The sex talk is never going to be a walk in the park, for parent or teen. But let's face it, the actual mechanics of sex is something that does not need as much 'talk' as other more important things: love, respect, consent, heartbreak. Just think about it, this stuff is not embarrassing or even hard to talk about, so why are we not doing it? Teaching them that “the penis goes into the vagina” and then sending them on their way is like throwing them to the wolves armed only with a vague description of what a dog looks like. For many of us, we are getting the sex talk all wrong.
Learning the importance of respect and consent (and what they actually mean) as well as the right/wrong ways to ‘relationship’ are not easy lessons to learn. Given the high percentages of males who think that it is ok to have sex with a passed out girl for example ,is a clear indication that our young people do not 'just know' this without our support and education. Our teens are exposed to some pretty screwed up perceptions of 'normal' for many reasons, so we have to take more responsibility in dismissing that crap. They do not need to have the talk "...and the penis goes into the vagina", they need to know about relationships.
Most of us grown-ups take many years and many, many mistakes to work out relationships. But why are we not passing those golden pieces of wisdom on to our teens so they can be forewarned and forearmed?
Why are these incredibly important things not deemed worthy of teaching?
Why do people, starting with our teens, have to learn the hard way? For some, the ‘hard way’ could lead to life long damage.
Surely our role as parents should demand that these life lessons are mandatory…but yet we seem to miss that bit?
Talk to your teen about the many forms of love. Explain what you mean when you say that you are in love with someone. Let your teen understand that they may define being in love differently than someone else and that there is no right definition of being in love. Talk about the ways of knowing whether intense feelings for someone else are likely to lead to healthy or unhealthy romantic relationships. Explore with your teen why and how love can be deeply meaningful and change the course of our lives, or can ruin it.
It sounds kinda crazy, but explaining what love is can actually be really hard. Songwriters and poets have been trying for centuries. If you personally have not had a great track record, it can feel especially hard. You might think you are 'not qualified to speak about good relationships/love, but remember relationship failures can generate as many insights as successes.
Start these conversations with your teens early. Use any opportunity you can to talk about relationships, good and bad. Movies, TV shows, people you see in the mall, stories you hear about. Any opportunity where your teen could learn something useful and put tools in their tool box to maximise their understandings of respect, consent, care and consideration.
But what about that teen way of thinking that anything parents say must be wrong!?What would the 'olds' know about love/lust/heartache?
Do not let this deter you. Yes there may be some dismissal of your experiences, but if the topic of healthy relationships is never really far from the conversation and you are talking about other people, then the messages will start to permeate their brain.
Keeping in mind, it is called love-sick for a reason, so when your teen does fall in love, anything and everything will go out the window for a time and there will be instant dismissal of anything ‘wrong’ you may point out. But if (when) the wheels start to fall off, perhaps something will click in your teen’s brain that what is happening to them is like that couple you discussed that time whilst watching Neighbours that time…
Let’s do our teens and the world’s future adults a favour by supporting them with information on love, relationships, respect, consent and forgiveness. Can you imagine the state of the future if there were less ‘damaged’ adults in the world? Adults who can navigate relationship hurdles or conclusions without hatred, jealousy, pain or other negative clichés, what an empowering gist to give them. And it all starts with a conversation.