teenagers and sex ed

i am a parent. i suppose i sould say "we are parents" since there are three of us. i'll give you a little explanation of the situation before i move on.

my former partner and i each brought two children into our relationship. he and i were never married and never had any children together. when we broke up, we saw no reason to completely break up our family. we stayed very good friends and continued coparenting the children even tho there was no legal obligation to. when he started dating someone new, she brought four children of her own ( two biological and two step ) to the table. the three of us have put all eight children into one pile to raise as "ours" instead of treating them as his, hers, and mine. we work very very well together on this and regularly have all inclusive parental discussions about the kids and how to handle any situations that arise with them. we have no official schedule of when the kids are with me and when they're with them - or which ones go back and forth. she and i introduce each other as the "other mom" rather than stepmother. for future reference, when i say anything about "my family," these are the people that i mean. and to preemptively answer the question that inevitably comes.. no, it is not an open or trio type of relationship - they are together and i am single.

now that that's cleared up a little bit, on to what i want to say...

sex. it's something we have to teach our kids about. let me say that again. WE have to teach them about sex. it's not the school's responsiblity. not that they'll learn the important parts at school anyway with all the abstinence-only policies so many of them have. face it, folks. they're going to learn. either from us or from their friends. think their friends know everything? they don't. their parents probably haven't taught them much either. and, i'm sorry, but sex is way too important of a subject to let them just figure everything out on their own. too much opportunity for disaster.

this article, written by Ginny McNulty, a 19 year old peer educator, was brought to my attention a few days ago. this is a smart girl and i understand her frustration with school policy disallowing her from answering students' questions. here's my favorite part of her article:

So, I have a few messages from myself and my fellow peer educators. To our parents: we understand why you would prefer that we wait to become sexually active until we're ready to be safe. We understand that the decisions we make now can affect the rest of our lives. We want to know what your feelings are about sex and relationships and we know that sometimes, it can be uncomfortable to talk about it. To schools and policy makers: providing us with 'abstinence-only-until-marriage' programs limits our decision making abilities. Withholding information about safer sex and contraception could put our lives at risk.

look at that! "... limit[ing] our decision making abilities ... could put our lives at risk." these kids want to be responsible for themselves, and we need to allow them to be.

now, i'm not saying that we need to sit down and discuss technique or our own fetishes. i doubt that's something they want ( or need ) to hear from us. but we need to teach them what they need to know.

they need to know that they can ask us questions and get answers.
they need to know about disease prevention.
they need to know about birth control.
they need to know about the emotional aspects for themselves and their partners.
they need to know that they can come to us if something does happen.
and they need to know these things before they start having sex.

prompted by our son's sex-ed class in ninth grade, we sat down with our two high school kids a few months ago to have the sex talk again. we told them "this is not something that you should be embarrassed about. there are three of us and if you've got a question, at least one of us is going to have an answer. come to us and we will ALWAYS answer you. if you need condoms, let us know and we'll get them for you. it's very important that you do not let anyone push you into sex if you aren't ready for it. and if you're not mature enough to talk to us about it and make sure that you have everything you need, then you're not ready." ( obviously there was more discussion than that, but those are the major points. )

so, as one parent to another, i'm begging you, please prepare your children for the day that they are ready for sex. answer their questions. teach them about STDs and birth control and how sex can change a relationship. let them know how you feel about it while keeping in mind that they are going to have to make this choice on their own. if you won't do it for them, do it for yourself. you'll sleep easier knowing that they are not out there being stupid - because you taught them better.

you cannot be naive enough to think that just telling them not to have sex is going to keep them from doing it, because it's not. you can't convince yourself that teaching them what they need to know is going to make them have more sex, because it won't. stop being afraid of them growing up and let them do it. it's going to happen whether you like it or not.

if you can't figure out what to say or how to even initiate the conversation, ask someone. ask Google. hell, you can ask me and i'll do what i can to help you figure it out.

October, 09 2009 under parenting