Categories
Parenting Sexuality Transparency

Awkward Questions, Honest Answers

Teen sexuality is one of those subjects that inherently becomes the bane of a parent’s life. For some reason, talking about sex and sexuality is embarrassing for many, particularly when it comes to talking to their kids. Just like kids/teens can’t imagine their parents “doing it,” neither can we (parents) imagine our babies “doing it” either.

I’ve written before about the need for transparency in parenting, but those blogs were focused more on our sordid pasts, our own experiential behaviors with drugs and alcohol, and ultimately what led us to our recovery. I feel the same way about teens and sexuality. They are, by nature, sexual beings. Mixed with the inherent risk-taking behavior found in adolescence, the need for autonomy, and the biological reality that they are not cognitively developed enough to make rational decisions, what we have is a cauldron of disaster waiting to happen. We need to be able to talk about it—openly. The reality is, most teens are having sex and most parents would rather eschew reality.

Until recently, my thoughts on this were rather esoteric in the sense that I had no direct experience. Just opinions. But then my son came to me (he’s 10) and said, “Mom, why do penises enlargen?” I’m not going to lie: I had a moment of internal panic, but then I realized this was one of those opportunities to put my thoughts, beliefs and words into action. So I answered him: truthfully. Yes, Pandora’s Box was blasted wide open, but at the same time, it made space for honesty and trust. I am honored that at 10, my son feels emotionally safe enough to broach the tough questions with me, his mom, and not leave the gathering of this information up to schoolyard antics. Granted, it’s only the beginning, but it’s something.  I soon discovered this open attitude of mine wasn’t particularly common. In fact, it was met with some shock and adamant admissions of embarrassment. This was disheartening to me. Honestly, if we want our kids to behave responsibly, it’s best we arm them with accurate information, and provide them with the tools necessary to make positive choices.

So, when the time comes, and your kids start the incessant line of awkward questioning, here are a couple of useful tips that have worked for me:

  1. Don’t shame your child/teen for asking these questions.
  2. Stay age appropriate. Just because the question seems advanced doesn’t mean the one asking is ready to hear the nitty gritty. Answer honestly, but appropriate to the cognitive development of your child.
  3. Get a book! There are some good ones out there that will  provide answers to most of these questions and open a space for discussion.
  4. Teach media literacy.

Certainly, answering honestly in the early years is ideal, but if we set a standard with our kids and allow them to see that we will tell them the truth and create a safe space for them to be themselves, we are ahead of the game.

This is an ongoing conversation, one that will evolve and change as time goes on. Remember: every moment is a teachable moment.

Interesting reads:

Parents, Adolescents, and the Subject of Sex

Your Teen is Having Sex, Don’t Panic (necessarily)

The Horror Whose Name Can’t Be Spoken — Teen Sex

The Upside to Boy-Girl Friendships

Categories
Sexuality

National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month

It’s May. Do you know what that means? It’s National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month!

There’s value in suggesting one can enjoy their teen years without the added stress of sexual relationships added to the mix, but that’s not always realistic. Adolescence means hormonal changes (puberty!), accelerated brain development, and of course a natural proclivity for recklessness.  Puberty is confusing: thoughts are scattered and often vacillate between sexual urges to feeling depressed and shut down; we are, by nature, unpredictable during this developmental period. But you know what? This is also normal!
So, it’s not only important to talk about pregnancy prevention, but also the emotional and physical states that tend to lead us toward getting pregnant in the first place. The pressure to fit in and do what everyone else SAYS they’re doing can be overwhelming. Adolescents are also prone to having a tight relationship with hyperbole when it comes to their sexuality.  Remember Jonah Hill’s character in Superbad and his exaggerated boastfulness about sex? Or how about the iconic scene in 16 Candles where The Geek borrows Samantha’s panties for 10 minutes so he can hold them up for his friends as proof of his sexual prowess? Anything to prove he’s not a virgin, right? Ironically,  statistics prove otherwise and frankly make The Geek look pretty average. In fact, “nearly 8 out of 10 guys say there is way too much pressure on them to have sex”!
Here are some things to think about before things get hot and heavy. Better to be preparedthan placed in a position to struggle with your own maturation in tandem with a child’s.

  • If you’re drunk or high, it’s hard to make good decisions about sex. Don’t do something you might regret or might not remember!
  • Did you know: Half of high-school teens haven’t had sex.
  • It’s OK to have friends without “benefits” — Sex ≠ love!
  • Think twice before pressing “send” on your phone or email. One third of teens say that those who share sexy images of themselves are “expected” to put out. Is that the impression you’d like to leave?
  • If you are going to have sex, use protection. Condoms are the only birth control method that can reduce your risk of getting HIV or STDs. Know your options.

Some statistics about teen pregnancy:

  • 3 out of 10 girls in the US get pregnant at least once before age 20.
  • Parenthood is the leading reason why teen girls drop out of school; less than half of teen mothers complete high school and fewer than 2% earn a college degree before age 30.
  • Having a baby won’t make him stay – 8 out of 10 fathers don’t marry the mother of their child.
  • More than half of all mothers on welfare had their first child as a teen.
  • The daughters of young, teen mothers are 3 times more likely to become teen mothers themselves.
  • The sons of teen mothers are twice as likely to end up in prison.

Have a plan. Educate yourself and start asking questions. Parents, school counselors, Planned Parenthood: those are all viable options. Also, if you aren’t comfortable having a direct conversation with your potential partner(s) about sex, you probably aren’t ready to have sex in the first place. Take some time and get informed!  And remember, it’s okay to say “No!”

References for this blog and additional information:
1. https://www.thenationalcampaign.org/national/pdf/2011/2011_ND_brochure.pdf
2: https://www.stayteen.org/teen-pregnancy
3. https://www.plannedparenthood.org