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Home Family Parenting Advice Considering birth control for college — Good Parenting

Considering birth control for college — Good Parenting

Dear Dr. Debbie,

My baby is leaving the nest for college at the end of the summer. I’ve scheduled the requisite physical for next week and am thinking about asking the pediatrician to write a prescription for birth control for my almost 18-year-old. Is this sending her the wrong message? Of course, I don’t want her to be promiscuous, but I’m trying to be realistic and protective at the same time.

Not Yet a Grandma

Don’t miss last weeks column Punishment versus consequence for tweens — Good Parenting

Dear Not Yet,

Sexuality is an important yet delicate topic between parents and their children. Your message is likely that you love her and want the best for her health and her future. At this point in her life she already has gotten many messages about her sexual health from you — hopefully along these lines.

Let’s assume you are an askable parent  who has maintained an informative and open exchange with your daughter about her body and making good choices for herself. If you brought the pediatrician into discussion with your daughter about puberty, then a conversation at the check-up about her sexual health at college is a natural next step. Up-to-date information about unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, “date rape” drugs, and other risks she may face should come from an informed and trusted source. A good pediatrician keeps up with health issues through the end of childhood, including the fact that up to about age 25, young adults tend to be impulsive. Drugs and alcohol — part of campus life, unfortunately — further impair good decision making. Being surrounded by a peer group who are also at the age of seeing themselves as “invincible, immortal, and infertile” does not help matters.

On the other hand, this may be the time in her life for you to pass on the responsibility — and to respect her privacy — concerning her sex life. While you can certainly have a frank discussion with her about the family’s standards and expectations (again, you have already set your own example), you can also point out the many avenues for trustable information and guidance she will have access to as she moves forward.

College campuses generally have health centers that cater specifically to the health needs of young adults, including contraception services and treatment for and prevention of sexually transmitted disease. At age 18, the family’s pediatrician will no longer be her regular doctor, so your daughter should be directed toward her next regular health care provider anyway.

There are numerous websites directed toward sexually active teens, and teens considering becoming active. There may even be a sexual health course she can take for credit, or a non-credit course or workshop offered by the health center.

Whether you scope all these resources out for her, or whether you plant the seed that she can find them for herself is up to you.

You’re a good parent to be aware of the road ahead for your daughter. At some point, you need to trust her to drive herself.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy@jecoannapolis.com

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