My daughter is almost 17. I was cleaning her room and found a used pregnancy testing "stick". It was wrapped in a paper towel in a little used cabinet in her room. The upsetting thing about this is that this is a child who excels in school, will likely get a full scholarship to the school of her choice and never leaves the house without telling me she loves me. I have always talked to my children about sex, consequences as it relates to health, pregnancy and the sometimes emotional turmoil that early intimate relations can result in. My question is - do I tell her I found this - let it go - or what. She was away from home during Christmas and granted, I cleaned her room and closets and cabinets - this is her personal space - and I respect this - I did not expect to find this. What do I do??
- Parent in a Dilemma
You're right to be concerned about how your daughter will react to your going through her things, even if it was only to help clean up. But you're even more right to be concerned about what you found.
On the first matter, which is the one that, from her point of view, you'll have to deal with before you get into the second matter, I suggest you be straightforward and honest with her. Your relationship sounds like a basically good and open one, from what you describe in your letter. But choose your timing carefully. Don't have the conversation when one or both of you has to leave in a few minutes or when there might be other people around. Above all, don't let it slip out in a moment of anger.
Perhaps open by telling her that you know she's very busy and you thought you'd surprise her by helping clean up her room. Make it clear that you had no intention of going into her private space. Then explain to her what you found and ask her if she'd like to talk to you about it; tell her that you're there for her. You don't have to start moralizing; from what you write, you've already made your values clear to her so you won't be telling her anything new. The important thing is to open channels of communication so you can find out what she thinks and feels about your values. Once the rapport is set and you've gotten beyond any anger or hurt she may feel about you having gone through her things, that's the time to - lovingly - share your thoughts with her again about the dangers of what she was involved in. By that time, it's possible that merely the scare of pregnancy was enough for her to change her behavior.
If it turns out that she is in fact pregnant, you should seek the advice of a professional. Take a look at You are Pregnant: No Easy Answers for more on this issue. We have gotten feedback that indicates that many young women today, with the help and support of their parents, are choosing to have their babies -- sometimes keeping them, sometimes giving them up for adoption to anxiously waiting couples.
Your job as a parent, whatever path you and she choose, is to be as loving and supportive as possible and to help give her direction for the future.