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Sex talk

The *Real* Talk

by MaryP  |  7896 views  |  13 comments  |        Rate this now! 

Have you had The Talk with your teen yet?

I hope so! I sincerely hope that you haven’t waited until puberty to broach the subject.

Because it’s tricky, even with a well-prepared child. A three-year-old can happily chatter about private parts; a 13-year-old, who may have been having some seriously heated daydreams about those very parts, will be a little less... forthcoming.

I’ll assume that by the time your child is 11 or 12, they know the names of their parts and the basic mechanics of sex. This is not really The Talk, you know. Those are just preliminary details that must be communicated before you can have The [REAL] Talk.

The Real Talk, where you address the fact that your child will at some point choose to have sex. They will, you know. The average age for first intercourse is 16.9 years in the US, and 17 in Canada, where I live.

You may prefer that your child wait till they are much older. You may believe that sex is best saved for marriage. As a responsible parent, you will convey these values to your child. But this doesn’t mean you don’t discuss how to stay safe and healthy, because no matter when your child makes the decision to have sex - 15 or 35 - they will need that information.

Which is why, when my kids were 14-ish, I pulled them aside and had A Talk with them. By then they knew the how-to’s of sex, and that sex is a beautiful thing when shared between respectful, loving, committed people. They also knew that I thought they were too young yet. We’d talked about all that, in many little conversations over the years.

They also knew that, whatever my opinion, this was a decision they would make for themselves.

You know what? As a mother, I don’t much like that. This is Real Life, with Big Consequences! I’d like to be able to protect them from a foolish decision made too young. But I give them the information anyway. By withholding it I ensure they have inadequate facts and guidance. Do I want my child making this decision with half the facts? I do not.

A teen who knows this is their decision and no one else’s is also less likely to be pressured into it before they’re ready.

So, when each was getting interested, but before they’d acted on it (I hoped!!), when they were not dating anyone, I would show them the little blue cosmetic bag on the shelf outside the bathroom.

The little blue bag with the condoms in it. I showed them, told them it would always be kept full, and they’d never be counted.

Not because I wanted them to skip right out, grab the likeliest partner and try one. Not because I expected them to need it in the immediate future. But because they were old enough to be thinking about it - and I wanted safety, self-respect and good health to feature in those thoughts.

About the Author

Mother of three (teens), step-mother of five (teens), home daycare operator of five (todders), and STILL SANE!! NOTHING is impossible...

Read more by MaryP

13 comments so far...

  • Oops! I meant to include a link in my response to Genesis. This site provides stats for teen sexual activity for Germany, France, The Netherlands, and the States. The States does poorly on every single measure. It's quite startling, and a real call to a better response to the issue!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 13th January 2008

  • Genesis - If you see the difference between teen pregnancy and abortion rates in the States, as compared to European countries with much more liberal attitudes to sex, you'll understand why the "Don't do it" school of parenting doesn't work. Kids will always be curious, teens will always take risks, and if you don't arm them with information, you're not protecting them -- you're sending them out into the world unarmed and unprotected.

    KC - Thanks. My son had a bit of a kerfuffle at school a couple of years ago, and the guidance counsellor who called me was quite obviously astounded that I already knew the details. Seems my son, who communicates far less than his sisters, and often exasperates me in what he doesn't say, still does better than average! It makes me feel good, and I choose to believe it means I've done something right all these years...

    klg - In fact, I have done that, though only with the male version. (The female version is too expensive for me to keep in stock!) I figure if the girls have them and know how to use them, they're safe. I'm quite confident they're strong enough that should they ever find themselves with a boy who refuses to wear one, they will refuse to have sex.

    Condoms are so much part of the high school curriculum here, though, that my son was quite honestly shocked to know that unmarried people didn't always use them. This helps my confidence level.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 13th January 2008

  • While I am only at the stage of the 3yo talking about his bits and my lack of bits (of which he feels horrible that I don't have my own.) This is a great idea. I would even take it one step further and make sure they know how to properly use the condoms female and male versions.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by klg on 13th January 2008

  • MaryP, I work with adolescents on a daily basis at work, and I wish that there were more open discussions like that of your family's. It would make my job so much easier! Way to go!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by KC on 12th January 2008

  • Good information. My parents had a very hard time talking to me about sex, it was mostly left at "Don´t do it." I plan to be far more open with my children and, like you, I don´t like the fact that they may make the decision to go ahead before I´m ready, but they do need to be informed.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Genesis on 10th October 2007

  • And bellybutton. They all love that bellybutton!! LOL

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 2nd August 2007

  • Being that Jeffrey is only 18 months old, we obviously haven't gotten here yet. I hope that we can keep an open dialogue with him and introduce him gradually. Of course, we're going to start by teaching him where his nose is.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Dani on 2nd August 2007

  • Granny - The best way is 'gradually over the years', of course, but at some point you have to get to The Talk. The kids may or may not perceive it as any different than any of the other conversations on the topic you've had, but the adult, who drives the agenda, will know that THIS one is the one where the rubber (so to speak) hits the road, and things get practical and personal.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 1st August 2007

  • Florinda - thanks! I've been through it three times now, with each of my three kids. They each responded differently: my eldest was fine with the topic, and engaged in the discussions; my middle child was receptive but not tremendously communicative (but he's like that, generally!); and my youngest child was actively interested when she was little, but once she hit twelve or so, merely listened politely but was clearly mortified. They're all different! :-)

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 1st August 2007

  • Sheri - and if they pony up the information gradually, in small bits as the kids show interest or have a question, it'll be a whole lot more natural, a whole lot less embarrassing - AND, it may even get remembered!! Repitition is useful. If you can talk about it naturally and gradually, you're also much more likely to be able to discuss the values that should be part of this: respecting yourself, doing only what you feel is right and what you're ready for, resisting pressure - all those good things.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 1st August 2007

  • We've had the talk although I think they've learned much of it gradually over the years.

    Elcie had the first round of her vaccine last week; the other two will start them in August. I may copy your idea with the condoms before much longer.

    I want them safe.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by rocrebelgranny on 1st August 2007

  • Great article! Been there once with my own kid (now 23), soon to be there again with my stepdaughter (almost 13). I completely agree with your honest and realistic approach to this very tricky topic.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Florinda Pendley Vasquez on 31st July 2007