean you can't have your say. Tell your son you have an important topic to discuss with him. Explain that he does not have to talk at all but he is required to listen. Then say what you need to say. When you are all done, ask him whether he has any thoughts, questions or concerns to share. If he doesn't, simply thank him for listening. He may act as if your talk were stupid and annoying. Still, the messages can penetrate that performance.
Consider that the timing your conversations might also improve the chances of having a discourse. Try initiating chats in the car, right before bed with the lights out or while playing a game. If the focus isn't directly on the conversation, your son might forget to protest.
Dr. Catherine Pearlman is the author of "Ignore It! How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfaction." To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.