Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Advice from a Former Teen Mom...

On August, 16, 1994 my life changed forever.

As any Senior in high school, the excitement of the coming year was upon me. What would happen this year? Would I go to prom, would I graduate top of my class, would I get accepted to my first choice in colleges? That stuff was on the mind of most Seniors, but on August 16, 1994 at 6:36pm, all that was on my mind was "How am I going to take care of my new baby boy?" and "Will his father stay with me through thick and thin?"
My life has been whirl wind of emotions, lea
rning experiences and change of plans. I did graduate in the top 20% of my class and I did get accepted to my first choice in colleges, and I worked my tail off to do it. I married that wonderful man from 18 years ago and with that, my husband chose to join the Marine Corps to make a better life for our family. I had to drop out of college to travel with my husband around the world. I have loved every minute of our life, and am happy to say we added a daughter and another son to our family through our travels. The little baby boy that changed my life is now 18 and a high school senior himself, our daughter is almost 15 and our youngest son is 13.

Many parents now-a-days do not talk to their kids about sex, babies and life in general. We have been a VERY open family when it comes to these talks. I have talked to my kids about what has happened in my life and while I wouldn't change any of it, there are things I would have done differently. For instance, they know I wish I would have finished college and gotten a degree in education like I had wanted.

As the mother of three, yes, three teenagers, I have had a lot to learn and am still learning. I am not perfect, but I am very proud in how my kids have started to grow into wonderful young adults. We talk about everything in their lives. My kids always know they can talk to me about anything and everything, and they have never felt awkward in doing so. Some things I do not want to hear, but I know I need to listen and be open to what they are going through because, we are all learning. We talk about sex and abstinence often and my daughter informs me daily that she will be making different choices than I did. She wants a different kind of life, as she puts it. My oldest son pretty much feels the same and as he gets ready to go to college, I can only hope that the many talks we have had will be put into effect and I will be the little voice in his head reminding him to make good decisions.

I have taught my kids to think for themselves and never conform to what others think they should be or how they should act. They think for themselves and make their own decisions-and they make some great ones, I am proud to say. But as a teen mom, I am always wary- I do not want them to take the road I took.

Other parents wonder what I did to get my kids to open up to me. It is so simple that you will not believe it-Just talk WITH your kids. You have to get down to their level and leave the lecturing “mom/dad speeches” behind. Be sure to listen to them. The more you talk with your kids, the more they will open up on their own.

My kids come to me every day after school and tell me everything that happened. It might take an hour to get through the talk, but they know I will sit and LISTEN. Are there days where I may not have a lot of time to listen, sure. We all work and are tired and just want to drink a cup of coffee and watch that show on the DVR. However, if you act like you don't care, or don't have the time, teens will pick up on that and stay in their rooms. So, we might talk while I cook dinner or while I fold clothes, but if they are willing to let you in to their lives, isn’t that what we are asking for-them to share their lives?

I have often wondered what I did to get three great kids. I still don't really know, but I think that the fact I have always treated my kids with a level of respect might have helped. Talking to your kids is a start. Let them roll their eyes at first, but the more you talk to them, the more you open up, the more they will as well. It takes time-I should know, I‘ve been doing it for 18 years.

By Karleen Spires, Guest Blogger, Let's Talk Month, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mommy, look! My spider has a penis!!

Yes, those were the words of excitement coming from my beaming 3 year old as he showed me his artwork one Saturday morning!

With so many new moms in our office, we often talk about where our young ones are developmentally.  We talk about crawling, walking, and potty training.  But even more importantly, we talk about practicing what we preach when it comes to providing age-appropriate, medically accurate information about sexual health and anatomy to kids. 

In particular, I remember explaining that I had a difficult time keeping my husband from reverting to the old familiar concept of giving reproductive organs “nicknames.”  When our son was 2, my husband was intent on allowing Landen to call his penis “Willie”  I had to quickly jump in and make sure we were both consistent about teaching Landen the proper term.  Finally, Landen was ready to potty and proudly announced to us that he had a “penis named ‘Willie!’” 

Whatever nervousness my husband had is gone and we are proud that our toddler is responding and learning about his body as well as the alphabet, numbers, colors, etc.  When he came running to me with the spider picture that faithful Saturday, he pointed out the spider’s eyes, legs, head, and, yes, his PENIS.  We will get to the correct anatomies of ALL animals and insects soon – it’s one step at a time! 

My husband and I are just beginning this journey but now I know that we can be honest, open, and give accurate information to our child without hesitation.  We will continue using teachable moments to share our values and give advice, especially as he gets older and is exposed to more sexualized information in the media and at school.  We will welcome questions and try to answer as best possible. 

We are not perfect and will admit when we are not sure but always look for appropriate answers.  I truly believe that well-informed, confident boys AND girls have the strongest foundation for making healthy decisions, not just about sex, but about many of life’s challenges.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Never too late to talk!

It’s interesting to think about keeping the lines of communication open with my daughters who are now young adults. But, every day reminds me that as parents we have lots to continue dialoguing about with our children. The content is just different.

I’m so blessed to have a wonderful relationship with my daughters. We talk about career goals and what they want to accomplish, our involvement in ministry, challenging relationships – whether they are friendships, with colleagues, or with people at church - and how we can handle them. We discuss mistakes we’ve made and the lessons learned. We also discuss standards of cleanliness – and as you can guess, ours do not match! Nevertheless, there are countless things to discuss.
We are also uniquely positioned as three single women living together and navigating a world of issues that impact us. It is not uncommon for us to discuss everything from simply being confident in who we were uniquely created to be to healthy friendships to dating to one day bringing me some son-in-laws and grandbabies to preparing for our future in case we end up old spinsters.  Yes, we run the gamut! As a single woman, I get to not only talk with my daughters about relationships; I also get to model the single lifestyle as a woman of strong faith. It is interesting – and sometimes just downright hilarious – to see our differences. I am very much old school so there are certain topics I won’t even consider discussing with a man! On the other hand, it’s very interesting to see my daughters’ comfort level with talking about almost anything with their male friends. And, they actually try to give me relationship advice – go figure!

This incredible journey that we’re on together provides a fascinating opportunity to talk and learn across generations. We have many courageous conversations and we don’t always see eye to eye. They will, however, always know what I think. And, I will always reaffirm our family values. At the same time, I recognize that I must step back and allow them to be the secure, confident, thoughtful young women I reared them to be. I believe that they will make good decisions about every aspect of their lives – relationships, love, career and life in general.

I’m learning a LOT from them (some of which I will NEVER embrace) but  I also believe that they are learning from me – as we embrace relationships, love and our beautiful gift of sexuality in a respectful way that’s based on our values. 

by Gwen Baker

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Timing is Everything...

My family made our first trip to Disney World in June.  This, of course, is a significant event in any family’s history and, given that my daughters were 10 and 9 at the time of the visit, made it even more special since they would actually remember their “Magical” Disney adventure.   

Little did we know how “Magical” this trip would be for my eldest daughter.  During our visit to Epcot, I patiently waited for my wife and 10 year old daughter to return to “Mexico” after an unusually long bathroom break.   Upon returning Claire informs me that our daughter, two weeks shy of her 11th birthday, had her first period. What a stunner- I was not ready for that news.  

I thought I had more time to prepare- at least another year or more.  Maybe it was all of the antibiotic laced milk she drank as a baby, or the chemical filled Chic-fil-a chickin’ minis that she consumed - that can’t be good for a developing body.  Regardless, it was here and now I felt a responsibility to have a conversation with her, one that we had never had.  

I of course did not speak a word of her period to her during the trip, nor have I since then.  After returning from the SC Campaign’s Annual Summer Institute, and hearing from Girlology creator, Dr. Melisa Holmes, I felt somewhat empowered with new information on how to start the conversation with my daughter.   

My first attempt was not met with the enthusiasm I expected.  I tried to start the talk with my daughter at breakfast one morning-not the best time for a sleep deprived pre-teen.  She, in return, ate her bowl of cereal so quickly to get up from the table that I became less worried about “the Talk” and more worried about her choking. 

I was discouraged that I, as a professional in this field, couldn’t start a “simple talk” with my daughter about love, sex and relationships, but that’s when I realized, this isn’t a simple talk.  This isn’t a time for me to lecture my daughter, or a time to instruct her, but a time to listen to her, answer her questions, and share with her our expectations and beliefs for her.  That means she has to be comfortable with it too.

Things haven’t gotten much easier, and I sometimes wonder if my daughter has a second sense about these “Talks” and goes out of her way to avoid them, but I am still trying.  I am still open to my daughter and prepared to answer her questions honestly and accurately.  So when she does decide that she needs to have a “talk” like the ones I have been trying to have with her, I’ll be ready, every time.

by:  Doug Taylor, Chief Programming Officer, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Why THIS is meant for ADULTS!

You may remember the Rex Mobile that my husband Jim Rex had wrapped for two political races, with his picture on it like a traveling billboard. Well once the election was over, the truck became a farm truck again, until this summer when Jim and I put the camper back on top and drove it across the country to meet up with our four married children and our six grandchildren in Seattle. Two of our children live in South Carolina, one in Las Vegas, and one in Hawaii. With our children scattered across the country, we treasure the rare opportunities to get them all together.

During the three and a half weeks we drove and explored our way to Seattle (Glacier National Park, the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, Indian reservations, rodeos, etc.), we were entertained and inspired by new sights and insights. Our ten days with our "children/parents", however, proved to be the single most enlightening and gratifying part of our nearly eight-week American journey.

Since the children don't often get a full week off and rarely are able to spend it together, Jim and I did a lot of babysitting. As grandparents we were thrilled and exhausted each day. You quickly forget how much work it is to raise children and do it well! We have twin fourteen year old step granddaughters, a nine year old step grandson, a two year old granddaughter, a fifteen month granddaughter, a fourteen month grandson, and another baby on its way!

As proud grandparents, we did a lot of observing of our own children during our vacation together. We saw young adults who showered their children with kisses, hugs, and patience. Our children are all in their thirties now; but it was easy to remember their immaturity and lack of responsibility just a decade or so ago during their high school and college years. During those early years, Jim and I had many talks with them regarding making responsible decisions. We prayed for their safety, their happiness, and that they would avoid and postpone a pregnancy. We wanted them to enjoy their adolescence and youth and learn what it means to be responsible. We wanted them to be old enough and wise enough to understand that parenthood is meant for adults who are mature enough to put their child's needs before their own. We were so proud to watch all of our children display the type of parenting skills all children deserve. They needed to grow up themselves and be ready to really want to raise their children with love and guidance. I'm happy to report that we consistently witnessed these qualities and it made us feel so blessed to call them our children.

Please young folks, postpone becoming a parent until you are at least in your 20s! Give yourself time to enjoy your adolescence and youth, get a proper education, and grow up and learn to make unselfish decisions. Only after that should you consider becoming a parent. Also, please remember that your parents have raised their children. When you have a baby, he or she is your responsibility physically, emotionally, and financially. Do not expect your parents to do your job! For the sake of all children, let's make sure each child has mature parents who can successfully meet the challenges of parenting.

byL Dr. Sue Rex, Board Member,  South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy