The Birds & Bees for Parents of Teens: Dating, Relating and Waiting (or not), with Amy Lang

Casey: Welcome to the Parenting Teens with Positive Discipline audio summit, I am your host, Casey O'Roarty, certified positive discipline trainer, coach and founder of Joyful Courage. This audio summit is designed to dig into the principles of holding the foundation of positive discipline while navigating the very real and messy experience of being a guide for our teenagers.

Special thank you to Jane Nelson and Lynn Lott, authors of Positive Discipline for Teenagers and the Positive Discipline Association whose mission it is to create a peaceful world by teaching Adlerian social and emotional life skills for respectful relationships. All the guests you will hear on this audio summit have extensive knowledge in positive discipline and have or are currently raising teenagers themselves. Thank you for listening and be sure to join us in the Joyful Courage Parents of Teens Facebook group for more discussion about this particular interview.

My guest today is my friend and colleague Amy Lang. Amy is a sexual health educator and has been for over 20 years. She teaches parents of all beliefs how to talk with kids of any age about the birds and the bees. She is the author of the books Dating Smarts: What Every Teen Needs to Date Relate or Wait and Birds and Bees and Your Kids: A Guide to Sharing Your Beliefs About Sexuality, Love and Relationships.

Amy is also a trained positive discipline educator and is raising a teenage son with her partner in Seattle, Washington. Hi, Amy! Thanks so much for being a part of the summit.

Amy: I'm super excited to help everyone to out with this really exciting and fun and important part of life.

Casey: I'm so glad you exist.

Amy: Thank you.

Casey: So, as you know, the reason behind this summit is to have really real conversations about the messiness of raising teenagers and the topic we get to dig into today is full of messiness or at least, in the heads of the adults, right?

Amy: Absolutely.

Casey: Birds and bees for parents of teens. Talk to me about why you are passionate about this conversation.

Amy: I'm passionate about it because I was a teenager once and I made a lot of mistakes and I believe that if I had had help and support and information I maybe would have made some different decisions and my mission is to help every child grow up to be a whole healthy, happy adult and I think that the missing piece to helping our kids in this way is actually empowering them with information and values about sexuality, love and relationships.

Casey: So what's the general consensus out there when it comes to teens and sex, what are you hearing from most parents?

Amy: Everyone would love it if people would, kids would wait until they are in their mid to late twenties before they start having sex and relationships, mostly because of brain development and you know, sadly, we're not going to get our way.

Casey: Yeah, right and then how and how does that general population that you work with, how do they feel about not getting their way?

Amy: They're OK with it because once, I think, once parents realize that, like you said it, like, that the real problem isn't with our kids, it's usually with us and our expectations and our hopes and our dreams and then, of course, our personal experience learning about sexuality in those first relationships, dating as a teenager, that really influences our, what we come to the party with when it comes to talking to kids about sexuality.

Casey: Yeah, do you hear different things from parents of boys than you do from parents of girls?

Amy: That's a really good question. I do hear different things. Parents of boys are really worried that their boys will be aggressive and be disrespectful and try to coerce girls and you know, you know, potentially be accused of sexual assault and so that is very real and very much up for parents of boys and for parents of girls, it's all the usual stuff that we've been, parents of girls have always worried about that they'll be having sex without protection, that they'll be taken advantage of, that they will make stupid decisions, that they'll have terrible partners, that, you know, all those things.

Casey: It's so interesting having one of of each. Yes, yes, exactly that's exactly, those are exactly the feelings and thoughts that I have, as well as others but that totally, it's so interesting the lens that we look out of when we're thinking about our boys or thinking about our girls and there's so many layers here and so much fear on the parents' side. Do you talk to the teens? How are the teens feeling about sex these days?

Amy: Well, I don't really talk to, I don't work with teenagers directly. I do work with one and he's 17, a senior in high school and he came out of my vagina. So I talked to him some and I'm watching what's happening and what we know now, just from studies and so one just came out is that people, kids are waiting longer before they have sex and they're having less sex, so good news! Yay! I mean, for parents, right, how we really, you know, want our kids to wait until they're, you know, late twenties.

That, that's kind of good news and then it's also bad news, which means that that teenagers are not getting out there and learning how to be in a relationship because a lot of dating is about learning how to function in a romantic relationship and I think that as parents, you know, it's our responsibility to engage in conversations with our teens and so I asked Mylo, you know, how's it going and who's dating who? What's up with that? What do you think of their relationship?

And he'll talk to me about that and I had a really moment of super mommy proudness especially as a sex educator, he was at a party and was talking to a girl and it was Halloween and the girl had painted her face and it was amazing, apparently, she looked great but then was wearing regular clothes and she was there with her girlfriend, her romantic girlfriend and her girlfriend said to her, this young woman that Milo was talking to, said to her "You look terrible. Why aren't you wearing a costume, you look really poor. You look terrible, like, why did you do that?" and was really mean to her and Milo told me that he said to her "Hey, that's verbal abuse, you should break up with her, like, that's not OK for your girlfriend to talk to you like that," and then the reason this whole conversation came up is because Milo got a text from this girl he was talking to and she said "I broke up with my girlfriend."

Casey: Go, Milo!

Amy: I know and then I said "Did you know her?" and he said "No" so it was like "Yay! Apple falling not so far from the tree" because I'm the queen of giving unsolicited advice.

Casey: I've seen you in action.

Amy: I know.

Casey: I've been the receiver, so thank you.

Amy: Yes and it can be good and it can be sort of horrid. Anyways, so I think that what's happening for teenagers right now is that they are so stuck in their snapchatting and Instagram and a very rare now texting and even rarer phone calling, that they are not learning very well how to have a romantic relationship so there's lots of flirting going on and there's some, you know, flashing around of private parts and sexually kind of sexual kind of images happening and it's really easy to flirt when you can't see the other person. It's really easy to say something sexual when you can't see the other person.

Casey: Oh god.

Amy: Breathe. Everybody take a deep breath.

Casey: Take a deep breath.

Amy: Yeah. So that's one thing that they're missing out on and I mean, we all remember how awkward it was, right, to be around someone you had a crush on and or someone had a crush on you and that's that dance between like "Oh does he like me, does she like me? Do I like them? Do they like me?" like that sort of, what am I'm trying to think of, like, that sort of cautiously stepping in is now so not such a big deal because they can just do this with text.

Casey: Yeah or even, so I'm proud of my boy too, you know, he's only in 7th grade but he's had a couple little girlfriends and it's been important to him to, you know, "Ask them out," whatever that means in 7th grade, in person with his, like, face to face, as well as breaking up and yeah and I'm just like and you know, it's like, "Yes! I drilled it into him!" you know and then there is this very other experience happening in my house where, you know, it's actually, you know, he takes pride in that she takes, I'm not sure if taking pride is the right word, but there is definitely like "Woohoo, look what I get to avoid because I'm just having conversations via snapchat, you know" and it's like the kids, they just want to go meet someone at the movies and they've never even heard the kid's voice, you know, and it's like "Whoa! Wow!" On one hand, it's very much like, please, let's, yes, absolutely meeting people in real life and make sure that mom and dad get to meet them so we can see that they're not some creepy 45 year old or whatever.

Amy: Right, right.

Casey: But, like, yes, I always am celebrating the real life experiences because it feels like their worlds are just shrinking into this text, whether it's, you know, Snapchat or Instagram, you know, social media exchange and so I don't know, it's and I love that we're talking about relationship and dating because it's not always just the conversation about sexual intercourse.

Amy: Right.

Casey: And how important it is to talk about the rest of it that they're really getting robbed of.

Amy: I think, I mean, I agree with you and you know, it's sad to me and it's worrisome to me because I want my child to have social skills and you know, we live, you and I live in Seattle and if you've been downtown, you know, there are adult people who are walking around staring at their phones and they don't interact with each other, everyone gets on an elevator, everyone's staring at their phone. They can't not be on their phones and it makes it really hard to meet people and to chat and to have, you know, to have friendships if you can, if you have to have this device in front of you and I think that for, you know, families in general, that if we practice talking to our kids and are modeling healthy phone behaviors, that help our kids and when we're willing to, you know, acknowledge the fact that maybe we're on Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest a little too much and change our behavior, our kids see that and I know we've all been in a restaurant and we watched Dad on the phone, mom on the phone, 2 year old with an iPad, 9 year old with a smartphone, right? We've all seen that and so they don't know how to do social intercourse.

Casey: Right. Social intercourse.

Amy: I know.

Casey: Is that a real phrase?

Amy: Sure, why not?

Casey: I like it.

Amy: I mean it's, I mean most of sex and relationships have to do with talking.

Casey: Yes.

Amy: And we don't, you know, if you think about, you know, I've been married for 25 years so I don't have the greatest perspective but back in the day, a whole lot of the time I spent with my boyfriends was more being out and doing stuff and kind of conversations and getting to know them and it wasn't doing the deed, right.

Casey: Right and isn't it funny, I mean, maybe it's just me but this is a really important point to me because in my mind, I very easily, you know, when there have been romantic relationships going on with my older child, the idea that she's going to be alone with any boy, my head immediately goes to doing the deed.

Amy: Yeah. Always.

Casey: So useful.

Amy: I know. Let's be kind and firm. No, no, firmness.

Casey: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, please keep the firm in your pants.

Amy: Right.

Casey: What is up with, so, you know, we're old and we read the news and it's like "Oh, the hookup culture" and you know and kids are, you know, they might not be having as much sex but the oral sex is off the charts or whatever, I mean, I'm kind of just pulling these out of my ass but what is hookup culture and is it something that is prevalent with teenagers right now?

Amy: I think that hookup culture is more prevalent with kids who are probably over the age of 19 and out of high school there and I haven't done any research-research so I'm also pulling things out of my ass a little bit.

Casey: Just having a conversation.

Amy: It's good that we are talking about asses because we need to talk about them. So the hookup culture, basically hooking up means you're just having casual sex with somebody and with teenagers, yes, that's definitely happening but it's not as prevalent as it is with older older, older people, so, like I said, over, in college, 18, 19 and it's been normalized. Kids talk about it. They see it. They know people who do it and you know, like kids always do, they kind of idolize people who are older than them. So if they have a cousin or older sibling that's hooking up, they might be really more interested in doing that than they would if they didn't know somebody who was doing that. So that's what hook up culture is and just everybody hold onto your hats but, you know, high schoolers are on Tinder.

Casey: Oh God.

Amy: I know.

Casey: Is that allowed?

Amy: No, because they lie, right.

Casey: Damn them.

Amy: I know, damn it and one of Milo's friends-

Casey: That's terrifying. That is terrifying.

Amy: Sorry, I know, they're such morons, bless their stupid hearts. They are, I mean, they're like, you know, all that brain development stuff where they don't do any if/then thinking and so one of Milo's friends met his girlfriend on Tinder and fortunately she is his same age and she's pretty lovely, Milo says he likes her and so it's very common for kids to be on Tinder, teenagers to be on Tinder.

Casey: Very common.

Amy: Well, maybe not very common, but it's common, it's happening.

Casey: It's happening.

Amy: And you know, like you said, the person they could be talking to could be a 35 year old woman. And it's, you know, they're probably not and the other thing that our youngins are savvy about is that sort of thing, like, am I being, is someone, is this person for real? Does this feel off to me? Why don't they have a picture of themselves? And, you know, most of our kids know not to connect to someone they met on the line like in real life, you know, but some kids think it's fine and then they do and that's a problem. But if your kiddo's trying to meet someone and they know generally what they look like and they're like arriving at the Starbucks or wherever and they see them and they see that they're much older, there's a really high chance that they'll bail.

Casey: Oh god.

Amy: I know, I know. I was really surprised because Tinder's for hooking up when you're older, not for, you know, juniors and seniors in high school.

Casey: No. Oh. So, OK, so these things are happening and I mean, like I said, thank God for you and the work you do because you work, you help us, you help us have the conversations that we need to be having with our kids, with our teens, right and I think and let's just all acknowledge that we want to control everything and you know, whether it's when, how, with who, first, many sexual experiences, like, we would love to control it all or maybe we don't but we just know that we don't want our kids to get hurt, right. We want them to be safe both emotionally and physically. Nobody wants to be a grandma too soon.

Amy: Right.

Casey: Like what are some tips that you have for parents of teenagers that, to help them with both educating our kids on staying safe, while also, like, letting, you know, I mean, look at, see look what's happening to me right now, I can't even spit it out.

Amy: Yeah, yeah, I know what you're saying, I understand.

Casey: I'm also saying, like, I don't really want you to have sex but-

Amy: if you do-

Casey: If you do, here's how to stay safe because my guess is because I know that argument's out there like "Oh, you're just telling them to have sex if you give them condoms."

Amy: Yeah and that's just not true. So what we know is that kids who are very highly sex educated, so they know all the things about what goes where, they know all the correct names for their junk, they know, you know, what all the things are, including hard stuff, rape, abortions, sexual assault, when they know all the birth control methods, when they have free and easy access to condoms, which, in Amy's world, every teenager, both boys and girls should have, every parent should have condoms available to your kids because, as one of my friend's mom used to say, you can get more than a baby.

Casey: True that.

Amy: Oh yeah. So this idea that we're going to be putting ideas in our kids' heads is just false logic because, sorry, the idea is already there, their bodies are saying, "Hey, let's get busy" and unfortunately, their brains are not like our brains, theoretically, that are fully developed and we have some, you know, we're able to control our emotions, we're able to do if/then thinking most of the time. So here their bodies saying "Let's get busy," here their brain saying, "Cool! Fine! It'll be OK" and for a child or a teenager that doesn't know basically everything including your personal values they are at risk for getting pregnant, getting STI's. The lack of information is really what causes the problems. If they're well informed or they're not well informed, they all have some kind of sex by about age 17, so oral, anal or are vaginal and I know, sorry, I told her we were going to talk asses. I did it.

Casey: It's OK, I'll put this interview kind of later on in the summit. This won't be the first one.

Amy: Here we are number 7 out of, you know, 8. Because I get that this is hard stuff and seems back ass words to, like, say, "Hey, here are condoms, hey, expect to use birth control. Hey, sex should feel really great to your body," like, saying all that feels like granting permission, it just isn't. They don't see that as being given permission and part of the way to avoid that permission giving is just saying, straight up, "I hope that you wait until X, Y and Z before you have sex with someone, before you you know start fooling around it in a serious way, like all these things should be in place, you should have condoms, you should be in a safe place, you should have, sorry I'm hitting my mic because I'm gesturing, you can't see me gesturing but I'm big in gestures.

Casey: I just feel it. I feel the gestures.

Amy: So they have condoms in a safe place so if there are heterosexual having birth control and making sure everyone agrees, which is called consent. And making sure like that the relationship has been, you know, pretty well established and that you trust your partner and you can talk about this and if you can't, like if kids can't, if the teenagers can't talk to their partner about say, just say, birth control then they shouldn't be having sex.

Casey: Right and that is really easy for us to say, right, so how can we, and it's a big ask, especially, like, we were just talking about in a culture where the kids aren't having a lot of face to face conversations, so how can we, because I think that's so important, right there, is if you can't talk about the possibility of having sex and birth control and being safe with your boyfriend or girlfriend then you're not ready to be having sex with your boyfriend or your girlfriend? So, like, what are some ways that you would suggest that parents can support their kids and I get, like, one thing is just start having conversation with them, right and then as they look at you, like, are you kidding me? That's awkward, you know, what are some other things that we can do or say that really helps the land that? What's the magic, do you have a magic wand?  

Amy: I don't have a magic wand. The safest thing to do is assume that your kids are going to have sex around age 17, just assume that's going to happen and then what you want to, you know, really the sex talk should start when kids are 5 and then go all the way through, so that's one thing, if you have younger kids, get on it. Because then it becomes a normal part of their family life, they have some things really well adjusted and integrated into their thought processes so by the time they're in puberty, like, I love what your son is doing, he asks them out in person and he breaks up in person, that's because of you. You did that.

Casey: He even make sure he makes sure it's a Friday if he breaks up with them so that they don't have to come to school the next day devastated that he's broken up with them. So his ego is just fine.

Amy: Glad to hear that. Yes, so that's exactly it, so when you're consistent with these conversations and you talk about, you know, what's right and what's wrong in relationship and ask questions like, you know, "Wow, how would you feel if that happened to you?" One of the sneaky ways you can talk to your kids about this stuff is to ask them what's going on with their friends and what do they think about that. They will talk to you a little bit more as opposed to say "So, are you ready to date? What makes you think you're ready to date?" and they'll be like "Oh my god, stop talking to me" but if you use these other ways of entering in, like using their friends, speaking of friends, we're watching, Milo's 17, we're watching Friends with him as a family and we talk about all the shenanigans and stuff that goes on, there's tons of relationship stuff, it's super sexist, there's a bunch of homophobic comments, like, it's just ripe with potential, you know, conversation starters.

Casey: Oh, I love that.

Amy: And you know, Milo's on to us, so he knows when we're having a little sex talk-y moment, or relationship talk-y moment but he doesn't really care.

Casey: Yeah.

Amy: He doesn't really care.

Casey: Yeah, and I think, you know, I think probably on some level it's, I mean, it's, I don't know why, what I think is really funny is the new, all the new Netflix shows that are geared towards teens, are like, so hardcore diverse, like the cast is not just, there's no token anything, it's like half the cast is gay and a good solid third is white, everybody else is everything else under the sun and I think, I wonder, I mean, I don't know, I love that. I think it's, like, that becoming normal is, you know, hopefully something that's really going to serve us, will serve us as a society and a culture and but also what I'm hearing you say is that you have, you have a really good relationship with Milo, you know and I know guessing there's probably people listening and this is a theme that's come up in every single conversation that I've had on the summit and I, because of course in positive discipline, like, that's one of the foundations, that's, you know, kind of the the main pillar is, you know, the relationship that we, that we nurture with our kids is really the place where we have any kind of influence.

Amy: Right, yeah, go ahead.

Casey: And well, yeah and so just highlighting that and reminding anyone who's listening like, "Oh yeah as if my kid would talk to me," right, if you're finding that these kinds of conversations are challenging and that there isn't, doesn't feel like there's an opening, just start working on relationship in general.

Amy: Absolutely and that's what I was going to say is that the reason I think I have such a close relationship with Milo is because of positive discipline, like you and I found positive discipline at the same time, right?

Casey: We did.

Amy:  I know.

Casey: It was so fun.

Amy: We did our training together, it was super fun. We were thrilled-

Casey: And we loved each other.

Amy: Yes, and still do and so because I found positive discipline when Milo was about 5, I think, I was already kind of parenting that way and but I didn't have the words and so, you know, his whole life, when he makes a mistake he doesn't get punished, right and so he knows he can make mistakes at this and trust me when I tell you he's been making mistakes in the last, you know, year-

Casey: That's always good to hear.

Amy: And so he doesn't get punished, he has consequences, he did something, he texted something not so great to a girl and we found out and-

Casey: But you're the sex educator.

Amy: You know, I cross my fingers and you know, I try to like chain him to our house but it just doesn't work and so he said something, kind of, it was inappropriate, it was not a great thing that he said to this girl and we found out and he, you know, we talked about that and his consequence was that he had to watch all of Dr. Ford's for testimony. Because Kerry was great, my husband, he was like "This is where Bro Culture starts.This is what that looks like and this is absolutely not OK and, you know, your mom is going to like click you in the forehead and you know, do any number of things that are terrible, maybe just a little hot wax torture drip torture." Anyway, I was really pissed and Kerry was great and Kerry is one who said, you know, "a consequence of this is that you need to watch Dr Ford's testimony because you need to know what where this can lead and what it looks like and also how to not be that guy."

Casey: Yeah, well, God, I mean talk about using the outside world as a teaching opportunity. It feels like there's so much to support us in raising kids that aren't douchebags. Oh I know you hate that word, sorry.

Amy: I do hate that but asswipe, assholes, asswipes, yes.

Casey:  And yeah, I mean that is powerful and that is current and that is real. I mean, well, I'm not going to go down the rabbit hole of all of the craziness.

Amy: Yeah, we don't need to go down the rabbit hole of that.

Casey: But I do want to say, I do want to say that, kind of bringing it back to this conversation, you know, yes we would all love that they wait as long as possible, that would be glorious and I know that there's parents listening who are like "OK, great, I know my child is, actually, my teenager is sexually active" so what are some things to be thinking about as a parent of teens who are already, who they know are already engaging in sexual behavior.

Amy: First of all, if you have a daughter, she's needs to be on birth control and I personally believe that every girl should be put on some kind of hormonal birth control when they're 16. Again, it does not give them permission to have sex but what it does do is it regulates their periods, if they get a Mirena IUD it stops their periods altogether, same with implants.

Mirena IUDs and implants are the most effective forms of birth control and they can, you know, if they can put them in and kind of forget about them, you know, for 3 to 5 years and or birth control pills or you know, diaphragms and cervical caps don't work very well but and they're awkward as I can attest to. And you know, that is paramount for girls' sexual health and now I know it's controversy and I know people are weird about, sorry, judgy, but they are comfortable with the idea of giving girls hormones for a variety of reasons but pretty much all the studies show that it doesn't impact their overall sexual health and it's safer because a pregnant 16 year old is not OK.

That's hard on their bodies, it's hard on their hearts, it's hard on their minds and just making it super clear, like, if your child is sexually active anyway, that birth control, the birth control, birth control, birth control and you know, one of the reasons why I'm so hot on the implants and the IUD is that you can't forget to take your IUD and it doesn't work for everyone and the other good news is that when it comes to taking pills there are 8 million different kinds now.

We know so much more about what works and how much to, you know, hormone levels and all that that there's something out there for everyone and as a parent, you know, when it's time for your kids to go to the doctor, you should not be in the room with them at all. You step out you know at about, I think we stepped out at, I left him with his pediatrician alone when he switched started middle school, I mean, I would be in the beginning but then I would go out and now last, I think we started in 9th grade, he just talked to the doc on his own.

Casey: Yeah, our pediatrician kicks me out. She's like, "OK, now is the portion of the appointment where you leave." I really want to stand with my ear to the door.

Amy: No kidding. No kidding.

Casey: I don't.

Amy: No kidding, no kidding, I feel the same way but I also want Milo to have a relationship with this doctor and be open with this doctor because they know they can't talk to me, like, they can't, it's illegal, they can't divulge what they've talk about with our child and so establishing, so basically birth control, birth control, birth control, if you know your child is dating, sex is on the table.

Casey: Yeah.

Amy: Sex is on the table and it's oral or anal sex, too, right so you need to talk about that and you know for boys and for girls condoms, condoms, condoms and because you don't want, you know, there's an uptick in HIV among heterosexual people, granted they're usually drug using and stuff like that, but that's-

Casey: It's real.

Amy: We were doing way better, it's real and so you know, you know, when you and I were coming of age as it were-

Casey: Yeah, that's what my mom, that my mom said to me when I was because it was the eighties and you know, AIDS was just, you know, exploding and she said, "When I was your age we worried about getting pregnant and now you have to worry about death" That was my sex talk.

Amy: Nice.

Casey: I was like "Whoa!"

Amy: Crazy pants.  

Casey: Can't really come to you, OK.

Amy: Okay, never mind, because I'll just die here.

Casey: My bad.

Amy:  Die of embarrassment and you know and then the really, really, really important thing about talking with teenagers, there's two really important things, first of all just talk about everything, you don't need to screen, you don't need to be careful around them, you just need to be open and talk about all the things and then the focus of your conversations with them should be around healthy relationships and what that looks like, you need to be modeling healthy relationships, you need to be really focusing on those aspects of relating to someone that are so important to having a healthy relationship.

Casey: OK, okay, we can do it, everyone we can do it. It's messy.

Amy: You can.

Casey: It's messy and we get to keep it together. Right? We the adults.

Amy: Yeah or we don't, or you don't keep it together, like you find out your son has been, you know, having sex and you're like "What the, what the, what the," and you freak out on them, as we all know from positive discipline, it's perfectly fine to say "Oh my god, I just completely flipped my lid, I'm super sorry, let's try this again" and you know, one of the phrases that I use a lot with parents when they're like stumbling across their kid watching porn, finding their, you know, 5 year old playing with his tally whacker, like, it's that and you freak out, the thing I have them say is "Oh my goodness, I am so sorry I freaked out. I was so surprised to see you touching your clitoris, when you told me you were having sex. So, I'm calmer now, let's chat about this" or "I just need to think about what I want to say and going away and coming back."

Casey: Yeah.

Amy: And that teaches kids that it's OK to freak out as long, you know and you can get yourself under control.

Casey: Yeah but we have to be having the conversations with our kids. It's just, it's not a choice everyone.

Amy: No, it is not a choice, it is not a choice and sometimes parents say to me "Well, my kid" you know, I actually just got an email from someone, who's like my 13 year old daughter whenever I try to talk to her about sex she starts singing to avoid talking to me" and you know that super common and it's because, you know, they don't want to talk about this because part of it's because it's gross to them, as they get older it's less gross and it's just awkward and embarrassing and parents will use their child awkwardness or embarrassment or singing as an excuse not to talk to them. "They're not ready, they're not interested, they don't need to know" and it's just not true.

Casey: Yeah, what would you say that our kids need most from us during this time?

Amy: I think what they need most from us is for us to, trust me when I tell you I really am challenged by this myself, is us to change the way we communicate with our teenagers from that top-down, like I'm the boss of you kind of conversation to more of a peer to peer style of communication. So, for example, well, I'm not the best example of this because if you said to me, for example, and this is not true about Casey, if you said, "Hey, I am having an affair." And I wouldn't say, I would say, "Oh my god, what's going on?" right and I would be a little surprised but I would just say "You know, what's going on? Tell me about it?" and you would have communication with me. If my son said, "Hey, I'm sleeping, turns out I am having sex with 2 people," for example, he is not, as far as I know. I might say that I would say "What the", well I would say "What the f" and instead if I was able to say "Ha. Sounds complicated, what do you want to tell me about that?"

Casey: Yeah.

Amy: Yeah and so changing our tone, just in general, and just practice on the non-sexual stuff. So they come home from school "How was your day?" and they'll say whatever they say or nothing and just keeping your tone at like a peer, it's like, I don't even know if tone is the right word but just, like, your communication style should feel peer to peer.

Casey: Yeah.

Amy: And should look peer to peer but we all know it is not peer to peer.

Casey: Right. Well, what I'm pulling out of it is like it's neutral, neutral and like really pure curiosity. Versus "don't" you know, even and I love that you just said practice on the non-sexual conversation. So I know one of the things that shows up is "How was your day?" "Meh". You know, "Did anything fun happen?" "No"  and I want to be like, "Really? Come on," you know and I probe in there and it's all judgment, right and it's all like, you're not giving me what I want in this conversation that there's all sorts of messages that show up even when I'm not actually really stating the messages.

So the idea that we can receive what they're offering in a way that's just kind of "Hmm..." hold it in neutral and hold it in curiosity I think is such a powerful practice for as they get older and you know, some of you that are listening, you might have, you know, preteens thinking that you're getting ahead of the game here hopefully you've listened to the end.

Amy: Right. Hi?

Casey: Hi.

Amy: Hi, I'm the closer.

Casey: It'll be okay.

Amy: Close to closer.

Casey: But you know, I mean, it's messy and like, this has come up in a couple different interviews to like the messiness is not an indication that you're doing anything wrong, right, the messiness is the teen years.

Amy: Just part of it.

Casey: Yeah it's just part of it. So being available, being open, being able to hold whatever it is that your teen is bringing to you whether it's, you know, experimenting with drugs or, you know, experimenting with any variety of sexual activity, you know, being able to be with them, right, in that so that they know they have you, that you can handle it. That's what I've learned from you know over all the years that I've known you, Amy, is like you want your kids to know that you can handle whatever it is that they're going to bring.

Amy: Yeah, yeah. There's two things we haven't talked about so I think we should talk about them really quickly.

Casey: Okay, tell me. Way to take the lead.

Amy: So the first thing is, yes, sorry, I just was like "Oh, no, we've got to talk about this" so a couple things, so the first thing is this, our kids are really comfortable with different gender people being different genders, different sexualities, difference sexual attraction, this does not appear to faze them very much, so if your child, I mean, there's are rampant, I don't want to call it an infection, girls, 14 year old girls are announcing to their families and sometimes to the grocery store checker that they're bi. This is super common and or they're saying they're asexual or they're pansexual. Someone who's asexual is not interested in sex at all, someone's who's pansexual doesn't care the gender, doesn't care, you know, what parts the person has, they're just attracted to the person's insides and so our kids really get this, not every, not everybody but where we live for sure.

Casey: Well, where you live in Seattle. Well, I mean, I'm a little bit out in the country.

Amy: Right and my guess is thanks to the interwebs-

Casey: True, true, true, true.

Amy: Kids are more open to different kinds of sexuality, it doesn't faze them so much if someone's gay or bi or whatever, they don't really think about that very much so there's that and then there's the gender piece and where kids are saying, you know, I'm not binary, which means that they don't really land in either gender camp, there are kids who are you know experimenting with acting like, looking like the other gender. Or a combination of genders and their gender is very fluid and as a parent, if your child is something other than straight and cis-gender, which means essentially that they are how they feel their identity and how they look matches their private parts. If there are some, if they're queer and your job as a parent is to just accept them for who they are, show up in a way that is connecting, that is kind, that is open that's curious and do your freak out on your own time. Do your freak out on your own time.

Casey: I'm so glad you brought this, thank you.

Amy: Yeah, so really important. So I would just say, in general, expect some, you know, secret. Expect that your kid might, say, tell you that they're gay or bi whatever or they might show up, you know, your son might show up in a skirt at some point and it may freak you out. There's a lot of value issues around this and the more you know about it the better you'll do but the bottom line is you have to keep your cool.

Casey: Yeah.

Amy: And so the other thing that we did not talk about that we have to talk about is porn.

Casey: Porn. It did  come up in a different interview but  we can talk about it, come on. I think I even referenced you.

Amy: I'll give it quick and dirty. So, your kids have seen porn. They've see it unless you live in a lot cabin in the middle of Montana, in the middle of a field and have no cell access and no access to the Internet, they have seen pornography. Most kids, when they see it, they look at it and they're like "OK, I'm done" and some kids look at it and use it a lot. The problem with young people using it, using pornography or being exposed consistently to pornography is that they think that that's what sex is and porn starts in the middle, real sex starts with holding hands, right? So they can get into this thought pattern that this is what sex is, it's also stimulating so they'll masturbate to it and you know, some kids have a real problem with porn over use.

Most kids don't and you need to be ready and you need to, like, the first thing you should do when you're done listening to this is to say "Hey, by the way," and talk about porn. And give them some ideas of what to do if they see it and just say, you know, "If you've been looking at it and you're feeling weird about it, please let me know because I want to make sure you're OK, you feel okay and you're healthy." But my personal belief is that people, children, adolescents should not be looking at porn because it sets them up for really unrealistic expectations. Really unrealistic expectations.

Casey: Yeah well and I think, I love that you're bringing this up and that it's come up and we had another interview and we talked about screens and a variety of things around screens and porn was one of the topics and I think this is so important, you know, and for our boys and our girls and being willing to talk about it, again, being willing to talk about it and I think, also, you know, when it is our kids coming to us saying, "Hey I've been looking at this," you know, like you said, you know. Perhaps you freak out but then you get to come back and say "Sorry about me freaking out, I was surprised to have you say that" and you know, my approach is always "Tell me more about that", especially when I don't know what to say. I'm like, "Tell me more about that."

Amy: That's the best time buyer ever. "Tell me more."

Casey: And typically they're like,  "OK" And then the next thought is "Where is the sand so I can stick my head in it?"

Amy: Yes.

Casey: No, not really but sometimes.

Amy: Buy yes.

Casey: But then it becomes, you know, like, "Well, what's going, you know, what," I mean, without giving too much away, like, there's conversations around, so, you know, "You think about it and then you want to look at it and so how are you going to help yourself? You know, what are some things that are going to help you stay away from it?" Because I've heard you say also it's easier for them to look at porn than it was for us to find it. Like, I remember, I remember slumber parties where the Playboy channel was on but everything was wriggly, it was when we didn't get that channel.

Amy: They can access it at any time.

Casey: At any time.

Amy: At any time, anywhere, at any moment of the day.

Casey: Yeah.

Amy: And which means which leads me to this last thing which is every device your kid can access the internet on needs to have monitoring software on it, monitoring software is not spying, I just had a friend, talked to a friend about this who basically is refusing to put monitoring software on her 14 year old daughter's tablet because she won't like it. Which, yeah, they don't like it but as adolescents, my philosophy is that by the time the kids in the ninth grade, the monitoring software is still there but it's wide open, they can go anywhere they want and they know that you can see what websites they're looking at and so if you see them looking at porn sites, pornhub or something regularly then you can say, "Hey, I noticed this, let's talk about it." And you can block the sites and you can also just block pornography, sometimes that blocks sites that aren't pornographic but it's because sometimes there's some kind of content that makes them think it is and it's a conversation opener. It's safer for your kids and you know, you do not want to be the parent who gets a phone call from school that your kid was looking at porn on their phone and showed another kid.

Casey: Oh no.

Amy: Oh.

Casey: You do not want to be that parent.

Amy: No, it is really not fun and it's mortifying and so if you won't, if that doesn't like, I, parents don't believe me and they're like "Oh, not my kid, not my kid."  And I'm sorry, yes, your kid.Yes your kid and so it's better to be safe upfront than it is to try to rein them back in. Letting leash out is way easier than trying to haul it back in, you know, like, if you've ever fished, it's so much easier to cast than it is to bring the fish in.

Casey: Yeah. So there was like 4 different topics inside of this 45 minute conversation that we could have talked for hours on so you'll be coming back to the podcast, for sure.

Amy: Yeah, I know, it's been a little while.

Casey: It is always a privilege to spend time with you and be in conversation with you, Amy. I adore you. Will you please tell the listeners where they can find you and all of your glorious resourceful work?

Amy: Yes, my website is and I've got tons of resources, there are books suggestions and also a link to my podcast which is called Just Say This and it's a Q and A podcast. What you do is just call up my phone number it's 206-925-1522 and leave me a voicemail with your question and or funny sex talk story and then I'll answer it on the show and so that's, right now, my passion project, I'm really excited about it and I think it'll be really helpful to parents because we need a place to get these kinds of questions answered and I think parents are a little embarrassed but they don't know what to say or how to say it and that's what Just Say This is all about.

Casey: So everyone who's listening who's also thinking "Oh my gosh, what about this question?" and "What about this question?" There you go, Amy just gave you the number to call and and Amy you also have, I love your newsletter.

Amy: Oh, thank you.

Casey: I love your newsletter so get on to Amy's site and sign up for the newsletter, she sends out the perfect scripts, just to give you a little bit more of what you need to head in the direction that is useful to your kids around starting these conversations and I've also heard you say "short and frequent."

Amy: Yes, short and sweet.

Casey: Woohoo. Thank you so much for being in contribution here, I love you.

Amy: Yay, thanks, me too.