This week’s episode of “Perfectly Imperfect Parents“ on The Chopra Well is all about how to talk with your kids about sex. Dr. Cara Natterson from the show shares her thoughts and tips. Number 1 piece of advice? Have more than one talk!
Early in my career as a pediatrician, I saw a 16-year-old girl for a routine check up. Once a girl becomes a teen – and sometimes even before – I like to speak with the parent and child together, and then with each separately. It takes time, mind you, but most teenagers are not going to disclose things with a parent in the room. You would be amazed at what comes out in those precious one-on-one moments – not just about sex and drugs, but about plans to pierce their tongue or to get a tattoo.
So early in my career I was seeing a polite teenage girl who arrived at the office well groomed and dressed fairly conservatively. I spent time with the girl and her mother, reviewing her questions (Am I done growing? Do I really have to eat breakfast? I’m not hungry in the mornings…) followed by a physical exam. Finally, with her mom out of the room, I started down my own road of questions.
It took all of 30 seconds for her to disclose that she was sexually active. I emerged from the room several minutes later, after a densely packed conversation, and met her mom in my office.
“Well,” said her mother. “All I have to say is that I am so glad she is nowhere near having sex. I mean, thank goodness for that, right?!”
Medical school had not prepared me for this.
Fifteen years later, I am used to the conversation. I know how to talk to parents about their kids without violating confidence. And I know how to talk to kids about talking to their parents.