This is part 2 of Mom, Dad..We need to Talk! An in depth talk with Colleen Gardner about teens. In this discussion we navigate through discussing the choices that teens make that can have an impact on their entire life. Either watch the video or read below.
Part 1 of this discussion can be found by clicking here, in case you missed it.
Leah: Good morning! We are here with another Tuesday Talk. Thank you for joining us with Colleen. This is Part Two of Mom, Dad We Need to Talk. If you missed part one just go back and look for it on our Facebook post or go to our website and look for rendition one. Today we’re going talk with Colleen again, but we’re going to talk to the teens, okay. This is going to be a very great talk. Colleen is going to go deep now okay. So, you’re going to want to listen, take notes, share it with your following and go ahead and join in on the conversation because we want to hear from you too. So, we’ll begin with Colleen.
Colleen: So, here we are ready today Leah?
Colleen: We’re going to talk further. Okay, now that your child’s in middle school and high school, where do we need to go with the talk beyond puberty? They’ve now gotten their periods. The boys are getting their beards growing and what-not. So, how do we continue the conversation? It’s hard because what is it that you want your teen to know? Why does it seem to be difficult for us to have that conversation with them and talk about the more serious subjects? Are we afraid that they’re going to ask us what we did in our teen years and we don’t have answers for that? You know, I was told a long time ago, remember what we’ve done in our life shouldn’t necessarily have an impact on them. Like, we don’t need to share our past unless you’re out. Also, you can inquire with your teen why do you really want to know? What will the impact of what I did as a teenager have on you? But, you know one way the other does not a wrong answer a right answer whether you share or don’t share because it’s really not about you, it’s about them. So, always keep that in mind.
What’s going on in the middle school and high school years that we really need to address? What’s the most concerning questions that ….we have drinking, we have drugs, we have sex, we have bullying, we have sense of self-worth. There’s many things to talk about in these middle school to teen years and I see them quite often. The mom struggling here at the office too, especially whether it’s their sons or daughters. So, this is going to be good for everyone. How about in middle school like even eighth grade, ninth grade, you reconnect with them about what do they want to be when they grow up? What are they looking at? Where are their talents and addressing what those talents are? Not just on the football field or the soccer field or the lacrosse field or the cheering field, those are all important because it is great for them to connect with their peers. But, where else are they excelling? Are they excelling in any academics? Are they struggling? What can we do to help them with their struggles? Do they understand the value of one they are making that move to high school that those four years in high school truly do matter to get into the high school of their choice? It’s a big deal. It’s not easy to get into Auburn, to UGA, to Clemson anymore. So again, high school truly matters with moving on.
Other things you can do to be ready for some of these conversations on the tough talk is go to the CDC website and they have the STD sexually transmitted disease guidelines. They’ll tell you about each different disease and the prevalence of it. As well as, they also have the contraceptive options that are out there and their efficacy, so that you are then fully loaded and ready to again be able to approach these topics with them and have your ammunition. Again, your comfort level and getting yourself comfortable with talking about it.
Here’s one tool, I’ve done many sex talks or I’ve called them the power conference, the power of your choice is the power of your sexuality, the power of desire, the power of God. I’ve done these at church several times. One of my good friends from church, Billy Keck when we did a talk probably eight years ago now; see this little life decisions timeline? It’s a timeline from birth to end of life and if you notice here, (and I’m not sure this might be backwards) but here is the teen years like say, 13 to 18; it’s a very small span of time. This is a great thing to show to your youth when you’re wanting to talk and say what do you notice in this? There is only this small band of time here. But, here in these few years the decisions and choices you make can have a great impact on the rest of your life. From either having a baby out of wedlock when you weren’t planning. Having an STD, a sexually transmitted disease that you carry with you for the rest of your life. Whether there’s a decision of taking a car and having a car accident being injured. I mean there’s all kinds of ….there’s also very positive things, making decisions to study hard can have an impact that you get to the college that you want. That you get to the career that you want. I don’t always want it to just be the negative. What is the positive things and choices that you make here that can have an impact for the rest of your life? Never mind those decisions and choices that can have negative impact. But, this can be a huge tool to see that these are really just a smidgen of years, but in these years most teenagers think that it won’t happen to them, nothing will go wrong, I got this covered, we’re doing fine.
So, I guess I’m going to come across a lot of this too with parents who struggle with talking to their teens because their teens aren’t talking to them. So, how do you get that teen to talk? Again, I think as I shared back in the puberty talk; you can talk at the dinner table, it’s always a great time. Family dinner time is great, unless there’s a lot of younger siblings. Then it can be in the car. It can be in their bedroom at night. Maybe you need to have a retreat with your daughter or son and do an overnight somewhere or go to their favorite place and be able to play alongside with them so that they can talk. Remember this, most teens and youth, they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care and that will be one of those things that is always so instrumental. As a parent, we have to remember we need to parent. We are not to be their best friends. So again, that’s having those tough conversations. Are you ready for them to keep their cell phone and their media content out of the bedroom so that they sleep? I’ve heard multiple stories over the years of raising my daughters and other parents conversations of how many kids would be up till midnight two o’clock in the morning Facebooking, Instagramming, etc. instead of sleeping. Then, you wonder why they’re going into school exhausted. You know what, the school day is exhausting anyway. Getting up to be at class at seven o’clock and then if they have a job on top of it, but it’s helping these teens have boundaries. They don’t understand boundaries.
Colleen: If you have a wall their job is to try to move it and it’s our job to not move it, but if we keep moving it they’re going to keep pushing the boundaries out further and further and further.
Leah: You know, I think that’s important regarding the phone because I think that’s the one thing that many parents don’t think about or consider when getting a child a phone. It’s like, what are the ramifications behind this phone because we really don’t know, especially we’re teen parents for the first time. We don’t think about, you know what’s going to happen.
Colleen: Well, we didn’t have cell phones.
Leah: Yeah. We didn’t, exactly. We have no idea. So, I think that’s a very good idea too. When you give the child a phone, you know state your boundaries and stick to them. Have them set up their own boundaries because it’s part of responsibility. So, I think that’s fair and that’s a good point.
Colleen: There’s a lot of safety programs out there too and put on the devices, the computers, the iPads, the phones. In that, remember this, you own the phone.
Colleen: They don’t, so you do have a right to check the phone. You don’t need to sneak and check behind their back like sneaking. Tell them, “I will be checking your phone”.
Colleen: So they are well aware that you are. There’s no secrets there that you’re checking their computer, you’re checking their phone, that you’re seeing where they’ve been surfing. Here’s some things, there might be inadvertent things that happen on the internet that no child meant to see. I remember one time going on to white house .org, thinking that’s what it was called, but it’s really whitehouse.gov. But, white house .org is a pornographic website.
Colleen: Seriously. There’s many of those out there. That’s how those perpetrators grab you. It’s they make it similar and all of a sudden …can you imagine a thirteen-year-old seeing these images come up and they’re not going to know what and they probably won’t tell you because
they’re embarrassed, they’re scared, they’re afraid you won’t believe them that they didn’t go looking I mean all of those things. It’s called protecting your child letting them know that in no way, no form should they ever have to see this and that if they do they need to let you know so that you can then block these from occurring. Sometimes, all you have to do is open up one and then others will start coming. So, it’s like a disease.
It’s all about communicating with your youth, having fun with your youth, your child, your teen. Having family game night, places where you communicate. We have so much broken down some of the family because we’re so busy that we forget about dinner time and how to make that happen. If it’s not dinner because you’re running in different directions, then what about dessert time? Again, making sure the weekends are not overbooked and over ….just stressed out that you cannot enjoy those moments as a family. (Hey Tess! It’s good to see you sweetheart) What do I want to say ….communicate. That just keeps coming up. Communicate and have those tough conversations.
Let’s talk about, say your daughter or your son is in a steady relationship. They’ve been dating awhile. You need to have those conversations even before they’re dating. Really at eighth grade you should be having the conversations about what safe sex is. They are having it in their health class. There is no such thing really as safe sex. There is safer sex, but it’s called making sure that if they are going to venture, that they need to think about the implications. Are they ready to become a parent? What are those three decisions entail; keeping the baby, terminating the pregnancy or adopting the baby out? None of those three decisions are easy and most of them of course nobody would only wants to make that decision.
Colleen: Either it’s against their faith values. It’s against anything they’ve ever heard and thought of, but you need to have those conversations because that’s the reality. All it takes is one time, one act of intercourse in order for a girl to get pregnant.
Leah: Now, you said something earlier that I think is very important. You mentioned a keyword and that word is fun. So, how do we make this conversation fun? Because with a lot of religious beliefs, societal beliefs and just what we have been programmed to believe about sex, it doesn’t come across as a fun conversation, especially when you’re talking to your child. So, how do we make this fun? How do we move past our own, you know, feelings about having this conversation with this as we see this child. Oh my god, I have to tell this child about ….
Colleen: Kind of going back to talk one. If we start at nine and ten about the Birds and the Bees and what sex is, and what’s going on with their bodies, as I think we said at the final statement the last time is – keep the conversations going so they are not so awkward.
Leah: That makes sense.
Colleen: It’s like often when they’re thirteen and fourteen, it’s not okay, now we need to talk about sex and now we need to talk about STDs and we need to talk about ….no we should have been having these conversations all along so that it’s not awkward. That it’s not embarrassing.
Colleen: That it becomes natural, fueling yourself. There are people out there who want to be sexually active and that’s going to be their choice.
Colleen: But, there are other designs for it. I remember doing a talk and taking these girls out to the campground with their youth leaders and they said, “But, isn’t it a sin to want to
have sex”? I’m like, well where did that come from? No, it’s not a sin to want to have sex. What is sin? It’s called ….so, what do you do with the want to? You know, you’re going to want to. God gave us the desires to want to procreate and want to be together and that it’s a wonderful gift that has been given us used in the right place, the right time. Otherwise, there are consequences to it and I think that’s where you talk about ….it is okay to wait. It is okay. Again, are you ready to make the decision for the responsibilities of being an adult and being sexually active? Most teenagers are not ready yet, but they think they are because they’re in love. So how do you talk about being in love? Do you need to become sexually active? Yes, that’s what adults do, but do teenagers need to?
Leah: Good point.
Colleen: How do you suppress those desires? I don’t have all the answers to that, but again communicating that they have a sense of purpose that they might have a sense of a higher power; call it God, call it Jesus, call it whomever they want to call it. In all reality it’s called having a sense of purpose. Having that sense of I matter in this world and I’m going to make a difference in this world. So, all of those things in autonomy for these teens can make a difference with delaying that first sexual act.
Leah: That’s true.
Colleen: Knowing that they matter and that they have something to offer society and that it’s not just stemmed on being in love for the first time. That they matter to their parents, they matter to their grandparents, it makes a difference. How do you get your youth plugged in for a sense of service, an act of service? Making a difference in somebody else’s life can build you up also in the sense of satisfaction, knowing you made a difference. There’s nothing like when you give a gift, is it not fun to see that other person in awe? It’s amazing. So, think about that too with your youth. Getting them plugged-in not just in a sport and not just in an activity at school, but what else are they doing for their community that can make a difference? And, doing it together as a family. Not just them always going to do things, but what do you do together as a family to give back to our communities as well? I think again keep that family connectedness. I know we’re all busy. We’re all working. We have stressful lives. It doesn’t take much sometimes to make a difference for an hour on one weekend.
Colleen: How do you fill yourself up? How do you talk about chlamydia and gonorrhea? Are you aware things have changed from when I was a teenager, never heard the word chlamydia and gonorrhea. It wasn’t until probably late nursing school and then I realized it is like the leading epidemic in teenage years, but now it’s becoming really epidemic in thirty and forty year olds who are back out into the field again because they’re not aware of the risks of chlamydia and how prevalent it is. The good things about chlamydia is that it is treatable and so is gonorrhea with antibiotics. The other issues with it though is, I always called chlamydia the the silent killer because it can affect a woman’s fertility without them knowing. So, if it’s been there low-grade smoldering for some years before it’s treated it can have an impact on their fallopian tubes and so when they do desire a pregnancy they might not be able to get pregnant.
Leah: See that’s good for a teenager to know.
Leah: You know because that can make or break the decision.
Colleen: It can. Yeah and that’s the thing abstinence of course is a great thing, but it’s a hard thing – but, it’s a great thing. It is the only real true safe sex, but we know that that’s
not the reality of our society in the world today. So, how do we guide? We have to have the conversations. It doesn’t mean we condone sexual activity, but we have to be ahead so that they are educated. That they know there are STDs out there and they happen to the best of people. There is no discrimination as to who can get an STD – rich, poor, tall, dark doesn’t matter. Blonde hair, dark hair, it doesn’t matter. It affects everyone who exposes. Another way you can talk to your teen about sexually transmitted diseases to is to talk about that – if you have sex with one person, but that person has had sex with others, you’ve also had sex with the others without even have sex with them. So, it’s this domino effect that leads two people then lead to ten people. The laundry list can get really long and big. That’s kind of like, wow I’ve been exposed that many times and you don’t have the reality of that. But, that’s the reality. The person you had sex with may have been exposed to herpes, but they got it from four partners before you and now you’re exposed. Those are the decisions.
Now, when it comes to contraception there’s a lot more new options from when I was a younger adult. Yes, we have the birth control pill which is still a great method out there. It’s been around for years. It’s still proven to be highly effective, but of course it’s as effective as the pill taker. So, you have to be a motivated, good pill taker. The other is, we now have what we call the LARCS, long-acting contraceptives and Mirena, IUDs and Nexplanon are two and Paraguard are three other devices that are long-acting – meaning they can be inserted; Mirena is good for five and the Nexplanon is good for three the Paraguard is good for ten. They all have their pluses and minuses, their risks and benefits to it all, but they’re all up in like the 99 percentile of effectiveness in preventing pregnancy. Of course, none of them protect STDs. The only better thing in protecting you from STDs is condoms. So always using condoms and unison is important if you are going to be sexually active outside of the bonds of marriage in all reality. With that being said, coming to take your child, youth, teen to see us, we can have these conversations with them as well. Sometimes just having the conversation with another adult or provider who cares can make a difference for them too. It’s not just hearing mom going wah, wah, wah because that’s what they hear. If we remember that we’re not preaching to them, we’re trying to engage them in the conversation. So, how do we then engage that in fun? You can go on the computer together and look this stuff up and share it together as you’re unloading and finding the new things that maybe you don’t even know. You don’t have to always pretend that you know all of it. You can say, let’s look this up and let’s see what this is all about. Engage them in the conversation so that it’s comfortable. Letting them know that they matter makes a huge difference. We all want to make a difference and we all want to be loved. We all want to know that we matter. That we’re not just related to that, “Oh yeah mom’s mad at me again because I got a D on the test”. We want to know that, “Yep you are upset because I got a D on the test that means I need to study more”. So, how do you handle those consequences with a teen? Do you have any books I can recommend? I don’t have a lot of good books for the teen years to be honest with you. I think if you want to come across from a Christian perspective, you’d go to family the Family Christian Bookstore and find a Life Ways. You probably could find some really good books on Amazon too. I don’t have any. I do for the puberty talk which we talked about the last time, but not for this. We still have the Caecus website and the Advocates for Youth website that was talked about in the previous talk. Those are still excellent sites to go to for some other guidance and help with that.
Let’s ask, this is another great point I think to bring up with a teen. Once they enter high school what’s the next biggest issue coming up with them besides after their freshman year? Getting their driver’s license. How do they get their driver’s license? Is that as something that they’re entitled to or is that something they earn the right to? Do you need them to be a responsible young adult in order to be a safe driver? So, that’s another one where you do get to hold the keys to the car if you have a teen who’s not cooperating. That would be the same thing. We just had a conference at our church on internet safety. How old do they have to be to get a phone and do they need to have a smartphone? Can they just have a flip phone for safety purposes? Because when you open up that door with a smartphone that’s opening up that internet issues that’s beyond more than what we can even handle. Nevermind when can they go on social media-Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook. Are they well aware that once it hits the internet it is out there and it cannot be retrieved? Even that false security of Snapchat, the picture goes away. Nope, that picture’s out there permanently and to be aware of that. I know many middle schoolers were using Snapchat to send pictures of body parts to each other.. Maybe you can’t pull it back up where I can see it, but eventually we can find it and they’re there. I think it’s having those kinds of conversations too.
Are you willing to talk to your child about what oral sex is? It’s a big issue. it is a big issue in these young teens because they’ll sometimes venture into that as an alternative so that they’re not sexually active and they’re maintaining their virginity. But, with all sex comes a whole other gamut of issues. Did you not know that in one of our counties in this Greater Atlanta area about twelve years ago, had a major outbreak of chlamydia and gonorrhea of the throat due to Rainbow Parties as they called them out there that they would have. Other issues that they would have with these middle school parties and these are eighth graders. It was huge. They all thought they had strep throat, but when it was cultured it was gonorrhea of the throat and it was an epidemic. Yes.
Off Camera: Will you also talk about, last month was Teenage Abuse Awareness. Will you talk about the peer pressure of that?
Colleen: Yes, you know what there is so much abuse. Why do our girls or even our boys for that matter, think that we need to be bullied by the opposite sex? Why does a girl need to feel that she has to be with this boy who is not treating her well and is bullying her, basically? To think that he’s the most important thing in the universe, but then treats her with no respect. If a fellow really respects you, he’s going to honor what your wishes are. If they are to maintain abstinence he is going to honor you. I believe that’s what Diane is saying, abstinent has measurable value to your health life and married relationship. There is so much truth in that. Speaking of being married for twenty eight years and again being in practice for almost twenty nine years, I have to say I’ve seen the detriment of women who have been very sexually active in their teen years and the impact it’s had on them in their later years. They almost feel like they have no more zest or zeal for having a relationship anymore. They’re kind of like worn out and that has had a huge impact on their life. But, let me tell you when you share that bond of sexuality with your life partner it is a huge difference in your life because two really become one. That’s God’s wishes for all of us is to be happy, to be joyous. If you read the book of Song of Psalms, it’s all about the passions that Christ gives us, that God gives us for our sexuality. I’m not trying to make it all about that, but abstinence has so much power and so much value to both boys and girls and maintaining that in their relationships because then it’s about the relationship not just about feeling good.
Off Camera: I think we have two minutes.
Leah: We have two more minutes for questions if anyone wants to engage and ask a few of
questions to Colleen. Got a couple more minutes here before you wrap-up. Wow, that was powerful.
Colleen: There’s so much more to be talked about and shared. It’s loaded. But, all I can encourage you to do is to keep having the conversation and to keep talking. Even though your
child may say I don’t want to keep talking, they’re listening. Be the chaperone. Know they’re friends. Know they’re friend’s parents. Be involved with them. They may say they don’t want you there, but in secret they really do. Don’t go be the ogre. You don’t have to hover over them. You don’t have to be the cool mom or dad either by trying to befriend and acting like you’re a teenager. Just be there. Be present. That’s all they want you to do is to be present.
Leah: Absolutely. Wow! Another powerful Tuesday Talks. I told you Colleen was going to go deep today. I warned you and I hope you took your notes too because this is very important information. So, join us next month for another Tuesday Talk. We will be with Dr. Shelley Dunson- Allen. Look for that event on our Facebook page and continue to follow us. Share this information and we appreciate you joining us today.
Colleen: Thank you
Leah: Thank you. Bye!