As the mom of a 13-year-old boy, I take every opportunity to talk about difficult subjects with him. Since our kids were 6 and 7 years old, we have talked about body parts and sexuality. We learned fairly early on that discussing these topics with young children opens the communication door and keeps it open as they get older.
Now that Derek is a teenager, our conversations have ramped up to having sex, smoking, drugs and alcohol, and what love means. Recently, a girlfriend told him she loved him and he replied in kind. I explained to him that love is not randomly shared and that they are both too young to understand the full meaning. He said he didn’t want to hurt her feelings. That is a real dilemma for a teenager and, frankly, I had no good solution. So I talk about the bigger picture: having sex.
My husband and I certainly hope we have prepared our children to make good choices when it comes to sex. But in the heat of the moment, we all know bad decisions are made. As I described it to Derek, you know what you should or shouldn’t do, but suddenly your brain flies out of your head. That is the reason I talk about it so much — to be sure he has heard it many times and hopefully will be more aware when things do happen. And they will happen.
How did we get to this point? Rather than wait for a topic to arise, I bring it up on the way to school, at the grocery store or while watching TV. I figure that makes it more informal than having “the talk.” According to the parenting classes we have attended over the years, most parents wait too long before starting these conversations. In doing so, it seems to me it would be more difficult to get the conversation going. And the child may have already found the “answers” from unreliable sources.
Derek and I have a seven-year history of having conversations about sex. He is extremely comfortable talking with me about all kinds of topics and has even taught me a few things — Did you know you shouldn’t carry a condom in your wallet? I didn’t! It can create a weakness in the rubber.
Don’t get me wrong. We are not encouraging our children to have sex. Quite the opposite. I feel better knowing that when he’s in a situation that could lead to sex, Derek will have the knowledge and the confidence to make a wise decision.
Tips for starting conversations about sex:
• If your child has a girlfriend/boyfriend or crush, start the conversation with a question about that person. (How is Karen doing? Do you talk to her much? Did that bother you when she said that?)
• Bring up a topic the two of you have talked about before. Derek asked me about sexually transmitted diseases once and I immediately did some fact-checking to be sure I struck while the topic was hot. This also can lead you into a conversation about related topics.
• Bring up a related age-appropriate topic, such as hygiene (shower after sports and before you meet a girl at the mall.), pushy girls (aggressive girls may want to attach themselves to you and can be jealous. How would you handle that?) or talk about a comment one of your child’s friends has made (she said/he said — discuss what your child thinks really happened).
• Be sure your child knows no topic is off limits. Always take comments or questions seriously, and don’t tease or lessen the value of your child’s remarks. To your child, his remarks are top-of-mind — so they should be for you, too.