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Q. When my husband and I learned that our 15-year-old had sex with her boyfriend, we grounded her for a month with no computer or phone, and told her the relationship is over. But I don't want to lose my daughter over this. Assuming she's not pregnant (she says they used condoms), what's the next step we should take?
A. Reread Romeo and Juliet—because that's the dynamic you've just created. Please face the fact that your response didn't address the goals, which are to help your daughter develop into a sexually responsible adult and to have her boyfriend respect your values. De-romanticize this situation quickly by sitting both kids down and explaining several things: While you recognize their affection for each other, you vehemently believe they shouldn't be having sex. But you aren't naive. If people want to get together, they'll figure out a way. Since they've decided they're mature enough to be sexually active, your daughter will get a gynecological exam for pregnancy and STDs. You expect the boyfriend—if he really cares about your daughter—also to be checked by his doctor. Tell them that after this conversation you'll be contacting the other parents so everybody can be on the same page. Conclude by looking the boyfriend in the eye and saying, "Let me be clear that my daughter is precious to me. I am asking you to be a man in the real sense of the word and do the right thing."
Originally published in the January 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.