My mom found out I was having sex by reading my high school yearbook while I was out at a graduation party.
You’d think this scenario would have scarred me for life, but I barely even remember what happened next. I think there was a brief conversation, and then a trip to the OB-GYN to score some birth controls pills before I left for college.
Here’s the thing though: I had a serious boyfriend all through high school, and I’d already been having sex for a year at that point. I didn’t tell my parents about it because I would have rather stuck needles in my eyes than give them even the slightest clue that I wasn’t still a virgin. And so we used condoms. Most of the time.
This story scares the shit out of me now that I have my own daughter. One who is just two years shy of the above scenario. But that was 1986—the olden days! It’s 2015 now. And I’m a cool mom. My kid will come talk to me about birth control when she’s ready… right?
Probably not. According to CNN, a recent study done by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy revealed that 68 percent of teens agreed with the following statement: “The primary reason why teens don’t use birth control or protection is because they are afraid that their parents will find out.”
If you suck at converting percentages, that’s seven out of 10 teenagers who aren’t using protection because they’re afraid of what their parents will think.
And yes, we are now the parents in this scenario. Which means our kids are afraid of confiding in us. Weird, because we were just running around hiding stuff from our own parents like five minutes ago, weren’t we? To be honest, I’m 46 and I still don’t talk to my mom about sex.
But now it’s time to stop being polite and start getting real. Because as Bill Albert, chief program officer for The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, told CNN: “Teens consistently report that it’s their parents, not their peers, partners or pop culture, who most influence their decisions about sex, with birth control being a profound exception.”
Maybe it’s because parents say they want their kids to use birth control, but many of us don’t feel comfortable actually starting that conversation. “Because somehow that implies to many parents we’ve talked to that it’s almost like implicit, tacit approval,” Albert explained. “Like, ‘You want to have sex? You go right ahead. Just be protected. You’ll be fine.’ That’s not the view of most parents.”
We may still feel like kids ourselves, but it looks like we’re gonna have to grow up now and start talking to our kids about birth control. They are looking to us for guidance, and we are dropping the ball by not letting them know where we stand. And the sooner, the better. “I think the important point is that you don’t wait until they are 16 or 17 to start talking to them about sex, because that is almost always too late,” said Albert. “For kids on almost any topic, if they feel they can go to their parents…if their parents don’t sort of flip out on these conversations, that’s all for the good, for both parents and kids.”
If all else fails, there’s always the yearbook.