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Son Won't Listen to Sex Advice
Q: Our 13-year-old son has matured sooner than a lot of his friends. He hangs around with kids a year older than himself. We have no problem with that; they're good kids. But the problem is that he never wants to listen when we approach the subject of sex. He states he knows what he needs to know, and won't communicate on the subject at all. He argues, interrupts, and is angry all the time. I keep reading about adolescents, and I understand this is all normal, but we have no way to deal with him, without making him angry. Do we need counseling ?
A: Welcome to the world of the POA (parent of an adolescent)! Your experience is the norm. Probably the last thing your son wants to talk about with his parents is sex. My guess is that he sees your attempts at discussion as attempts to lecture him on disease and morality. He wants to let you know, in no uncertain terms, that a young man of his considerable years knows everything he has to about sex.
Although this is perhaps the most difficult topic for both parents and kids to talk to each other about, you do have a responsibility to let him know your values connected with sex/sexuality and to provide him with accurate information about disease prevention and birth control. Having "major event" discussions about these subjects is not the route to take. You can take advantage of natural opportunities (newspaper stories, TV and movie content, anecdotes, etc.) to let him know your thoughts, feelings and values regarding sexual matters; these comments can be brief and not condescending. He will come to know the information he needs and your values concerning sex, in spite of himself. You see he is duty-bound to play the role of the independent, aloof teenager, whether or not he's comfortable or not with this role.
He's at an age and stage of hormonal explosion and confusion as to what to do with all these powerful sexual feelings. His anger towards you is in direct proportion to the intensity of that explosion and confusion. Try my less confrontative but active approach in this area; show rather than preach how your family embraces sexuality as a healthy part of being human. And fully expect to be told to get off his case. If all that takes place then you and he are doing the best you can in this thorny but very important developmental area.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.