Cohabitating Teen Parents: Can Your Teen “Play House” in the Home You Provide?

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If I’ve learned anything from being a teenager myself, and teaching sexual health to teens for the past four years, it’s this:  If a teen insists on having sex, they will find a place to do so, whether it’s acceptable in your home or not. But does this mean you should open the door to said sexual activity in your home?  Not in my opinion.  When I was a teenager, I definitely tested the waters of my parents’ guidelines: In a pre-Caller ID adolescence, I’d make guys call the house and let the phone ring so many times so I knew to answer.  I’m sure we all had our share of sneaking boys out the back door or hooking up with boys at basement parties thrown by the friend you had whose parents were never home.  Nonetheless, I made it to adulthood with the respect of my parents intact.  When it comes to sexual activity, what many teens and parents fail to understand today is that it’s all about respect.

Sex wasn’t as much of an open conversation in my upbringing as I would like it to be between me and my children, but if one thing was a priority in our household it was respect.  Call me conservative, but sex was something that I was always taught should be shared between two people in privacy.  My mother always said, “If he can’t find a decent place for you to have sex that isn’t disrespectful to anyone’s space, then you probably shouldn’t be having sex with him.” Just because your children are having sex under your roof doesn’t mean they are any safer.  The relationship could still be unhealthy, and unless you’re helping putting that condom on at that moment, your teen is still at risk.

Consider the message you send to other siblings when you condone this type of cohabitation in your household.  You’re essentially teaching them that their space isn’t as important or worse: Having a baby equals adult privileges.  Teens aren’t seeing that the couple is living together so they can better care for the baby as a team, they’re seeing that they get to play house and sleep next to each other every night.  It can also get messy for the parents when they are placed in the middle.  Teens fail to gain the ability to problem solve and work through disagreements if their parents are constantly interfering as mediators.  If you’re familiar with 16 and Pregnant’s sister show Teen Mom, you may remember Kailyn who moved in with the father of her child, Joe and his family.  Like what happens with most teens, the relationship ended and soon Kailyn was sneaking to date another guy from work, while still living with Joe and his family.  Of course the family was quicker to defend Joe when the new relationship was revealed and in the end they felt betrayed and hurt by the young woman.

Everyone’s circumstances are different and every situation has to be judged individually. The good news is that from what I’ve experienced, teens who do not want to have sex won’t engage in it whether they are given the opportunity or not.  If you as a parent find that for some reason the best option is to let your teen and his/her partner live in your home, it’s important to establish and enforce guidelines that work for EVERYONE in the household.  If they are raising a child, empower them and encourage their independence so that they can be prepared to live on their own and handle adult responsibilities.  This may include having them pay a portion of the rent, hold a certain GPA or be employed.

As a parent it isn’t your job to always make things fun and convenient for your child, or be their friend.  It’s your responsibility to prepare them to function in a world without you so they can make healthy independent decisions…under their own roof.

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