Category Archives: Parent-Teen Communication

Encouraged…and Encouragement

I am so encouraged today.

I let a friend of mine, who is a parent of a female teenager, read my dissertation. Privately, of course, since it has not yet been published. That my friend understood it clearly, found it readable…and more importantly, found it useful, SO encouraging and gratifying.

And that is the goal of this website and blog. I am not going to be putting my dissertation out there for casual reading. It will, of course, be published and available to people with access to academic libraries…but I want to ensure there is a resource that is less academic in nature AND that is fully available to the public. So my friend’s feedback is extremely encouraging!

Ah, a Happy Friday feeling.



Good morning!

Today, I’d like to talk more about communication. In my personal blog this morning, I shared my thoughts on Lisa Ling’s episode last night about the world of BDSM. I want to make clear that “alternative lifestyles” (and I use that phrase very loosely here, because I believe certain realms of sexuality go beyond “lifestyle choices” and really are more a way of being) are not a direct or even primary focus of this blog, or the project Weird Sex Ed seeks to complete. However, one very important aspect of what I detailed over in my personal blog is pertinent here in this space: Communication.

One thing I found in my research with parents of female teens is something I call the “Squick Factor.” After final publication of my dissertation, I will feel more comfortable directly quoting some of what is in the dissertation; for the time being, though, I will state that one really important subject that emerged across the various themes and sub-themes in my research was the matter of communication. More accurately…the lack of adequate communication.

A phrase that comes up repeatedly in conversations, particularly about children, tweens, and teenagers is “age appropriate.” Understand, too, that I am not in any way advocating that young children need to know more than what is age-appropriate for them…BUT…more often than not, when I hear the term used, what I’m hearing being said is nothing to do with what children need to know — and this is especially true when I hear it from parents with respect to teenagers (and most often, teenage daughters). What I’m really hearing when a lot of parents use that term is that they, the parents, are not ready for their child to know “something”…and especially if it’s about sex.

During the pilot study of my research, one of the questions I had was…when should we start communicating with our kids? When is “age appropriate”? And one of the funniest (yes, funniest) answers I was given was, “When they start asking questions.” The answer was so direct, and so simple, that it took me off-guard…and I started laughing. However, that answer also mirrored something that was said starkly in Kristin Luker’s book When Sex Goes to School: Warring Views on Sex–and Sex Education–Since the SixtiesLuker was very clear that she knew what she was suggesting would be controversial, and that it slapped both sides of the sex education debate. She said, “Since the debate about sex education gets its passion from deeply felt ideas about gender, and women’s roles in particular, why not tell young people that?

So my question today…my thoughts on communication…is why are parents so uncomfortable? From your perspective, as a reader here, why do you think parents have such difficulty addressing the subject of sex with kids frankly and without the “Squick Factor”?

An interesting and thought-provoking response

One of the more thought-provoking responses I received to the questions I posed in the previous entry was:

“I think this depends on how you define language. Language can always always be softened, diluted, or manipulated in any way to prove a point. I am not a linguist, but propaganda is ubiquitous throughout the human condition, thus any language is susceptible to manipulatory devices and plain talk.”

Interesting, and definitely holds excellent points. I wonder how much of our use of language (as we understand it as individuals) is connected on a larger scale through mass-media interference, religious interference, differences between how members of different generations communicate between each other and across generational divides?