Strength, determination and support from TOUGHLOVE

What do you do when your 16 year-old daughter comes to you and says she’s sexually active with a 19 year-old man who has a 1 year-old daughter?  If you’re an experienced TOUGHLOVE mum, you handle it by listening, by voicing your concerns, by emphasising the high level of trust you have in your daughter and by standing back and letting her take responsibility for the choices she is making.
Is it that simple you ask?  Of course not!   It takes a good deal of strength, determination and most of all, support from the TOUGHLOVE organisation to remain calm and non-reactive at this highly emotional time, when every inch of your body is wanting to lock your daughter away on a remote island for the next 10 years!
When my daughter came to me with this revelation naturally I was concerned, and many “what if” scenarios came flooding into my mind.  I had never met this young man, who had only recently come into her life.  Would she be safe?  What precautions was she taking to avoid pregnancy?  What type of family values did he have?  What impact would this relationship have on her schoolwork?  What if she became pregnant? And the list goes on …..
Fortunately, I have had almost 3 years experience as a TOUGHLOVE member and I have learned a great deal during this period.  I have also changed a great deal  –  I am no longer the reacting rescuer with the short fuse!  So, I took a step back from the situation to clearly define what was my responsibility.  I also contacted a Representative from within the organisation for support and advice.
I started a conversation with my daughter by thanking her for being open and honest about her relationship and that I respected and appreciated that level of communication.  I reiterated the level of trust I have in her ability to take responsibility for the choices she makes.    I explained my concerns from an ‘I’ perspective without dictating or lecturing. I clearly stated that if a pregnancy occurred, although I would support my daughter, I would not forfeit my career to bring up a grandchild; this would be her responsibility.  The conversation ended with reassurance that I would always be there for her.
Two weeks on and the relationship is over!  For reasons unbeknown to me, my daughter decided to end it.  She told me via a cell phone text message while staying over at a friend’s house.  I replied with empathy and this is the text message I received:
“thank you, you are like my friend as well as my mum, I love u”

I went to sleep that night with tears streaming down my face  –  tears for the daughter who in February 2011, as I attended my first TOUGHLOVE meeting, I thought I would never have a positive relationship with.
Thank you TOUGHLOVE for the support and guidance I needed to become a better parent.

(With permission – Name withheld)