My grandkids are 15 and 17 and they are starting to be sexually active. I am fearful that my granddaughter may become pregnant or that my grandson might become a father. My daughter is a single mom who had her oldest when she was a teenager and it was — and continues to be — very difficult for her. What can I do or say to my grandchildren to discourage them from having the same thing happen to them?
Most teenagers believe themselves to be invincible. It's virtually impossible for them to imagine something devastating or life-altering happening to them; in their minds, that sort of thing only happens to other people. Even with their mother as an example of how a teen pregnancy changed her life, chances are your grandkids are certain that it couldn't happen to them.
If you lecture your grandchildren, they'll dismiss what you have to say as irrelevant. They've already heard all the reasons why they shouldn't be sexually active. So you don't want to approach them in a way that makes them assume that you're telling them something old-fashioned.
Instead of figuring out what you should say about their sexual activity, think about having a dialogue with your grandkids so they'll be receptive to your advice.
Most of us are resistant when someone offers unsolicited advice or judgments. If you start right in with phrases like, "I don't think it's a good idea for you to be having sex," or "You're running the risk of getting 'into trouble' just like your mother did," it's more than likely that they won't listen to you.
If, on the other hand, you begin the conversation by letting them tell you about things going on in their lives, and listening respectfully, they will be less resistant. Ask them about girlfriends and boyfriends — without frowning or making negative comments. If you can manage your reactions and listen with an open mind, they'll be more willing to consider your input.
For thousands of years, humans have learned important lessons through stories and fables. Whether they were tales that tribal elders shared around the fire or the timeless parables in the Bible, we learn more by hearing how an individual dealt with personal challenges than from 'I'm-warning-you' lectures.
After listening to your grandkids talk about their lives, ask them if they would be willing to listen to a story you'd like to share. If they say yes — which is likely if you've listened to them — tell them about their mother's pregnancy in a way that helps them understand how sure she was that she wouldn't become pregnant. (If their mother's story is too close to home, tell someone else's story.)
Make sure the story is replete with the longing to be pursued, desired, or admired by the opposite sex. Reveal the conflict about being pressured to "prove" true love. Gently explain the feelings of remorse that often come after a young person chooses to be sexually active. And of course, mention how an unwanted pregnancy or deadly sexuallty-transmitted disease will alter someone's life forever.
Show your grandchildren that you understand the very real pressures and pulls that have influenced them to become sexually active. Acknowledge the struggle they must feel when they're drawn to someone, yet unsure of whether or not they should engage sexually with that person. Allow them to tell you how difficult it is to say "No" these days. And if they insist on being sexually active, provide them with information on safe sex.
Most of all, continue to let them know how special they are and what an amazing life awaits them down the road if they make good choices today. I hope they will take your advice to heart, and make decisions that reflect the guidance you have shared. Give them time, and meanwhile, keep loving them.
Read what to do if your teen granddaughter is pregnant.
How well do you get along with your grandchild and other family members? Want to know if your personalities mesh?Find out here.