If you currently have a teenaged child, chances are good that there were only a few methods of birth control available to you at the time you were starting your family. There was, of course, the pill, an oral contraceptive you took once a day, and there were various devices like the IUD or the diaphragm, and condoms were also a generally available method of birth control.
Your own parents may or may not have felt comfortable discussing birth control with you and you may have had to get birth control education from a friend, a school nurse, or a public health clinic. Your own parents probably couldn’t discuss birth control with you very competently due to their own lack of knowledge, or beliefs that birth control went against religious standards. It’s not necessarily their fault that they couldn’t educate you, but chances are, they didn’t educate you about birth control methods. You have probably vowed not to make the same mistake with your children.
Parents of teenagers are generally socially aware and willing to discuss sexual topics with their teens. They are also fairly likely to want to make birth control methods readily available to their sexually active teens. However, like their parents before them, they probably have less information than their children do and they probably have values that are somewhat more conservative than their children and the discussions may be taking place too late – after the horse is out of the barn, so to speak.
Thanks to our former President, America’s youth don’t currently seem to believe that oral sex is sex. Children as young as 12 and 13 years of age are casually engaging in oral sex with multiple partners. Teens are becoming sexually active a couple of years earlier than their parents. The “Talk” about the birds and the bees really needs to be taking place with kids who are in about 4th or 5th grade.
Of course, you can refuse to speak to children that young about matters of a sexual nature, just like your folks refused to do with you, or you can get real about what is happening in junior high schools and middle schools and help get your kid prepared to make tough decisions he or she is probably not terribly ready to make. With you on their side, they can make wise decisions and wait until they are ready, and then be safe when they decide they are ready.
If you are ready to have a candid talk with your kid, you may need to brush up on your information about birth control. There are many innovative methods that have come out since you were younger. There are patches that last for weeks, inserts that last for months, and there are still the old stand-bys that served your generation well, but some of the newer stuff is better and should not be overlooked simply because you aren’t familiar with it or comfortable with the concept.
It is also really important to discuss condoms as necessary not only for birth control, but for disease-prevention as well. Again, in your day, only that really creepy older guy had any sort of sexually-transmitted diseases and you didn’t worry much about transmission. The current generation of teens has grown up with AIDS as a part of the sexual environment their whole life. Common STDs circulate rampantly through high schools in nice, suburban neighborhoods. Condoms need to be a part of all sexual experiences for the current generation and that may take some getting used to on the parents’ part. There was much resistance to condom use when they first became more necessary in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, but they are pretty much here to stay for now and parents have to become very comfortable with the idea of regular condom use by their sexually active teens.
Kids are getting messages from school and from the media that condom use is necessary, but it can easily be undone if they’re hearing from their parents that only nasty people need to think about condoms. That’s simply not true anymore. To hear that your teen’s sexually active boyfriend or girlfriend is insisting on condom use is not an insult to your kid. It is a caring gesture to help keep your kid safe. It would be better to be grateful than to take offense.
When kids know that you are up on the latest trends and are open to helping them process all the information that bombards them daily, they will come to you to have crucial discussions. If you’re still talking about the way it was when you were their age, they’ll seek younger advisors. If you would rather your kids get their medical and ethical information from you than from their 14-year-old friend, then be sure to brush up on what’s going on today so that you can speak confidently with them when they bring up issues. And, as is true in any interaction with teenagers, if you can do more listening than talking, you will get better results.