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The awkward necessity of talking with teens about sex

This painting was one of many images in a book I made last year focused on helping teens deal with, understand, and heal from early childhood trauma.

It is about a girl on the cusp of becoming herself, still awkward and unsure in her own skin, but beginning to feel the promise of her future. Her gaze isn’t shy or confrontational. It’s calm and intelligent, hinting at the kind of beauty that only grows with time and a sharp mind. And though we cannot see her wings within her, we know they are there - growing stronger as she does - ready to unfurl.

Unlike the girl seated in this painting, I did not experience adolescence with any modicum of grace. Instead, every cell of my body was in an endless raging battle with self. Like many teens I was miserable, confused, and made choices with lasting negative consequences that reflected my deep insecurities and intrinsic lack of value. Though my mother did the best she could, she did not discuss the reproductive system, menstruation, or hormones --let alone sex or FEELings with me! Wishing to be closer to my mother, I once broached the topic of sex during an afternoon walk. She curtly informed me that it was “none of my business”, and that was the end of that. Looking back, I understand that she misunderstood me- thinking I was curious about her sexual self (Eww - Gross!), when really I was trying to ask about my own.

As parents we have an obligation to speak openly and honestly with our children about their developing sexuality and the appropriate boundaries and consent issues that accompany natural development. When we avoid discussions because of our own discomfort or uncertainty (while understandable) we put our kids and others at risk for far greater things than embarrassment. This painting is the embodiment of who any young girl could be given the support and love that all children need and deserve.


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