Teen Talk

Teen Talk: Frank talk needed with younger sis

Kelly Richardson is writing an advice column for teens that will run on Sidetracks. The Sacramento Bee/ Anne Chadwick Williams 4/10/01
Kelly Richardson is writing an advice column for teens that will run on Sidetracks. The Sacramento Bee/ Anne Chadwick Williams 4/10/01 Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

DEAR KELLY: Recently my younger sister had her phone taken away by my parents for breaking house rules and for talking on the phone when she was supposed to be asleep. Since we share a room, my sister started using my phone at night to text her boyfriend.

At first she was deleting all their texts so I couldn’t see them, but recently she forgot and I saw what they were saying to each other. I couldn’t believe what they text. Apparently, they’re having sex. They say that they’re going to get married as soon as they graduate high school.

Kelly, my sister is only a sophomore, and my parents would freak out if they knew she didn’t plan on going to college or getting any kind of degree. They like her boyfriend, but I think it’s only because they have no idea what they’re doing together. He comes from a nice family, so I think my parents assume they’re innocent and not doing this stuff.

Honestly, I don’t know what to do. If I snitch on my sister to my parents, she’ll never forgive me. I’m not willing to take that chance, so I won’t do it even if you say I should. I need another answer or way to talk to my sister about it. I don’t want her to hate me for reading her texts, but she left them on my phone.

Do you have any ideas on what I should say to her or how to tell her that she’s being really stupid by having sex? I’m also worried that she’s decided she’s going to get married at 18 and not go to college. He said he might go in the military when he graduates, and she said that she would follow him and go wherever he goes.

Please help me because I can’t sleep and I feel awful. It’s really bothering me.

Stuck Sister

DEAR STRUCK: You are in a tough place. Your sister is being careless and someone needs to have a chat with her about the potential consequences of her choices. If you don’t want to involve your parents, what about other adults? Do you have another adult you trust talking with? Letting your sister continue to make risky choices could completely redirect her life and affect her future. It’s a gamble, and I’m not sure she is thinking it all the way through.

Hear me out on this: I respect your bond of sisterhood and desire to not “snitch,” but you also don’t want to stand around as your sister makes life-changing decisions and not speak up. If you don’t say or do anything and she ends up pregnant or throwing away college, you might regret not speaking up.

Go to your sister and have a one-on-one talk. Tell her that you read the texts because she left them on your phone. Seriously, there is no way she should be angry at you when she was careless enough to leave them on your phone. You didn’t snoop or pry, you looked at your phone.

Tell her that what you read has really scared you. Having sex at her age, especially unprotected sex, is dangerous on so many levels. Tell her that you want to help her but she has to be open to your help. Let her know that you come from a place of care and concern and not judgment or criticism.

Be an open ear on why they are having sex. Is this her decision or does she feel pressured to do it for him? Talk to her about what she is willing to do to protect herself. Will she go to Planned Parenthood or your family doctor and get on birth control? She can also get free condoms from both as well.

Would she like it if the three of you talked and you shared the statistics with her boyfriend? If he is not willing to wear condoms (which, by the way, would be pretty selfish of him), she needs to do all she can to protect herself. Assure her that both her doctor and Planned Parenthood will keep her decision to get on birth control private.

Get a feel from your sister on how open she is to talking about what is going on. If she plays the “it’s my business” card, tell her that is not OK. Share that if she isn’t willing to get on birth control and abstinence is not in their future, you need to find another adult to talk with her.

Would she like you to help her talk with Mom? If not, ask who she would be comfortable with – cousin, aunt, neighbor or a friend’s mom. If she can’t name an adult to talk with and she resists any further conversation about this, tell her that she is letting you pick the adult to speak with. She may get angry, but it is better than being pregnant.

At the very least, tell her she has to go with you to either your family doctor or to Planned Parenthood and talk with a professional. Perhaps hearing of all the potential problems or risks that could occur from having unprotected sex might make her wake up and start acting more responsibly.

If she chooses to continue making risky decisions and ignores everything you suggest or warn her about, you need to make a tough call. If you don’t talk with your mom or dad and she gets pregnant, will you be OK with yourself? It is not your job or your responsibility to get her help, but it is your job as a family member to speak up when someone needs help and is doing something that could change the course of her life. Don’t think of it as snitching; think of it as an act of love and you doing the more mature and brave thing to help someone you care about.