A mum is concerned about the attention her 14 year-old daughter is getting from older boys. We offer advice on communication, consent and stopping sexual exploitation.
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My daughter is 14 and I’m becoming more and more worried about the attention she is getting from the opposite sex. She’s very tall for her age and is often mistaken for being older than she is.
She’s become really secretive, her phone is constantly pinging and is glued to her hand. I’ve heard from other parents that they’ve seen her hanging around with much older boys.
Whenever I try and approach the subject with her she shuts down and tells me to stop interfering. However I don’t think anything has really happened yet to make me worry but I have this feeling deep in my gut that something bad is going to happen. I haven’t started banning her from going out or anything because she hasn’t actually done anything wrong, but I would love to just wrap her up in cotton wool and keep her at home with me where she’s safe.
I know I have to accept that my little girl is growing, and I know that I’m going to have to let go soon, but she is still only 14 and I still need to protect her. Am I being too overprotective? Is it normal for a parent to feel this worry deep in their gut when nothing has actually happened yet? The worry is just constantly there in the back of my mind, day and night, and I don’t know what to do about it. Do you have any advice?
Our FamilyPoint Response
Hi thanks for getting in touch with FamilyPoint. Firstly I would say try not to be harsh on yourself for worrying, this indicates that you are a good parent. Also, it is completely natural to be worried about any sexual attention your daughter is getting at the age of 14, particularly when this from older men which may place her at risk. Its worth remembering that it is not unnatural for a young person to want to start experimenting sexually at the age of 14 with peers of their own age. This link from the NSPCC gives an outline of what is healthy sexual behaviour.
Communication is the key
Although being secretive with her phone may ring alarm bells, it is also the behaviour of a typical teenage girl and could be harmless. It may ease your mind and may also be helpful for you and your daughter to have a conversation. I know you mentioned that she shuts down when you try to communicate with her about this, but there are a few different ways you could approach it that may be worth trying. You could start by trying to find out if she understands what dangers are out there and if she knows how she can keep herself safe.
Keep it as light as possible, as this may take the pressure off your daughter. For example talking about the situation from the perspective of another parent or whilst watching something relevant on the TV. Or perhaps a discussion about something in the media? Find out what she knows and how she feels about the topic of sex and sexual exploitation. The NSPCC has some great advice about starting to have these conversations with your daughter.
You can’t keep her home forever, but you can help her stay safe
Like you mentioned, your daughter is growing up and you’re not always going to be able to keep her at home or wrap her in cotton wool. So why not give her the tools to stay safe and make informed decisions when she’s not with you? Talking to her as we discussed above will help, but there are also a number of interactive tools and resources that you could point her towards. She could explore these on her own or maybe you could explore together. One such resource is the Wud U? app available for all smartphones (iOS / Android / Windows).
Wud U? was developed by Barnardo’s to increase young people’s understanding of sexual exploitation and risky situations. It explores stories where young people could be at risk of sexual exploitation and allows young people to explore the options and outcomes themselves. It also has resources and tips section for keeping safe.
Understanding consent and sexual exploitation
By giving your daughter the resources to use herself you are empowering her and giving her the tools she will need in the future. Other resources include videos such as the consent as a cup of tea video. It is a comical video, particularly accessible to young people, which presents sexual consent as a cup of tea. It simplifies what is and is not acceptable when it comes to sexual consent. This may be a useful tool to use with your daughter.
It is totally understandable that you have worries about your daughter spending time with older boys, especially with recent media coverage of sexual exploitation of young people. Sexual exploitation can happen to any young person regardless of age, gender etc. and is something for you and your daughter to be aware of.
If you continue to have signficiant concerns, the NSPCC has more information about what to look out for and how you can access help to deal with the situation. I hope this has been helpful. If you need anymore information contact us on the FamilyPoint helpline and we would be happy to assist further.
If you would like further information on national or local support services, then you can contact us at FamilyPoint Cymru via phone 0300 222 57 57, text 07860 052 905, or IM/Chat. We are open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.
I hope this advice has been helpful. Good luck.
The FamilyPoint Cymru Team
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