The “S” Word


Growing up, the word “sex” seemed taboo; my friends and I (should we ever talk about sex in any way) would just refer to it as either “the s-word” OR spell it out; somehow or another, that made it even scarier. I’m not entirely sure when I actually realized what sex was and what it entailed, but I certainly know I had an idea about it in my head that was entirely untrue. I vaguely remember talking about private things with my mom, but rather than actually talking about sex, I think it was more of a conversation about periods and tampons…and I was mortified. When I started my period, rather than telling her about it to her face, I wrote her a letter. It wast something that we talked about…ever…so why would I suddenly talk about it with her now? Even as an adult, several years ago, she made a comment that chocolate she was eating was better than sex. WHAT?! We’re going to talk about this? Nope. On the other end of things, I work with someone who said when she was young, her father showed her photos of different sexually transmitted infections and (in so many words) made her believe that if she had sex with anyone, she was bound to get an infection that would rot her insides. I’m exaggerating, but she’s in her mid-twenties now and still remembers that talk (and those photos) and it has definitely left her anxious about all things sex-related.

But why?  Why is sex SO taboo?  Why don’t we talk about it?  ESPECIALLY to our teens?  I’m not advocating for broadcasting the intimate details of what anyone does behind closed doors or to have sex with anyone & everyone–rather, I’m advocating for making it okay and normal to talk about sex and ask questions–no matter how old you are.  

Sex and various forms of intimacy surround us constantly.  Not that anyone needs proof of that, but here are some lyrics of songs that I either listened to or knew of when I was growing up:

  • “Let’s make love, all night long.  Until all our strength is gone” I actually called a radio station and requested this song.  I was a HUGE Tim McGraw fan and was mortified when the radio DJ asked how old I was to be requesting a song like that–I felt like I had done something wrong, but didn’t quite know why.  
  • “If you wanna be with me, baby there’s a price to pay.  I’m a genie in a bottle, you gotta rub me the right way”  This was Christina Aguilera’s first big hit, and I definitely remember singing along to this with multiple friends any (and every) time it came on.   
  • “If you’re horny, let’s do it.  Ride it, my pony.  My saddle’s waiting, come and jump on it”  I admit I was in my 20s when I realized exactly what the words to that song actually said, but I’ll be the first to admit that I used to listen to this on the radio!

That’s just the first couple of songs that come to mind…and that’s what I grew up with–let alone the songs (that seem to be getting more & more explicit) that are played on the radio now.  I could go on and on, but I’ll leave it at that.  Sex is also always in our faces in other capacities: advertising, social media, movies, TV shows…everywhere.  Knowing that sex exists, it’s a thing, and based on what we learn about it from things like: music, movies, and TV, it seems pretty cool…but teenagers don’t really know what it means or what it entails; which, quite frankly, leads me to the reason for writing about this in the first place .   

I had someone, a teenager, casually tell me she was raped.  The details of how the conversation and the event that happened that lead her to believe that was the case do not matter.  What does matter, though, is that (fortunately) this person was not raped.  Rather–a complete lack of knowledge about sex (after a sexual encounter with someone) left her confused and believing she was raped.  So what can be done to make sure situations like this are fewer & farther between?  We can talk about it.  

What Does Talking About Sex Look Like?  

Anything that’s age appropriate!  Regardless of the age that someone is, though, they need to know that consent is always mandatory…no if’s, and’s, or but’s.  If there is not consent, then whatever is happening should not happen.  People should feel empowered to know they can say “no” and that they should never have to do anything they don’t want to.  People have control over their own bodies and what they do or do not want to do to them.

Sex Is Not Going Anywhere.  

With sex being thrown in our faces all the time, people (especially teenagers) may get the idea that that they need to (or should) have sex.  In a young person’s eyes, sex may be synonymous with love–or even worse, people may believe that they need to have sex in order to stay in a relationship.  If you’re reading that and thinking “Oh, that’s ridiculous…why would someone believe that?”…keep in mind that sometimes young people (especially teenagers) get their information from: marketing, the media, and peers at school.  So if we aren’t telling them otherwise…how else are they going to know these things?  There is not a race to have sex–although some movies may tell us otherwise.  It’s important that people know they will have the ability to have sex when they’re in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and so on.  And with that being the case–why rush into things now?  And more importantly–nobody should feel pressured to have sex with someone out of love or to get someone to stay with them.  

Don’t Shame Your Children or Teens For Asking Questions.   

Someone I knew recently described children as “little scientists” who are curious and want to learn and know about things.  So if they ask questions–answer them.  Same with your teenagers!  As questions are asked–don’t go on an abstinence-only rant or pretend the conversation never happened.  Think of any time you were told specifically not to do something or act a certain way–while I can’t speak for everyone–anytime those words were told to me, it made me want to do it JUST to see why I couldn’t.  Keep that in mind when you’re thinking of having conversations about sex with your children.  Be open and honest and be appreciative that the conversation is happening–whether it was initiated by you or your child and help empower them to make appropriate decisions for themselves and their body.  

By: Julie Burke, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Susan Gonzales, LPC-S, LMFT

3 Ways to Help Get More Communication from Your Teen

Part 2: Make the Car a “Safe Zone”

By: Lora Ferguson, LPC-S, CPDT

One of the biggest no-no’s that parents are regularly committing is making the car a place where they connect with their teen.  Your kiddos rely on you for regular transportation, and in the car, there is nowhere to hide! The car is the perfect place to talk, right?

Imagine your teen’s perspective: she’s been “on” all day at school, learning, working, and socializing.  She had to remember her homework in Algebra, her project from Spanish, and her orchestra instrument.  She took a test in Language Arts and a quiz in World Geography.  Her best friend cried at lunch because her boyfriend was being distant, her friend group had some drama about a SnapChat post gone wrong, and her favorite teacher is out for the rest of the year because her mom is sick. Her head and heart are full from an exhausting day.   She gets in the car at the end of the day and shuts the door, ready to relax. Finally, no one is needing her or asking her to do anything.  

Instead, there you are, eager to talk – “How was your day?” “Did you do well on your quiz?” “Is Sarah still mad at Craig?” “Did you remember your project?”  You may have been thinking about her all day and wondering how she is doing, so when you see her, it feels natural to want to check in about all of these things, to show her you care, and to connect.  

However, it is critical that you give her the time and space she needs to decompress first, and that is different for every teen.  Most of them need at least a few minutes to stare out the window or listen to their music, and many of them need much more than that.  Notice their body language and cues – do they seem eager to talk right now? If not, respect their boundary and wait.  Nothing is worse than feeling cornered, even if you have the best intentions.  

And if you do have something import you need to confront your teen about, say their lack of studying in the evenings or refusal to follow your rule of no food in bedrooms, ask them when a good time would be to talk.  Find them at a neutral time at home, such as after dinner or during breakfast, and say “Hey- I want to check in with you about studying.  Would tonight or tomorrow night be better for you? What time?” Give them choices and some power to say what works for them.  Just because the issue feels urgent to you doesn’t mean it actually IS urgent.  Take a few deep breaths and seek cooperation and connection with your teen, not conflict and control.  

For more insight, consider signing up for our Positive Discipline Workshop for parents of teens and tweens!  Click HERE for more info. To read part 1: Why Won’t My Teen Talk to Me?, click HERE.

6 Communication Strategies You Need to Know for Your ADHD Child

There are several learning curves to raising a child. Let alone one with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). At times, it can feel frustrating, overwhelming, and confusing, but it can also feel rewarding, successful, and loving. In my experience working with children and parents, communication seems to be an especially challenging area. Here are some questions to consider to help increase satisfaction and connection in communicating with your child.

How Do You Know They Are Listening?

Listen and learn from your child to see how your child acts when he or she is listening. Although most people use consistent eye-contact to relay listening, this may not be possible for your kid with ADHD. He or she may not be able to maintain eye contact with you and may fidget during a conversation. This does not mean the child is not listening, but likely that he or she listens differently. Maybe ask your child, “how can I know you are listening?”, “how can you show me you are listening?”, or “what can I do to help you listen?”. Employing your child to help will encourage him or her to find coping strategies on their own, and will allow you and your child to problem solve together when challenges come up. This could mean providing your kids with a “tool” to use when listening – like a ball to squeeze or toss.

How Do They Need Directions?

It can be difficult to give simple, step-by-step directions when we are in a rush or trying to get something accomplished quickly. Although it feels counter-intuitive, it is important to provide simple, direct directions to our children with ADHD in order to be most effective. Try to give only one or two steps at a time. This will help your child accomplish the tasks without getting too overwhelmed, and will provide better results for yourself in the end.

Can You Get Creative?

Every child is completely unique and often require different strategies from one another. However, we also know that children with ADHD respond very well to visual aids. Many children with ADHD struggle with routines because of all the information to remember. Take bedtime for example. They may need to take a bath, brush their hair, brush their teeth, put on their pajamas, read a story, etc. This is hard to do when there are siblings playing, parents completing their own tasks, spiraling thoughts, and many, many other distractions. For many ADHD kids, having images to refer to can help. Create a printout with simple images illustrating the necessary bedtime tasks like teeth brushing, a bathtub, PJs, and whatever else is on their routine list. Put them in order and place the list somewhere that is easy for them to see, like the fridge or their bedroom door. When they get off track, ask them what picture is next on their list or have them pick which task from the list they would like to complete now. This is just one example of a creative method to encouraging children with ADHD to remain on task, create focus, and help prevent you from feeling frustrated.

What Choices Can You Give Them?

Children can not always have the final decision on when to go to bed or go to school. But you can encourage them to play a part in it. Ask them what clothes they want to wear or where they would like to sit in the car? It can be small, but giving them these choices help them focus on one task at a time, and feel heard and invested in.

What Part Do You Play In The Situations?

We always need to look within and see how we impact the frustrating situations. One of the biggest complaints for parents is loosing their temper or control. Children sense this and often respond strongly. It is important to stay calm and speak softly. This will help prevent stimulating the ADHD child so they can remain calm also. If they react strongly, step away and begin something calmly and quietly that they will want to participate in. This will help show them how to regulate in a healthy manner, and give you time to breath and calm as well.

Can You Help Set Your Child Up To Succeed?

You may be the parent, but children still have a need to understand. Let the child know your expectations before an event or experience. Remember to keep it simple and easy to understand, maybe bring a ball or toy they can hold on to, or ask them what they need in order to follow your directions.

Parenting an ADHD child can be challenging, but it can be easily managed when we learn to be creative and listen to our child’s needs. Be kind to yourself and your child. You are both learning. If you make a mistake, go back and make amends. Show your child what it means to follow up, and adjust when something has not been done correctly. Reward the positive behavior- yours and theirs. If you get overwhelmed, seek out a parenting or support group. Maybe find a counselor for yourself or your child. You are not in this alone!

Austin Therapist Grace Shook, LPC-Intern

By: Grace Shook, LPC-Intern
Supervised By: Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

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