**I’m just going to start out with a little disclaimer here— what I’m about to say could be a little graphic. It might be a little shocking, and some people might not agree with my opinion.
But I’m ok with that.
I feel like there is a lot of things that parents are unaware of, that they turn a blind eye to, or that they talk about with their kids once and think it’s covered (no pun intended). However, I think that the time has come for parents to open their eyes, understand what is happening, and begin to have open, honest, understanding, real conversations with their tweens and teens about sex… and everything that goes along with it.
I love teenagers, I think that there is something about the age where you are almost an adult, and have your whole life in front of you that can remind grown ups of who they were before adulthood set in. I love talking with them, hanging out with them, and relating to them.
Maybe it’s because I got pregnant at 18 that when the conversations turn to the more private matters I don’t have a problem with them. I don’t have a problem offering advice, I’m not easily shocked, and I understand where they’re coming from.
My point is what I’m sharing here today isn’t coming from other parents, or parenting experts. It’s coming from real conversations with real kids, good kids, its coming from a place where I think parents need to be, one of taking blinders off and truly getting it. It’s coming from conversations with friends of mine who are teachers who overhear things, who talk to kids who need advice, who see first hand what is happening.
It’s coming from a place I think all parents of teens need to be, a very honest and up front one.
It’s time to get real here folks…
You need to start the conversation earlier than you think– I for one firmly believe in telling kids where babies come from when they’re young. To their level of understanding of course no need for gory details when they’re 7. But frank conversations about body parts, and how it all works sets a great foundation for when they’re older.
The real sex conversations need to start sooner than a lot of parents think. Here’s my first shocking fact for you- there are a lot of middle schoolers having sex…. I’ll give you a minute to recover. If they’re not having it, they’re talking about it, they know someone who is, have an older sibling they’ve heard talk about it. Parents, they need the real information from you. They need to know that they can come to you with questions when their friend tells them something like, girls get pregnant by boys putting their penis in their butts. (nope, didn’t make that one up!!)
Yes it’s embarrassing sometimes, can be uncomfortable, or make you choke on your coffee. But man up and have the conversation, answer the questions, make yourself open and accessible. This foundation is going to be necessary for years to come.
No, it’s not just you- Have you looked at your friends in recent years and said, “is it just me, was I just that naive in high school, or are a lot more kids having sex these days?”
I know I have. And no it’s not just you. I’m not going to break out any statistics here because they’re not really necessary when you can look around and see it. Kids are not only starting younger, but more of them are doing it. There are, of course, a number of reasons- we can blame it on books, movies, tv. We can blame the media, the times we live in… but none of the blame discounts that it is happening, and we need to be aware of it.
Relationships are on fast forward– This could be a whole post in itself but I’m going to touch on it here because I think it lends some perspective. I know when I was in high school you knew the couples that had been together seemingly forever were “doing it”. There was kind of a knowledge that after several months of a relationship they’d probably taken that step. Well, in this day of social media and texting relationships accelerate far more rapidly. Gone are the days of boys having to ask for your phone number and call at the risk of your dad answering the phone. There’s no more covert note passing… its all access all the time. Thousands, even tens of thousands of texts, tweets, facebook messages make diving headlong into a relationship fast and furious. So if you think that time is an indicator anymore… time to rethink that.
Talk to your teens about the feelings involved -This next statement may not win me any feminism awards but I’m going to make it anyway. Sex is different for (most) boys and girls. They need to know that. I’ve told mine from day one that while sex for boys can be just physical that for a girl it is much more emotional. I want them to understand that they don’t need to be toying with someones emotions, they need to be responsible for knowing that their actions can have a deep impact on another persons feelings and attachment. For girls, they need to know it too. They need to realize that even though they may have friends that can love ‘em and leave ‘em they will most likely form a deep bond with boys that they sleep with. Both sexes need to get that sex isn’t only physical but the emotional aspect is huge. They’ll find out one way, either by experience or advice… so let’s have that talk.
A little bit more about respect– Ok, I hate what I am about to write, but if you have a daughter please read this, and please, please, please believe it. Teach your daughter self-respect. Teach her that sex, any sex act, should be mutually pleasurable, and that doing things for a boy just so he’ll like her is a big no-no. Being frank, talk to your girls about blow jobs (there I said it). Talk to them about texting nude, partially nude, or any other kind of provocative picture. PLEASE this stuff happens, girls need to understand that boys will use them if they allow it. They need to respect themselves, they need to understand that sex is a two-way street, and that otherwise they are being used. Boy moms you don’t get off easy here either. Teach your boys to respect women, teach them the same thing, that they should not expect things from girls, should not ask for them. Teach them that respecting women means more than just holding doors and being polite, that it goes into the intimate details as well.
Teaching abstinence isn’t enough– There is no easy way to put this so I’m once again just going to be frank. If you are in the abstinence school of sex ed I have a rather gigantic wake up call for you.
It is not enough, it is in fact so far from enough that you better be ready to go into great detail about what abstaining really is, what purity really is… and what it is not. Telling kids to not have sex is like telling a toddler they can’t have cookies. The toddler is then going to ask for candy, ice cream, cupcakes… anything else they can think of to satisfy their sweet craving….
Get my drift? If you’re teaching abstinence you better talk about mouths, fingers, hands, and even the .. uh em… back door. Seriously it’s a thing. Girls who think they are preserving their virginity for marriage by doing something that makes most women cringe.
It’s all in the details folks, and if you’re teaching about something as important as sex the details matter…. A whole lot!
Don’t ever think, not my kid– Please, for the love of all things good, don’t think that your child is immune to raging teenage hormones. Don’t think that they won’t be the girl who sends nudes or the boy who sleeps around. Don’t think that they will automatically know they can talk to you, or remember to be responsible.
Don’t think that you can assume, have the talk anyway, bring up the uncomfortable subjects, ask the questions. Open up the conversation realize that even if it could never be them (which we all hope) something you say may help them help a friend, it may speak to a question they were afraid to ask, or let them know that the things their friends might be doing is not ok.
There’s a lot more to talk about– Kids have read 50 Shades of Grey, they have friends who are bi-sexual or gay, they have heard things that you might not even know what they mean. (Googling them is terrifying!) It’s ok to admit if you don’t know something, don’t understand something, or it just plain grosses you out. You are human, sex is a personal thing, it’s ok to have opinions, and be human with your teen, and to not know everything.
Next to those things subjects like birth control and STD’s start to seem boring, at least it makes them a little easier to talk about!
Time to put on our big girl (or boy) panties parents, this subject is not going away.
A bubble or convent starts to seem like a valid option at this point in parenting. Maybe a chastity belt or monastery… However since those aren’t so practical we have to step up here.
It’s not easy, things are different from when we were kids, and there is a lot more ground to cover. Start covering it. These conversations don’t have to be forced, you don’t need to sit them down to have “the talk” you just need to be open, need to be honest and accessible. You need to have an open mind and an open heart. Try and remember when you were young, when your hormones were raging and your friends were talking about sex. Approach this subject with care, concern and love. Don’t be someone who lays down the law, sets the rules and walks away. Don’t sugar coat, don’t dismiss it.
Your kid needs you to talk about this, more than they’ve needed anything else from you. Have the conversation, have lots of conversations…and make sure to listen more than you talk and offer love, support and guidance. This is a tough one… but you can do it.