When I made sexual choices in my past I wasn’t thinking that one day I would be in the position of telling my teenagers about those choices. My mother gave me the impression that she was perfectly chaste before marriage. After I was married, she told me she had not been as virginal as I was led to believe. It would have been helpful, when I was a teenager, to have her share her own choices. Knowing more going into the chaos of teenage libido might have helped me avoid some of the choices I made. But I didn’t think I could talk to her about my raging hormones because I thought she had been perfect in her abstinence.
It’s important to be honest with teenagers about your sexual history. I didn’t share with my teens all the details but I was honest about how lack of forethought, boundaries, and the arousal of the moment had led me to compromise my values. Kids need to go into dating with the understanding of their own bodies and to, hopefully, learn from our mistakes. Wisdom is key to knowing how to share these things with our teenagers. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind as you decide what to share with yours.
Weave your own truth into moments of teaching about sexuality. One way I did that was to get a copy of the sex education curriculum taught at school prior to them teaching it to my kids. I wanted to teach them first. Then, when they sat in class hearing the same thing from the teacher, they had already heard it interwoven with our family’s values. It made them feel comfortable to talk about sex and to ask questions. As they get older, and the curriculum advances, the questions got more mature. Honestly answer your kids’ questions and use any opportunity to also share how those choices affected you, both in the moment and in the long-term.
Don’t preach at them
Teenagers are smart. They can tell when parents are using information to get a point across. My story had to come from a place of emotional vulnerability. I shared the truth of my compromises to give them information on how sexual choices have long-lasting effects. Your story has to be shared as a gift, not as a manipulation to coerce them to behave.
Don’t give too many details
They don’t need to know what kind of sexual behavior you engaged in. They don’t really want to know either. Word things like this: “Making out in a car and the things it led to left me with shame and regret the next day. I wish I had valued my sexuality more by being clear-headed and in a marriage with someone who would always be there for me. I wouldn’t want you to have those regrets mixed in with something meant to be beautiful.”
Vulnerability is a powerful way to invite your teenagers to be vulnerable with you. Don’t be afraid that your past choices will give your kids permission to do likewise. Your honesty in how sexuality effects a person physically, emotionally, and spiritually is giving them a bigger picture to consider when they face their own choices.
Tell us! What would you feel comfortable sharing with your children about your past?