I wrote earlier about talking to preteens about sex, but I’m finding that many teens have never had the “sex talk” with their parents beyond their parents threatening to kick them out or disown them if they ever got pregnant (although I’ve never known a parent to actually follow through with either threat).
However, because many teens don’t feel like they can talk to their parents about sex, they are getting their information from some very unreliable sources which usually leaves them unprepared mentally and emotionally for the complexities of sexual activity and vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and even abuse.
Last Monday I was counseling a young teenage girl who had just turned 15. She admitted to me nearly a year ago that she not only was having sex, but had been with several partners, most of them not even her boyfriends but guys she was friends with or guys she just liked.
Well now she has a new boyfriend who is a virgin, and although they have been together for a several weeks (which is forever for teenagers), they are thinking about having sex.
Let’s call her Trisha and her boyfriend Zac.
Because Zac is a virgin and apparently has a better relationship with his parents, he told them about him and Trisha’s plans to have sex. Zac’s mom was a little upset, but realistic and instead of scorning her son, she talked to him about sex and protection, a very good call. What she did next however, I’m not so sure how I feel about, but I understand it.
After talking with her son about sex, she then talked to Trisha about sex, assuming that she too was a virgin. She even went as far as to say she would get Trisha birth control, which made Trisha very uncomfortable.
Parents, do you really want someone else talking to your teen about sex and birth control, especially a parent that you do not know?
Well if you don’t talk to your teen about sex, someone else will and they may not have the best information and probably won’t have the same opinions, views or values as you do.
I was concerned because I felt like this was something Trisha should be talking about with her parents, not Zac’s, yet Trisha feels like she can’t talk to her parents about sex because they hold both her and her older sisters to such high standards and even threatened to kick them out if they ever found out they were having sex. By the way, according to Trisha, they are all already having sex.
Because of this fear of not only disappointing her parents, but also of getting kicked out, Trisha doesn’t feel safe talking to her parents about sex at all and has just been getting her information about sex from her friends and sisters, who are all also high school teenagers.
I encouraged Trisha to sit down and talk to her parents, at least her mom about sex.
She wants to get on birth control, but doesn’t think she can talk to her parents about that and definitely doesn’t want to get birth control from Zac’s mom. I even offered to have a family session with her and her mom and/or dad to help facilitate “the talk”, but she’s too scared to even discuss sex with her parents and let them know that she is thinking about sex, let alone already having it.
I know from past experience, because of this fear of talking to her parents about sex, she leaves herself vulnerable.
She’s more likely not to use any protection consistently or properly and to hide everything from her parents, including if she ever feels violated, if she ever thinks she may have a sexually transmitted disease, if she ever gets raped or if she even gets pregnant.
One girl I knew hid her pregnancy from her parents all the way up until she went into labor and had a child at 15. Her parents had never had the “sex talk” with her and it was only then did her parents find out that their daughter was no longer a virgin.
I definitely don’t want that to happen to Trisha and so if she is afraid to have the sex talk with her parents, I feel like it is my responsibility to at least give her valid information about sex, protection and to point her in the right direction for other information and questions she may have.
We talked about condoms, the importance of putting them on correctly and using them each and every time from the beginning to the end. We also talked about birth control for her, but I strongly encouraged her to have the conversation with her parents. I also had the school nurse talk to her and gave her several pamphlets for her and her boyfriend about sex.
She had lots of questions and lots of the information she had was so invalid that she was sure to end up pregnant before graduating from high school, such as standing up right after having sex is a foolproof way to avoid getting pregnant because gravity will prevent the sperm from swimming up.
Another thing I did was encourage her to wait. I talked to her about how sex can change relationships, sometimes for the worst and how there are other things they can do besides having sex, such as holding hands, kissing, hugging, talking, going for walks, out on dates, etc.
All the while I also kept encouraging her, trying to give her the strength to have this conversation with at least one of her parents. I don’t think a 15 year old should be engaging in intercourse, but she’s already been doing it since she was 14 so we have to be realistic.
Many parents feel like having the “sex talk” will encourage their teens to have sex, but teens are going to be curious about sex and may engage in sex regardless. It’s just a matter of how informed or ill-informed they will be.
Lot’s of parents feel betrayed and hurt when they find out their teenager is having sex, almost as if they just found out their teen was using drugs.
Remember that consensual sex between teenagers is not a crime and your teen is more likely to get pregnant or worse if they feel like they can’t talk to you because you will get mad or upset. It’s important that parents put their emotions aside and consider their teens’ choices and emotions.
I encourage parents to talk to their teens about sex, about being safe and healthy. They can also allow their teen to talk to their doctor about being sexually active and the physical responsibilities that come along with that, if they don’t feel comfortable or knowledgable enough to do it.
It’s important that your teen feels like they can trust you and that you guys have an open relationship where they can talk to you about everything, just remember that even with that, your teen probably won’t tell you every single thing.
The teen years are about trying to discover their own independence and breaking away from their parents some, so accept that there may still be things your teen won’t tell you, but make sure that they know that you will be there for them if they need you.
While I definitely prefer not to be the one having the sex talk with your teen, I’d much rather do that now than to be talking to them about how to get a pregnancy test, being good parents while trying to stay in school or about visiting a free clinic to get tested for a STD, three conversations I actually have way more often.