Life Parenting
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I don’t know if you knew this, but teenagers are buckets of raging hormones. At least that’s what I learned when I was 17 and about to head off to college. Well, kind of learned. I already knew, obviously, being a modern and informed teenager. That’s just the time my dad decided to tell me.

Yep, I got the “birds and bees” talk when I was 17. It was sweet, really. Dad was only trying his best to do what he thought was the right thing, as my father. His well-meaning attempt was just a little… delayed. But bless him, he tried.

The same talk, I “learned” that in addition to being hormone buckets, teenage boys will try anything to get my attention and I really needed to be careful to watch out for their real intentions. And as I peered around him to look for an escape route (I was cornered in my bedroom doorway), I learned exactly what those intentions were and why I shouldn’t give in. This came in the form of another of his legendary phrases: “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”

Parents, I know having “the talk” is awkward and usually fills you with dread. And I know you mean well, just like my dad did. But please don’t make the same mistakes he did. Learn from our experience.

Plan in Advance

A big flaw in Dad’s plan was what seemed to be a lack of planning. I felt like he wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to say or when he wanted to say it (or he was too anxious to bring it up before), and so he just winged it. And to be honest, that made it even more awkward because it dragged the conversation out. My best advice here is to plan for it. Decide what age you want to bring it up, decide what topics exactly you want to cover, and perhaps even give yourself a time limit like you’re doing a timed performance. If you know exactly what you want to say, you’ll be able to do it with more confidence, and your kid will notice that as well.

Don’t Corner Your Kid

I can’t emphasize this enough. When you decide to have this chat with your kids, give them an out. If it makes you uncomfortable, imagine how awkward it is for them. I was stuck in my bedroom with my doorway blocked and no way for me to graciously exit the conversation. Assuming your children will be much younger than a college freshman when you discuss this, be sure to let them know they can shut down the conversation if it makes them feel unpleasant. And for the love of god, have it in an open, airy space, so no one feels trapped.

Always Be Talking

To be honest, one of the reasons I knew everything already (aside from gossipy high school kids and sex ed classes in middle school) was thanks to my mom. We’ve always been incredibly open with one another about everything, from bodies and bras to boys and birth control. When I was probably about 8, she bought me a workbook-style book called “My Body, Myself” that I devoured. Since we’d always talked, I knew some of what was in the book already. But being able to learn on my own (in addition to comfortable random chatting between mother and daughter) was invaluable for my growth and progress.

However you decide to have the talk, and whenever you decide to do it, remember that our bodies (ourselves) are normal and nothing to be ashamed of—and make sure your child is aware of that too. I went to college with a girl who had never once in her life said the word “penis,” because her parents taught her it was a naughty word that no one should ever say. Don’t be those parents.

And don’t be my bumbling but thoughtful dad. All will be well, I promise.