In a recent family blog/discussion on what issues parents should worry about, Devan brought up an important issue, teens and birth control. Here is what she said:
One thing that I believe parents take too casually is The Talk. Parents need take more initiative about having the birth control talk with their kids. I have a lot of friends that are so afraid of what their parents will think if they ask to be put on the pill that they won’t even bring it up. As a result, they take dangerous risks. I think every parent needs to have this talk with their kids when they enter high school, whether or not you believe your son or daughter is sexually active. I have met several girls in college that have made VERY irresponsible decisions when they were intoxicated and had to then worry about their health and whether or not they were pregnant. It is a serious reality.
It makes me mad when I hear about a parent who is so blinded and misinformed that they skip talking to their kids about sex because of excuses. “My kid would never do that.” “My kid is smarter than that.” “Our family doesn’t believe in pre-marital sex.” “If I don’t talk to my daughter about birth control, then she won’t have sex.” These excuses are ridiculous and irresponsible as a parent. I understand that in most cases there is some sort of religious reason or belief that abstinence is the best way not to get pregnant. But in today’s society it’s not worth the risk to make a judgment as to whether your kid is practicing abstinence.
Like I have said before, I am sure a parent would rather have the uncomfortable discussion about birth control than have to hear their child tell them they are pregnant. If I ever come to have a family of my own this is a conversation that will not be skipped.
Teenagers and Birth Control
I completely agree with Devan that this is an extremely important conversation for parents to have with their teenagers. I also know that it is often a difficult conversation for both parties. And I struggle with it myself. I wonder how often we need to have the conversation on safe sex for teens. If a teenager does not have a steady (is that word even used today?) girl or boy friend, how often should a parent bring up the need for birth control before they become a nag? At what point does not enough conversation become too much conversation? Is there a certain age or time – for example going off to college – when I should be sure my teenager has birth control? Or is it enough for me to say “when you are ready to have sex, please come to me so we can be sure you are being safe”?
So my family, what are your thoughts?
I completely agree with Devan.
We need to discuss values and morals with our kids. Part of raising them is teaching them what we believe to be right. On the other hand, as they grow up they will make their own decisions, many of which will please us, but some of those decisions will not. We need to distinguish between what we morally believe, and what is practical, realistic, and safe.
I will happily pick up my intoxicated teenager at 2 AM, and not question him about his actions, just so that he does not get behind the wheel of a car. Similarly, I will happily help my teenager obtain birth control if that is what they want. I may want to discuss their thoughts and motivations at some point.
But in my mind safety is paramount.
I’m not sure when the right time is to bring up the issue. We probably need to make casual references as early as puberty, just so we can get the issue out in the open and try to limit the discomfort later on when it really matters. The depth of the conversation will probably depend on the reaction of the teen.
Kids…I promise to have an open discussion about birth control, without judgement, any time you want.
Okay this is just what I think and how I would do it. I acknowledge that parents might see things differently or would like to go about things differently.
I’d have a birth control sex talk with my kid once they go into their freshmen year of high school. At that time I would explain to them that I will not judge them and I am open to answer any questions anytime they have them. I would also explain that knowing about birth control is important even if they are not ready for sex yet. Then I wouldn’t have another conversation until they were going off to college. All I would say is, “We have talked about this before and I know you are a smart kid so just let me know if you want to get on birth control and I will help you figure it all out.” And that’s it!
Seriously, the reason why people get so uncomfortable about it is because kids are afraid that their parents will assume they are having sex if they have a question or want to get on birth control and parents just go over board with the conversation. I feel like parents tend to go on and on. Kids really don’t want to have their parents explain sex to them unless they ask them. I mean we pretty much learn everything there is to know about how things work at school health classes. And if that isn’t enough, our friends will be talking about sex from around 6th grade to… well till forever.
Also, NEVER EVER say “When you are ready to have sex, please come to me so we can be sure you are being safe”!!!!!!!
That sentence is a HUGE trap to kids. As a parent you just told your kid that if they approach you for birth control or to ask you about birth control that you will assume that they are having sex. Seriously most kids will not tell their parents that they have started having sex and would prefer to keep that on the down low or at least not tell them until they are older.
So telling your kid to come to you when they are ready to have sex is REALLY embarrassing to kids. It makes them tell their parents when they may be ready for sex but not ready to tell their parents. Saying that just forces kids to maneuver around their parents for sex advice. In the end the more important issue is knowing your kid knows how to be safe and not whether or not they are currently having sex.
Just relax and be causal and don’t be a scary judgmental monster and everything will turn out fine.
I think that there is both an age, and a point in your life for “the talk.” When your child is around the age of 13 or 14, it is time to talk with them about sex. However, I think when your child has a girlfriend or boyfriend that is “steady” as they use to say (honestly I don’t know if we still use it or not anymore), it is time to talk about it again. Maybe this time though, it should be more about being responsible with sex, not really about what it is.
With a kid going off to college, I don’t think it is really necessary to have another talk. By this time in life, a kid going off to college knows what being responsible is. They know that there will be consequences. I think that all that is needed is a quick reminder about good decisions, and consequences that can come from bad decisions.
I agree with everyone. There’s no excuse for not discussing birth control. I think, however, that it doesn’t need to only be brought up in The Talk. Of course it should be mentioned then, but there’s something uncomfortable about that dreaded conversation (kidding-it’s not that bad), at least for the kids. So I think it can make the whole idea go by a lot smoother with a few, short reminders. Like Ryan said, 13 or 14 are a good time to start with the talks. That would be when sex becomes more of a reality in kids’ lives.
“It might not be now, but in the future if you’re going to have sex, let us know so we can get you birth control.” Something as simple as that, once a year will work fully. You don’t need to say it frequently, because a kid is not going to forget that kind of message. When college starts, your child will be an adult, capable of buying birth control on their own (if not sooner, depending on state law). Then you can offer assistance.
By the way, the same goes for parents with boys—tell them to buy condoms. The responsibility’s on them just as much as it is on girls!