Columnist

Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski is the founder and director of the Washington Health System Teen Outreach. She responds to 6–8 questions from young people daily and has written 'Ask Mary Jo' since 2005.

Q. This is all your fault!

My parents made me go to that class you teach about growing up. I was 10. The class was OK. I thought they were over it. But now they want to talk with me about sex!

They dragged out your book.

They want to talk about it all the time! They are so annoying! The worst thing is that they think I’m going to have sex. It’s like they’re sure I’m on my way to doom. I told them I’m 12 and I’m not having sex any time soon.

Will you please tell them to let up on me? Also please tell them to stop assuming stuff about me.

I know some people my age who do stuff. I don’t do any stuff like that. I’m sick of hearing about rumors they hear about other kids. This kid they heard about is pregnant! This other kid they know got involved with someone who led them to drugs! I think this is because I’m an only. I wish I had a brother or sister they could think about. They need to trust that I’ve learned what they’ve taught me, right?

12-year-old

Mary Jo’s response: Your parents sound like people who care about you enough to annoy you! I loved your words. It may seem odd, but I wish more parents were as annoying as yours! Adults can guide young people as they grow. Right now, yours need to relax a bit. Yes, they do need to trust your ability to follow their guidance.

It’s frustrating to be judged by other young people’s choices. Your parents sound like the kind of people who would worry about you even if you had siblings.

Better communication nearly always helps with relationships. Your unease began when your parents tried to talk about the class you attended with me two years ago.

I believe they mean well. They worry about you.

Try to see this from their eyes. I think your parents are frightened. Their love for you is intense. Protecting you is their main goal. They get caught up in “what ifs” – what if my kid makes poor choices and pays for them with life-long consequences?

If you are as honest with your parents as you are with me, you’ll be able to share your feelings. Your concern is deeper than sex. You are questioning your parents ability to trust you. Trust is hard to earn if lost. It doesn’t seem as if you did anything to violate their trust. Talk about this with your parents. Tell them you’re listening to them. Remind them you are not the same as the young people in their stories.

Let your behavior speak. Show them you’ve learned from them and you’re making good choices. Your actions speak louder than words. The more your behavior shows you’re doing the right thing, the more they will trust you.

These hints are for your parents. Please share them.

1. Your young person is unique. Try not to judge based on rumors you hear about other teens. Most 12-year-olds are not having sex.

2. Listen to hear. A conversation with your young person is much better than a lecture.

3. Respect your young person. If trust has not been violated, try to relax.

4. “What ifs” will make connection difficult. Take life one day at a time, without projecting scenarios for the future.

5. Avoid nagging. Give your young person a chance to make smart choices.

Peer Educator Response: Thinking about sex is normal. Twelve is young to get sexually involved, though. It’s hard, but if you stay open with your parents, they’ll be able to help you when you’re older. Why not give them a chance?

Have a question? Send it to Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski’s email podmj@healthyteens.com.

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