As we look back on 2019 and look ahead to the New Year, when we focus on reproductive health and rights it can be easy to get discouraged by the current political landscape. I’ve tried to keep my readers up to date throughout the year with the setbacks the Trump/Pence administration has imposed, but they’ve been so numerous and sweeping that it’s hard to fathom how devastating it is.
But please remember how powerful we can each be with individuals. Though government continues to make accessing medical and education services more challenging, it doesn’t impact our individual ability to communicate effectively with those we care about.
Numerous readers responded to my blog entry about that amazing mom who communicated so effectively with her daughter. (Thank you all for your feedback!) Readers were touched by her thoughtfulness and her ability to be so lovingly supportive and helpful. Although that story was about a parent with a kindergartener, it’s a reminder of how influential those loving, one-on-one conversations can be.
When those kindergartners grow up, and the concerns turn to relationships, intimacy, love, and sex, conversations can be tricky in different ways. It can be challenging to open conversations: to avoid being condescending, to be caring, honest, and helpful.
Sometimes we can teach ourselves to be better guides to young people we care about by pausing to ask ourselves some important questions. Did you talk with your mom? Your dad? Your partner? If you did, what helped start the conversation? And what kept it going? What made it easy; what made you comfortable? What was helpful? If you didn’t, what stopped you? And what about your daughter, son, grandchild, niece or nephew? Might you want to start conversations with them about love, relationships, sexuality, and contraception? Do you create a non-threatening atmosphere that says you’re a safe person to come to when they have concerns about any of these issues?
And when it comes to contraception, with the ever-changing landscape of what’s available and the pros, cons, and instructions for each method choice, the information can feel overwhelming. But I always encourage adults not to shy away from these important conversations and not to postpone them for fear of not knowing the facts about current methods. If you’ve got the skills necessary to seek out answers to factual questions, you can model how to learn; you don’t have to have all the answers to start a dialogue. Think instead about the big picture. What impact has effective (or ineffective!) use of contraception had on your life? What challenges did you/your partner face understanding when you first needed it, how to get it, how to use it, how to communicate with a partner about it, or what to do about side effects or other questions or concerns about it?
When I wrote OOPS! Tales From A Sexpert one of my goals was to model helpful dialogues to adults who interact with young people so that some of these taboo subjects would be more approachable. So if you have someone in your life that you’d like to have open dialogues with, I encourage you to take the book off the shelf and give it another look. Also, if you want to discuss it with anyone who lives in or visits your home, it can be helpful to leave it lying around after you’ve finished it as a conversation starter.
I send my best wishes to all my readers throughout this holiday season and into the New Year. May 2020 be the year of 20/20 vision, bringing each of us the clarity we need to create the relationships—and the world—we envision.
The views expressed above are solely those of the author and not those of Planned Parenthood.