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Want to talk more about sex and your teenager? Tune-in to Up to Date with Steve Kraske at 11 a.m. Thursday on KCUR 89.3 FM, online at kcur.org, or catch the podcast later in the day at dr-wes.com. The show will be taking listener calls.
Dear Dr. Wes and Miranda: I picked up some birth control brochures from my doctor the other day because I’m thinking of switching to a different one that you don’t have to take a pill every day.
The thing is my mom doesn’t know I’m even on birth control and I’m pretty sure she found those papers. She hasn’t said anything, and I don’t know whether to bring it up or let it be.
There’s a good reason I didn’t tell her about this. She is really negative about having sex outside of marriage and I don’t want to get a fight going with her. BTW, I’m 18 so it’s my choice.
Dr. Wes: It’s always sad to hear that a parent and child have this kind of communication around the topic of sex. While you have a right to privacy, especially at 18, having to sneak around to take birth control suggests that you and your mom haven’t evolved a very healthy relationship about something so important. Now might be the perfect time to change that.
On the other hand, that’s not really your responsibility. It’s your mom’s job to open and maintain good communication on this issue, and it’s best if that starts when you’re about five. What’s going on between you now affords her no opportunity to convey her own values and ideals, preferably without judgment or condescension.
I was recently interviewed on a Christian radio station by two very gracious hosts who knew up front our take on sex in this column and our books. Toward the end they asked the inevitable question: “Have you given up on the idea that teens and young adults will wait until marriage to have sex?” I answered, “No. I haven’t. I just don’t rely on it.”
Yours is a good example of why. The statistics are lopsidedly against abstinence before marriage and they have been for several generations, and probably forever. So we have to work with our kids within that reality to help them make good choices, care for themselves sexually, and give their love to those who deserve it most. None of that can happen in the vacuum between you and your mom.
That said, I probably would not bring up the brochures, but I would practice how to handle it if she does. Drive around a bit in the country dialoguing with yourself, talking out both sides of the conversation until you have down what you want to say. If you’ve taken an ethical and sane approach to sex, be sure your mom knows that. If you haven’t, then maybe it’s time for you to rethink what you’re doing, just as I’m suggesting your mom might rethink hers.
You’re an adult now. It’s most important that you be proud of what you’re doing.
Miranda: Wes’s points notwithstanding, birth control and sex are nearly impossible to discuss with most parents. What’s important is that if you are choosing to have sex, you need to be safe and smart about it. Using condoms if you are sexually active is also very important, and I do not recommend going off birth control just to please your mom.
Leaving your mom out of the loop may cost you in the long run, though. Keeping secrets in the family can strain relationships. Even if she is totally against premarital sex, she will always want what’s best for you. If lying is bothering you, then maybe you should try and talk about it with her, but always remind her that at the end of the day it is your body.
Keep in mind that this could just be your guilt leading you to worry about something that isn’t actually a problem. Maybe you should be honest with your mom if you think it’s possible. You don’t want to start a fight, but will she be madder if you open up about this now, or if she finds out that you’ve been keeping it from her for a long time?
Try to balance making your own decisions and being honest while keeping communication with your parents open. These decisions are part of dealing with the consequences of choosing to be sexually active. While it may take some time for your mom and you to work through this, she will always be your mom at the end of the day, and hopefully understand your decisions.