Yesterday I was on the phone with a mom whose story just made my heart ache.
Her parents had not educated her about sex at all, so she learned about it from friends and school. When she started having sex, she and her partner used a condom. Then one time the condom broke, and luckily she didn’t get pregnant. From that experience, they concluded that she wasn’t fertile, and they stopped using condoms…so she got pregnant at 15.
Can you see how each step makes perfect sense? Teens usually are thoughtful, but they don’t have all the information and sometimes draw the wrong conclusions.
Unfortunately, with sex, just one false step can have such big consequences.
I can relate. As a teen I also drew false conclusions and found myself in situations I didn’t like. I was 13 and a family member started a movie and invited me to sit on his lap, and I did, not realizing that his motivation was sexual. He moved to touch my breasts and I pushed his hands away. But I didn’t get up and leave. I let him nuzzle my neck, even though I was uncomfortable, because I didn’t want to upset him by rejecting him. You see, I thought of it as a compromise; that was my false conclusion. I set myself up to have him push my boundaries again and again. Not my fault of course, but if I’d had a stronger response that first time, it might have nipped it in the bud.
We tell our kids not to get into vulnerable situations, and they hear us. The problem is that they don’t actually know what to do to avoid those situations.
Then, afterwards, they blame themselves because they think they should have known better, and shame is a big barrier to talking. So it all starts with one miscalculation, leading to a bad experience, that they feel ashamed of and just want to put behind them, which means they don’t even come to you for help…and then it all repeats as they try to handle the situation themselves.
The way to prevent this is to be your child’s ally and maintain open communication. Talk. Talk a lot. Share stories and think through nuance. Share both of these stories with your kid and help them understand how neither that mom nor I were stupid – just innocent. Just unskilled and under educated.
Our teens need us to start talking about sex and relationships early, and to create a relationship with them in which they feel safe asking for help or talking about something that didn’t go well. It’s also more satisfying and less crazy-making for you, their concerned parent.
If you need more fodder for these conversations, more stories to share, more ideas for how to start the conversation and keep it going, let’s talk! Click here to find a time that works for both of us. I love having a calendar full of calls; connecting with you is such a joy.
In support of you,
PS: If you have a teen, don’t miss the next FREE webinar, Talking with Teens about Sex.