Getting ‘the talk’ out of the way

Elaine Luddy Klonicki, Columnist

We’ve been thinking about having “the talk” with Jenny for a while now, especially now that she has a boyfriend and will be going off to college in a year and a half. We haven’t been too worried so far, after all, we have a good relationship with her and she has a good head on her shoulders. In fact, several of her friends have told us that she is one of the least likely to bow to peer pressure. She’s got a lot going for her, and we think that being well-rounded will work in her favor.

Still, from time to time we receive material in the mail about teen issues which remind us that you can never be too careful. Of course we’ve been having smaller talks here and there along the way, but we’ve put off the big talk until now. You know how it is—all parents have the same concerns. You don’t want to start too early and overwhelm them, but you don’t want to wait too late and let them learn from their friends, who may not be the best source.

It’s a big decision, and making the wrong choice at the wrong time can affect the course of the rest of your life. Things have changed so much over the years. Neither of our parents really had the talk with us. But these days the world is so much more open and the goal is to help kids be as aware as possible. The problem is, and the reason we’re so nervous about it is, that we’re not sure we’re informed enough ourselves.

Thankfully, schools seem to be more helpful these days. Jenny’s school is really good at dealing with teenage issues head on. They’ve had several informative seminars for parents about the pressures kids face. Still, we were surprised when the school counselor called and said that they were meeting individually with the juniors and their parents to discuss the issue. I must say, I’m a little taken aback at the frank way with which the topic is approached these days (and impressed at the services schools offer!).

The counselor had obviously given this talk many times before. He was warm and kind and, like any good advisor, made us feel comfortable right away. Before we knew it, we were deep into the statistics, and the elements involved in the choice. On the table in front of us he had a four inch reference book and a binder with various charts and graphs to support his position. We were most surprised when he asked Jenny outright what her thoughts and plans were. Talk about up front!

He talked to her about safe choices, probable choices, and challenging choices. We even learned some things we didn’t know. All in all it went better than expected. She was not as nervous as we thought she’d be. She looked him straight in the eye, and handled herself maturely.

As it turns out, she’s been thinking about the decision for quite some time, and her plans are fairly well set in her mind. The talk ended with the counselor encouraging us to continue working with her to ensure her preparedness. He invited Jenny to come back and see him any time she had questions. Our discussion lasted a good hour, and afterwards, we felt surprisingly relieved. “The talk” about choosing a college is a daunting one, but now that we’ve had the big one, we feel much better equipped to help her with the process. (As for the other big talk, we covered that in middle school with the help of Dr. Ruth.)

This article first appeared in The News and Observer, February 24, 2006

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