Having ‘The Sex TALK’ with Teenagers. How do we encourage their words to come out?

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Have you ever been given a very short notice to quickly make a decision for someone? What about if you are asked to select a group of people by their age status, and told to pick out the ones you’ll most likely be at ease with? Who would you pick?

Now separate them by their body language (uneasiness, eyes rolling, fidgeting, gum popping, eyes twitching, mouth pouting or lips slightly parted in an unconscious bewilderment!). Ask this compromising question: “Tell me what you know about Sex?” and watch the drama unfold. Aha!

In which of these group would you rather be? The been-there, done-that evergreen with wisdom group? The Midlife crisis solicitors, still hanging on to “should-have-been” and “would-have been? The show-and-tell group still drowning in their emotional rollercoaster lifestyle? The ripe and ready to-be plucked on a pedestal? Or the “buy-one-get-one free hormonal-fired-up tween/teenagers! Whose constant mood swings and blasting emotional rage of self-discovery is now their weapon against the world? Who would you choose to have a real dialogue with?

My choice: The Tween/Teenagers. Awesome sauce!.

Adolescence is the teenage years between 13 and 19 and can be considered the transitional stage from childhood to adulthood. However, the physical and psychological changes that occur in adolescence can start earlier, during the preteen or “tween” years (ages 9 through 12). Adolescence can be a time of both disorientation and discovery. The transitional period can bring up issues of independence and self-identity; many adolescents and their peers face tough choices regarding schoolwork, sexuality, drugs, alcohol, and their social life. Peer groups, romantic interests and external appearance tend to naturally increase in importance for some time during a teen’s journey toward adulthood.

Most teenagers today would rather have a tete-a-tete talk about their sprouting awareness of life with a total stranger than take it home and be judged, scolded or reprimanded for even thinking about it! They have so much street-wise information stored up in their memory board and basically living it through a confused world as whether to believe it? Experiment with it? Ignore it? Pray through it? Be part of it? Be it? Or live in Denial?teen 6

So, how do we begin the sex talk with them? When do we start talking about it? Should we wait for them to get to school and consume every information thrown on their laps? Allow the stranger or “supposedly” trusted one to physically instruct and coach them emotionally by touching and tampering with their innocence and destinies? Carving unforgettable scars on them before we feel the cut? Should we embrace the societal perspective of how they should be groomed for this topic, or allow the school system to encourage safe sex policy by dishing out free sophisticated contraceptives like colored condoms for pregnancy/disease protection as opposed to teaching strategies for abstinence or avoidance?

When do we begin to understand that “the sex talk” should actually be a part of a regular ongoing casual talk they should first receive from home rather than being thrown out there to become exploitive scavengers in the hands of  desperate pirates! Or like when my mom is cooking and I have to stand by and watch and then from nowhere she just ask…” So, you know you have started your menstrual flow, so you can’t look at a man! ‘And remember the child of whom you are and be assertive! (Lol) seriously!!! …that was more of a threat than a warning or advice! Meaning once I visually glance at a man or say hello, I might be impregnated! Or why wasn’t I alarmed that as I will be going to an all-girls boarding school 10,000 kilometers away from home, that the rules also follows for being looked at or touched by the same gender! Hmmm.

It only gets better when we turn the mic around. We give them a voice too, we allow them to take the floor and be the one in charge of talking about their fears and feelings as opposed to when we keep hovering over them. Sometimes, especially when we’ve given all that do’s and don’ts –talk… we still need to hear them out. Let them know they still have a voice and every silly question or mistake they are afraid of asking is certainly the beginning of a better outlet for them to embrace the world ahead. By creating a platform for openness among these teenagers, as difficult as it seems to be, an alibi or trust-bond with them usually encourages openness and helps in confronting other issues. We might need to be sensitive to their minefield of biological, emotional, and psychological maturation.

Maybe you think back to your own teenage years and you cringe at the thoughts of some of your youthful exuberance or you smile when you remember all the silly pranks you played and easily got away with. But it doesn’t hit home harder until you meet one playing out your past role, or your own kids reach that stage that you begin to understand why so many family members had so much advice for your “puberty-acquired-self” or one particular relative is always all in your business! Especially when you reach that maturation age.  Anyone can teach the basic facts about reproduction in an hour or two (or they can be read in any of several reference books), but we are in the best position to put this information in the proper context and give it the right perspective over a period of years. There are no cut-and-dried formulas for carrying out this.teen 5

Gone are the days when we compare what we read in romantic novels and see in movies, where we see a parent all tensed and sweaty-palmed, stammers through a convoluted description of sex to a preadolescent child. Who already knows all of the details. But, why is there such tension when parents are about discussing sex with their kids anyway? Are we aware that many children learn about sex from everyone but their parents?

Uncontrollable school playground slangs and obscenity, a distorted description of intercourse from the tough kid up the street, or worst of all, a look at some pornographic material on cable TV or the Internet often provides a child’s first jarring glimpse of sex. Without an ethical context, sex education becomes little more than basic training in anatomy, physiology, infectious diseases and contraception. While seeing it as an act, in the proper context (sees Mom and Dad hugging and kissing) both expresses love and begins new life, retains his innocence. But a child who knows very little about sex can already have a corrupt mind-set if he has been exposed to it in a degrading, mocking or abusive context.know me

Today’s problem with our disconnection with teenagers lies in trying to control or manipulate them. When we aggressively challenge problematic behaviors, especially with certain kinds of kids, that will only increase their defiance and alienation, and when a mistake is made, we become the last to know about it!

Here’s what am hoping someone who knows a teenager in need would do soon; accept that behind every problem behavior there is an emotional gap, an experience that is missing from a kid’s life. I am hoping that we can help them identify what’s missing and lead them back halfway home. Because unmet emotional needs stimulate disruptive behaviors and create gaps in maturity. For those gaps to close, it’s best to focus on providing new and enriching experiences that will satisfy those unmet needs.

Starting now, let’s create a clean platform that allows every teenager we come in contact with to feel free and discuss compromising issues like sex and reproduction, personal hygiene and living well, way before they even hear about it on the playground or at the school cafeteria! We need to talk more about controlling and moving ahead of peer pressure amongst our teenagers before they are overpowered by the flashy lifestyle of their environment!

We need to be their first response when dealing with emotional conflicts and sabotaging relationships! The best place for a child to learn about sexuality is at home from those who care most about them. We have to create a safe harbor for them to own their voice by allowing them to say what they want to say. Even if it seems ridiculous, we still need to allow their words of “I need help” “I feel helpless” “I am not popular or I feel bullied” “No one likes me” “I think I am in love” “I am not pretty enough” “Everyone’s doing it, why not me” “My family sucks”…all come out freely without the listener being judgmental or calculating, but interestingly inquisitive and amazed like the teenage girl hawking in the picture above!

Yours in HOPE as I share Sara Bareilles “BRAVE” ( say what you wanna say, let the words fall out ).



Dealing with our imperfections and learning to improve our act of soaring.

be youFelicia was an old friend of mine during our college days. Even though she majored in English Education, I was in Humanities but our paths always crossed at Offrima campus during joint lecture in Phonetics by Prof Gyanki, or while catching a ride back to the hostel. There was something peculiar about her. I took a liking to her immediately. She was younger, very expressive and rather dramatic. Most of my other friends didn’t really take to her, they’d labeled her immediately, “Oh, she talks too much! “Oh, she knows all the guys on campus” ‘Oh she sleeps in the boys hostel” But with all these flaws and hear-say, it just increased my likeness for her. For me, it wasn’t about the veil or web pulled over to cover up an old scar or shame or insecurity. It was more about her picture perfect look and the craziness going on inside of it! Everyone assumed there was something creepy about her! But, she was just imperfect in their perfect world!

One of the favorite gifts at my last birthday was a book title: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, by researcher Brené. With so much excitement and anticipation, I’d hurriedly flipped through the pages. The message shouted right at me! It was so loud that I quickly closed the book, ran to the basement to hide it. Ah! You know…that feeling you get when you sensed someone is so second-skin to you, it was like that song (Killing me softly with his song) Hmmm, ‘How dare she talk about me! That’s me written all over that page! Then I started to laugh, I guess that was my 30-seconds-of-madness which I was totally entitled to. (lol).

According to Brene Brown; Perfectionism is a shield, a self-created safety net that we think will shut out the bad stuff. I was taken back immediately to my college days and only wished this theory would have worked wonders for all the crazy ideologies we had back then! And even for the present time life’s complexity. I mean tell me, who hasn’t been dealt with a harsh blow in life? Or who has it all together and lives in a glass world? Our idea of perfect world syndrome has driven us to early regret in life, and has made the very element that defines who we really are or what we really are as imperfectionists! Which is now replaced with guilt that comes from shame!, flaws that’s well painted with material things, pain and regret we carry around today under our sleeves as we paint our world in odd colors!

So, does our blemish, or undesirable feature make us imperfect? When we exert energy on things we cannot control, it only empowers the negative. Does that mean that our fallibility and shortcoming defines us as weaklings? When we have the choice to laugh or cry, do we still contemplate it? I work with children and love my job. I sometimes feel overwhelmed and think that I can’t provide everything they deserve or put a smile on their parents’ faces. Once, after a particular challenging evaluation, a child noticed a hole in my blouse and also how my hair was crazy and sticking up and laughed. So I did too. We both ended up rolling on the floor laughing together. It wasn’t a professional perfect moment, but I’m sure I was my most authentic.

Having flaws, being vulnerable, and being true to our self are cornerstones of being real. Some things we will work on to evolve and become a better person. Some things are just part of who we are. Anyone who loves us will love us because of them, not in spite of them.

We are most authentic when we are forced to gradually humbly admit we don’t know everything and we sometimes make mistakes. This makes us much more likely to accept the imperfections in others and love them anyway.

It’s easier for us to be real when we take the pressure of perfection off the table, it is easier to locate a soul mate when words alone cannot express a mutual feeling. It is easier to find true love at the most un-expected places. It is easier to follow a path of openness than a link of pretense and it’s easier to be compassionate and kind when we understand everyone is messy.

In all of us, there is only one crazy “us.” The good, the bad, and the ugly all contribute to our uniqueness. So does our past experience, hurts, and mistakes. It’s not enough to simply learn from the past. We also need to look at our choices to understand what we’re made of, and in that way either improve or understand how certain weaknesses can actually be strengths.

If you made it here this far, you are most definitely authentic! You just have to be you! ‘(Gotta be) and you are soaring higher towards discovering your best qualities. I am encouraging someone to stay true to who they are and what feels intrinsically right to them. We can’t predict the road the journey will take us, especially when the issues of life take over, but we can control our own feet. I am hoping someone will take intentional steps that move them in a direction of staying true to “self”. How we walk might not be perfect, but we can feel confident in where we are headed through God’s grace.

Yours in HOPE as I share Desree’s  “You Got To Be”