When it comes to speaking openly and honestly with your daughter about love, sex, and relationships, just how open and honest should you be sharing the poor decisions you made as a teen?
That question came up recently when a mom reached out to me seeking advice on how to start the conversation with her daughter.
Here’s the email she sent me…
I subscribe to your blog and am preparing to have “the talk” with my 15-year-old daughter. It will be our first discussion about sex and love, and I want to make sure I don’t mess up.
I have a question: Do I need to be transparent about my own experience?
I lost my virginity at 16 to my first boyfriend, and although I didn’t know it at the time, it turned out to be the single biggest mistake of my life. A few months later, I had an abortion. Those are the two biggest regrets of my life, and I think about that regret daily.
Five years later, when we were in college, I had another abortion, shortly afterwards we broke off our engagement. I obviously thought he was the one after a long on-again/off-again relationship.
Now, 30 years later, I still have tons of regrets about the decisions I made as a teen. So, I want to be proactive and positive with my daughter.
Would it be beneficial to tell my daughter my story? I want to convey how important this decision is but I don’t want to lose my credibility and her respect by giving her TMI [too much information]. I don’t want to do more damage by talking about my own stupid mistakes.
I’m also currently going through a divorce from her father.
My mother obviously never had “the talk” with me and my dad was never in my life.
Please help! I eagerly anticipate your thoughts!
Can you relate?
If so, clearly you’re not alone.
Which is why I thought it would be good to include my conversation with this mom in this week’s post.
Hopefully, my response to her below will help answer the question for you as well…
Thank you for subscribing to my blog and contacting me with such a great question!
I’m sure there are many other moms who share your concern.
I believe you can be proactive and positive with your daughter when having this conversation by sharing your regrets about your decision to have sex as a teenager.
BUT before you do, omit the details of the physical consequences you experienced for now.
And here’s why I don’t believe your daughter needs to know about the abortions, in particular, right now:
You mentioned this will be your first discussion about love and sex. I believe it’s a lot to ask your daughter to handle information that serious at her age when you’re not sure whether she can handle the information without judging you harshly.
I’m not saying that she never needs to know. I just think it’s a lot to spring on her in an initial conversation. Instead, I encourage you to focus more on the emotional consequences you experienced.
Why? Because they can be just as devastating as physical consequences, and parents often gloss over emotional consequences as if they don’t inflict lasting pain as well.
In addition to sharing the emotional consequences, I also suggest discussing things you may have been going through when you made those regretful decisions, that she can also relate to.
Feel free to share your answers to the following questions to help guide the conversation with your daughter:
- Why did you make the decision to have sex?
- Did you have low self-esteem?
- Did you know your worth?
- Did you feel obligated just because you were in a relationship?
- Did you feel pressured?
- Were you trying to fill a void?
- Did you get what you were expecting from the sex?
- What was the emotional impact of your choice?
You mentioned that your father wasn’t in your life. Did that influence your choice to have sex? If so, share that with her.
You also mentioned that you’re currently going through a divorce. I think it’s important to find out how your daughter is dealing with this new reality. Is her father actively engaged in her life currently? If not, does she feel abandoned? Does she have ‘daddy issues?’
If you believe your father’s absence influenced your decision to have sex, it would be helpful for your daughter to understand that the way you handled your ‘daddy issues’ wasn’t effective so she isn’t tempted to make the same choice in an effort to medicate her pain.
Bottom line: I’m a big proponent of teaching toward benefits instead of away from consequences when I speak to teens, and I think this approach would be best for you as well.
Even though your daughter needs to know about the potential consequences of having sex, I think you’ll be much more effective at steering her away from sex as a teenager by helping her understand her value, teaching her to love herself and helping her find her YES (the dream or goal that she wants so badly she won’t let anyone or anything keep her from getting it.)
I hope this is helpful and I’d love to hear how the conversation with your daughter went when you have it.
P.S. I am proud of this mom for reaching out to me to find out how much is too much info to share with her daughter about her past poor choices regarding love, sex, and relationships. She thanked me for my advice and looked forward to having an age-appropriate conversation with her daughter about SOME of her regrets. And I encourage you to do the same with yours.
P.P.S. If you know of any other moms who might find this advice helpful, please share it with them via social media.