Sex, drugs and awkwardness

Get your kids ready for their teen years with a frank chat about these sensitive topics. Derek Abma explains what parents should keep in mind.

Those who remember sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll being a part of their adolescence can be forgiven for feeling some anxiety as their own children approach the teenage years.

By all accounts, two of those three elements are still popular among teenagers. Rock ‘n’ roll, unfortunately, is the one thing now seemingly forgotten.

But for Nepean’s Michael Grier, discussions with his son, who’s now 28, about sex came fairly easy more than a decade ago.

“I think we were always pretty open and talked about stuff,” Grier says. “And when the time came when he was just starting to date, maybe Grade 6 or 7, all I recall saying to him — knowing we’d already talked about where babies come from, all that stuff — was there were only three things that were important. You’ve got to be respectful, you’ve got to be kind, and you should have fun.”

In terms of how to avoid unwanted pregnancy and disease, Grier says “that stuff was really easy, and that was like, ‘OK, condoms; everybody knows what condoms are for,’ and that just came up in conversation around the dinner table anyway.”

Beyond warning of the dangers of driving impaired or being a passenger with someone who was impaired, Grier says not a lot of discussion about alcohol and drugs took place, but it never became an issue in his son’s life anyway.

For Stittsville’s Barry Horeczy, the drug discussions with his son, who recently turned 18, came naturally and regularly throughout his younger years.

“As soon as I found he could understand what I was saying, I’d say, ‘Stay away from drugs,’” Horeczy says. “He might have been five years old. I just figured, when they’re little, they think their parents know everything … I just thought it would be a good thing to reinforce that over and over again. And he took that to heart, and he’s never had a problem.”

As for sex, Horeczy says his son got much of the necessary technical information from school, “and we talked to him (about) being smart, looking after yourself, looking after other people, that kind of stuff.”

Martin Rovers, a family therapist with the Capital Choice Counselling Group, says parents’ input doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of one definitive talk, but can come over several years through “teachable moments.”

“Your daughter comes home in Grade 1 and says, ‘Where do babies come from, Mommy?’ And I think that becomes a teachable moment to give an answer as simple as the question that was asked.”

To try to cover all the relevant points in one conversation can be a bit much, Rovers says.

“There could be, at some point, a ‘bigger’ talk,” he says. “But a ‘big talk,’ I think, could be overwhelming.”

Rovers notes that children also get information about sex and drugs from other sources.

“The schools teach sex and drugs and alcohol pretty darn good,” he says. “I have to admit I’m impressed.”

Still, Rovers warns parents not to ignore the realities facing their children as they come of age, saying warnings about the dangers of impaired driving and unprotected sex have to be made.

“I think that kind of talk is a good one to have, a necessary one to have, because you don’t want to get caught or have your child get caught with not having known what they should know.” 

Photo: © londondeposit