As a former teenage parent and the mother of military dependents, I know firsthand how important it is to maintain open dialogue with your children and to completely be there for them – even when they mess up.
In my teens, the topic of sex was avoided in our house, though I am extremely thankful for my eldest son because even though he complicated my life beyond my years, he also gave me the extreme motivation I’ve always needed to keep pushing myself forward in life.
From the day I made the decision to parent him, failure has never been an option for me. Despite my love for him, I don’t want him to endure the hardships that I went through. I was judged unmercifully by people I didn’t even know for years because I looked so young, and I don’t want to see him struggling through college because he had to work the night shift, or making the tough decision whether or not to join the military because he doesn’t want to leave his children behind during training.
Why we need to have “the talk”
Even if your child really is an angel and would never do anything to disappoint you, it’s still important to have an honest conversation with him or her. The implications of having sex are far more reaching than just a potential pregnancy – there is the high school rumor mill, STDs, and now these kids have camera phones and you don’t want to know what some of them do with them. And one look at Facebook can show you that many adults aren’t even aware of how the male and female reproductive systems work, so how can we expect teenagers to protect themselves if they’re not fully aware of all the risks out there?
And there’s just one more thing…our children are military dependents, and if your family is planning on another PCS, it is vital that you talk to your child about sex and using protection each and every time. Why? Because if your son or daughter does become a teenage parent, there’s going to be a huge lifestyle change in store for your family. It may not be something you even want to think about, but if your son becomes a teenage father, either he’ll have to leave his child behind or your family will have to find another solution so he can stay in that child’s life. And if it’s your daughter, you’ll have to make a similar decision, as studies have shown over and over again that a child with both parents in its life are more likely to succeed in life.
As we all know, teenagers aren’t always notoriously known for taking their parents advice. This is why it is crucial for you to have honest conversations about your life with your child – especially the things you did wrong and what you wish you could have done differently. We need to arm them with the information they need to make an informed decision. Since my boys have entered teenagehood, I’ve always told them that if they act like adults by trying to make good decisions, I’ll treat them like adults, but if they act like children, I’ll treat them accordingly. Now, I won’t be letting them out to go to keg parties any time soon, but we do let them have input on any decision that affects them, regardless of our final decision.
Aside from arming them with knowledge of how the male and female reproductive systems all works, it is imperative for our children to know all the implications of sex; how feelings get tangled up and messy at times, that people sometimes will try to use them or cheat on them, that STDs are a major thing and some don’t go away, and that teenage boys have no idea if they’re “sterile” and teenage girls have no idea when they ovulate so it’s always important that they use protection every single time.
Most important of all, I made a promise to my sons that if they’re ever in a situation they don’t feel comfortable in for whatever reason – being pressured to have sex, or drink, or do drugs, or even if they’ve already made a decision that I won’t like, that I’m only a phone call away and I will come for them without major repercussions. If they do make mistakes, I would rather they learned from their mistakes rather than fear me because if our own children can’t come to us in a crisis, then are we really succeeding as parents?