Roe McDermott

‘ Should I give my teenage son con­doms even though I don’t want him to have sex?’

The Irish Times Magazine - - NEWS - ROE McDERMOTT

Dear Roe, my son is 16 and he has a girl­friend the same age. They spend quite a lot of time to­gether but her par­ents seem to work very late and I’m get­ting wor­ried about them be­ing alone to­gether so of­ten. I’m wor­ried that they’ll be­gin hav­ing sex, which I’m not happy about any­way, but I also don’t know if they have access to con­doms. Should I give my son con­doms? I don’t want him to think I’m con­don­ing them hav­ing sex. You’re right in sus­pect­ing your son will have sex whether you want him to or not, and so I be­lieve mak­ing con­doms avail­able to him is a good idea.

How­ever, I feel there’s a big­ger is­sue here. Your worry about what mes­sage giv­ing or not giv­ing him con­doms con­veys in­di­cates you’re us­ing this one ac­tion to com­mu­ni­cate a lot about your at­ti­tude to­wards sex­u­al­ity and sex­ual health, and what you want his at­ti­tude to be to­wards sex­u­al­ity and sex­ual health – and frankly, con­doms don’t have enough room to hold all that re­spon­si­bil­ity. They have their own job to do.

Teach­ing your chil­dren about sex is like teach­ing them about lit­er­ally any­thing else; it’s not one les­son or one sex- ed­u­ca­tion class or one ‘ The Talk.’ It’s a con­stant and com­plex con­ver­sa­tion, one that will evolve with your child’s age, ma­tu­rity, un­der­stand­ing, ex­pe­ri­ence – and ques­tions. Be­cause they will have ques­tions, do have ques­tions. Your job is to make sure they feel com­fort­able ask­ing them, and to an­swer them when you can, and pro­vide them with the sup­port and tools needed to find those an­swers to­gether when you don’t.

Pre­par­ing for his ques­tions will also make you look deeper at your own con­cerns. You’re scared that their alone- time will re­sult in them hav­ing sex – and why is this is bad thing in your mind, specif­i­cally? In Ire­land, the av­er­age age that boys have sex for the first time is 17, so your son is not act­ing in an un­prece­dented man­ner. Your idea of pro­vid­ing him with con­doms in­di­cates you are soundly and jus­ti­fi­ably con­cerned about un­wanted preg­nancy and STIs – but what else? Do you feel like your son’s re­la­tion­ship is a healthy and re­spect­ful one? Are you sure he and his girl­friend both fully un­der­stand the na­ture of con­sent and how to en­act it? Do you think sex to­gether would be some­thing that would pos­i­tively im­pact them as in­di­vid­u­als and as a cou­ple? What do you think they both need to un­der­stand for sex to be some­thing em­pow­er­ing for both of them?

An­swer­ing these ques­tions will make you think deeply about what in­for­ma­tion and in­sight about sex you think is im­por­tant for your son to know, nec­es­sar­ily rid­ding you of the urge to sim­plify your mes­sage down to “Do have sex” or “Don’t have sex”. More im­por­tantly, shar­ing these con­cerns with your son in a con­ver­sa­tion will also rid him of any no­tion that his de­ci­sions about sex are sim­ple, in­stead of choices that should be made with care and con­sid­er­a­tion.

I don’t think many par­ents are com­fort­able with the thought of their chil­dren hav­ing sex, at any age. But I also don’t think any­one whose par­ents sim­ply told them, “Don’t have sex” learned any­thing from it. You can re­main slightly un­com­fort­able with the idea that your son is hav­ing sex, but make sure you’re com­fort­able know­ing you’ve done your best to make sure the sex he does even­tu­ally have is safe, em­pow­er­ing and in­formed. If you have a ques­tion for Roe, email mag­a­zine@ irish­times. com with “Dear Roe” in the sub­ject line. Names will not be pub­lished.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.