Talking to Your Grandparents About Sex
My grandmother’s advice about sex began and ended with “DON’T DO IT!” Fortunately, my mother was a little more receptive to the conversation. But what do you do when your grandmother (or grandfather) are the ONLY options you might have?
The reality is, your grandparents have information that you need, but starting the conversation can feel a little embarrassing. After all, they see you as their grandbaby, not a sexual being who is growing up and trying to make the best decisions for herself. It may make them uncomfortable because the conversation was uncomfortable for them back when they were your age. A lot of older people didn’t have “the talk” with their parents because BACK THEN it was so controversial and uncomfortable.
Time has NOT made it easier for some people to talk about sex.
But that doesn’t mean we should avoid the issue altogether.
So how do you start the conversation?
This is the hardest part, because it’s how you get started. If your grandparent has not yet initiated a talk about dating and sex with you, you may have to do the heavy lifting and bring it up. Pick a time when you know your grandparent is most relaxed and the least distracted. Pick a time when they are at home, not worrying about work or dealing with other issues, and tell them that you’d like to talk to them about something important. Make sure you have your grandparent’s full attention and simply tell them you want to ask them some questions about dating and growing up. That you love them and you really need their advice.
Write it Out
If the prospect of approaching your grandparent cold turkey is too scary to you, or you’re afraid of how you (or they) will react, write down what you are feeling in a letter. Explain the situation clearly and ask the questions you need answers to. Give solid reasons why you need this advice (“I want to know what it’s like to be in love,” “I need to understand my own body and how it works,” “How do I know when it’s OK to have sex?” etc.). By writing things out, you can best craft your questions and concerns, and give your grandparent time to read and process everything. Then, when you’re both ready, you can reach out to discuss things. It is likely they will be less emotional because they’ve had more time to think about it. Ideally, they’ll be more receptive to telling you what you need to know.
Keep Your Cool
After you open with your honest appeal to talk, you must be prepared for any possible initial awkwardness. Don’t get frustrated if they seem upset or overreact. Depending on how they feel about having this conversation with you, they may be even more nervous than you are! But stay calm and clear in what you want to talk to them about. Your grandparent loves you and wants the best for you. They would rather you come to them with these issues than learn them from strangers. If they’re surprised, both of you work through the initial shock together.
Don’t Avoid the Questions
Your grandparent may ask you why you are bringing this up, or if something has happened. Again, be honest. If you have a boyfriend and you’re thinking about sex, or if you’re already having sex and you have questions about protection, let them know. You don’t have to go into a lot of detail; that’s not necessary. But if they’re going to help you, they must know what you need help with. No matter how they react, try to stay calm and listen.
Prepare for the Worst, Hope for the Best
In most cases, your grandparent will respond positively, even if it takes them a few minutes to wrap their head around the conversation. They care about your wellbeing and want you to make the right decisions for yourself. But talking to them about dating may open another conversation where your grandparent may want to set different rules or boundaries for you. They may become scared about you getting pregnant and want to create stricter rules. Don’t freak out or yell. Again, your grandparent is only reacting this way because they love you and they are scared that you may do something that could hurt you. Remind them that you need their continued love and support if you’re going to be able to make good decisions for yourself and encourage them to be clear why they feel the rules suddenly need to change. What are their expectations?
Remember: Grandparents are People, Too
Don’t assume anything about your grandparents. Just as they have, at times, an idealistic, childish view of you, you may have a pretty stodgy view of them. I know I couldn’t imagine my grandparents “dating.” Weren’t they just born old and married? No, they were not. They once had to deal with hormones and acne and school and being attracted to people and all that stuff. Just like you want your grandparent to have an open mind about you, have an open mind about them. See them as an individual whose life experience has value.
They know more than you think!