Middle School Parents: Preparing for a Leap Forward in Your Child's Sexuality
When those "chemical reactions" start to explode, a middle-schooler's parents need to be ready for everything—including pregnancy and STDs.
I stood looking at her beautiful eyes. My heart was trying to claw its way out of my chest! I found it difficult to catch my breath. I pulled her closer with eyes closed and the moment our lips touched electricity overwhelmed my brain and all kinds of chemical reactions exploded any rational thought.
My first kiss.
Her name was Tina. I was in the 8th grade and she the 7th. Tina was friends with some girls who lived next door and also went to my middle school. So when we first noticed each other in the hallways she found out from those neighbor girls that they lived next door. Tina started to spend a lot of time with those girls.
I sweetly remember that Friday after school when she came home with those neighbor girls. A knock on my door, girls on the front porch, an offer to go on a walk and soon after my understandings of the opposite sex took a giant leap forward!
Don’t misread me here.
I have never thought girls were icky or gross. Whatever it is about little boys that cause them to believe those horrendous lies, did not happen to me. I loved girls from the get go. I had a little girlfriend in Kindergarten named Cinnamon (yes I can remember her and yes that was her real name). We met when our class came together to watch Snow White. She sat down next to me and said hi. When her sweet little voice hit my ears, I was done.
From that moment forward I was in love with someone! I was the boy that always made sure my hair looked good, that my clothes were just right and that I had the right shoes for chasing girls around the playground. See, you can’t have just any shoes for that. If you wear the wrong kind, it could end disastrous for a little boy.
So when I started to grow up I noticed that the girls did too. Oh how I noticed!
But what I didn’t notice was the pressure that started to come with it. Going out or dating was a whole new world for me. Up until middle school going out meant seeing each other at recess and maybe playing together, sure there was the occasional note passing, but there was no real commitment! Middle school changed all of that—and FAST!
There was real pressure to be together and go to the dances together and buy presents and write notes/poems and to meet up at the mall and have your parents drive you to a movie and to hold hands and to kiss and eventually to do other things . . .
My dad had given me the sex talk during 6th grade so I was prepared for all of this, or so I thought. But when reality struck and there was an actual girl in front of me—nada. Zip, zero, zilch! I couldn’t think straight, much less remember what I should or shouldn’t do!
And then when 8th grade hit, everything started to ratchet up a level.
Other students were doing things together that I had only talked about or peeked at in a movie or magazine page. Other guys started talking about what this girl would or wouldn’t do and if you go out with this girl then you’ll definitely. . . I felt tremendous peer pressure to fit in.
And when I say tremendous, I honestly mean that. Let me be really open and honest with you.
I was scared. I was scared to do more than kiss. I was scared to death of the word sex. I was terrified of STD’s and pregnancy! What in the world would I do with a baby? Those things bounced around in my puberty-stricken mind and caused all kinds of anxiety.
What should I do here? How do I fit in and not do these things I was afraid of? I’ll tell you what I did. I came up with a brilliant plan! I lied. I “let it slip” that the summer before my freshman year (I told the lie during my 9th grade year) I had had sex with a girl that I met from St. Louis. And it worked!
A girl I had crushed on the entire year before (she never noticed me really) actually said that she saw me differently now! I had done it.
Except when I actually started dating girls they expected me to know what I was doing. Oh boy.
So what can a parent do to help their growing child navigate a world that now includes sexual pressures? Here are just a few thoughts.
Chances are that your son or daughter won’t come to you with everything they are thinking or doing. So you might have to be the one to initiate some conversations. And when you do, be honest. You don’t have to give graphic details of your past exploits but be honest.
When our daughter gets just a little older we will have a series of talks about our past. We’ll be open about our regrets and the things we wished we hadn’t done and we’ll also be honest about the things we did right.
We want her to know that she’s not alone in this and that we do understand the things she’s experiencing. We’ll let her know that she’ll experience them differently than we did simply because she’s a different person but that we did go through them none the less.
If you’re going to talk to your child about sex and sexual pressure you better be ready for it. You might get some answers or information that will blow your hinges! Do your best not to overreact. But please react. If they are talking they are look to you for guidance, so give it to them.
Do your best to do so without sounding judgmental or harsh. If it’s something you disapprove of then express that but do so with love. Confession on your child’s part is a good thing, not something to be punished. And once you have this new knowledge then adjust accordingly. It may be a bumpy road ahead but keep talking!
You may also have to be ready for the very real possibility of an STD. According to STLToday.com, “The city of St. Louis ranks second for chlamydia, third for gonorrhea and 20th for syphilis rates when compared to U.S. counties and independent cities, according to the city health department's analysis of the data.”
If your child persists in having multiple partners it’s not a question of if but when. And we as parents need to be ready for that.
Be ready to inform your child of these numbers ahead of time and be ready to deal with it after the fact.
If they have had sexual partners then you need to make sure that they get tested quickly and that any follow through steps need to happen just as quickly. Whether that’s medicinal or phones calls, it needs to happen ASAP. Make sure that you have your pediatrician’s phone number handy so that he or she can provide you with support and references if you need them.
The devastation of an STD is swift and furious. The feelings of life being over, of no one ever wanting me, of being all alone will run through your child’s mind. No matter what they say, those thoughts will run through their minds at some point.
Be ready to help them pick up the pieces and know that life isn’t over. They can pick up the pieces and live normal and healthy lives. The difference for them is that it’s going to be a new normal.
As their parents we must be ready for whatever comes.
I can’t stress this one enough. Whether your child comes to you or not, whether your child has an STD or pregnant or whether they come out, your response to them needs to be coated in love. You might be shocked, or disappointed, or unhappy or disapproving but they are still your child and you need to guide them in love.
If your student comes to you with something like this, typically they are going to be terrified of your response. They may have an entire speech prepared and rebuttals for everything you might say. But if you look at them, in what may be their darkest moment, and say “I love you”, I promise the rest of the conversation will be much better for it.
Remember that crazy plan I had? The one about spreading the rumor? It really did work. It worked until I met a girl that I really, really, really liked and it bothered her that I had had sex before. She looked at me like just another grubby-handed boy that would try to get in her pants. I wasn’t, but how would I let her know that without exposing my stupidity.
So I hatched another brilliant plan. I lied again. I came up with a crazy story about being drunk, blacking out, thinking I had had sex and not really having sex. There was even a forged letter involved (I know, I know…I couldn’t make this stuff up).
I was just another dumb teen boy trying to figure out sexuality and the pressures that came with it. If only I had talked to a couple of adults that might have helped me through it all but where would I have found some adults like that? Oh right, my parents.
Parents - be honest, be open and be ready! Oh, and don’t let your kids be stupid!