On this week's 'Parenting' segment on the Moncrieff show, one listener sought advice about supervising her 14 year old son and his girlfriend.
Joanna Fortune, psychotherapist specialising in Child & Adult Psychotherapy, joined Moncrieff to answer this and other listeners' questions.
I have a 14-year-old son who has a girlfriend. He visits her house to spend time with her and she visits our home also. I have spoken to my son about the fact that he is too young for sexual activity but that kissing is OK.
When they are together, they are very affectionate towards each other and there is no shyness regarding hugging and kissing and I have no problem with that, in fact it's nice to see. However my worry is that, behind closed doors, what are they doing and are they doing more? I don't want him to be sexually active at such a young age and would like him to wait until he's of legal age at least before he has sex.
Anytime they are together in our house or hers, I worry that they could have sex if they're in a room on their own and I don't want that for him yet. How do I manage this? Should I not allow them to be in his bedroom on their own? It seems a bit punitive to forbid it but I'm unsure. Any advice is welcome.
“So you’ve spoken with him - and that’s great by the way. ‘You’re too young for sexual activity, I’m okay with the kissing, the girlfriend can come over.’ So you’ve been clearish about your limits and boundaries.
“But what you need to do is ensure that you are clear about what did you mean by, ‘You’re too young for sexual activity.’
“Because how you’ve understood that and how he may have understood that, that may not line up... So you’ve started a conversation, now you’re going to have to continue it and take it deeper, and grow and develop it with him.
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“Be clear with yourself, what do you need this to look and sound like in your house. Is it that the girlfriend comes over and they watch TV on the sofa in a family room, not up in a bedroom? Is it that if they are in a bedroom, then the bedroom door must remain open and not closed?
“Is it that she’s welcome in our home anytime between this time and that time? And must be gone home in time for dinner? Or just Thursdays and Fridays towards the end of the week?
“What is it that you want this look and sound like and then reflect that to him.
“And you’re not asking him for permission for your rules to apply. You’re explaining in positive wording, ‘She’s really welcome here, we’re so happy for you that you’ve met someone that you like spending time with. And it’s really great that you guys can show each other how much you love and care for each other but I don’t think I was very clear the first time I spoke about this, here’s how that looks and sounds in our family.’ And you lay out your three to five ground rules.
“Don’t forbid anything. You’re not going to go up and say, ‘I forbid you to have sex’ because there’s no greater way to make a, ‘We’ll see about that’ [situation].
“So don’t forbid it but do discuss, listen, outline clearly your boundaries and hold those in place. Because it is his job, he’s a 14 year old, to test your boundaries. And it’s your job to hold them gently and firmly in place.
“He may say, ‘That’s not fair, that’s ridiculous’. And he’s allowed to feel it’s unfair and ridiculous. And you don’t have to explain yourself any further in the face of it. You can simply say, ‘It may well feel unfair or ridiculous to you but these are the rules in this house.’ And you hold that.
“And if he says, ‘It’s not like that in her house’, either you’re going to have to have a conversation with her parents about what you’re comfortable with for you son, or you say, ‘Well, different rules are in different houses but I do expect you to behave in the way you do in this house in the way you do in anyone’s house as well.’ And you hold him accountable for his behaviour.
“I think he might say, ‘You’re so out of touch, you’re old-fashioned, you’re this, you’re that.’ And that’s okay because he’s expressing frustration or anger. And it is literally his job to push, test, defy, work around, creatively pester power you out of those limits and it’s your job to say, ‘No, that’s my bottom line. I’m not moving here.’
“Because there is quite a bit of flexibility here. This is a parent who is being really welcoming to the girlfriend coming in. And certainly saying, ‘This isn’t okay, I’m not saying you can’t touch each other at all, I’m not saying you can’t be affectionate at all. But there is a line.’ I just think, go back and spell out what the line is.”
Main image: A couple hold hands.