DEAR HARRIETTE: My 15-year-old son came home late from a party with his friends. In the morning, I noticed that he had a hickey on his neck. Now, I am no prude, but I’m also no dummy. I need to remind him of how to protect himself, but when I attempted to talk about it, he brushed me off, saying it wasn’t a big deal.
If he is old enough to sneak out and get a hickey, I think he is old enough to have the conversation about how to protect himself. I have talked to him here and there over the years, but now it’s real. How can I talk to him when he doesn’t want to talk to me? -- Coming of Age
DEAR COMING OF AGE: Your son doesn’t get to dictate this conversation. I do hope he has already learned the basics of sexuality and safe sex behavior, as 15 years old is late to introduce this information. That said, sit him down and tell him that you see that someone is interested in him, based on the hickey on his neck. Ask him who it is, and if the person is important to him. Be direct and ask him if he has had sexual intercourse yet. He may just be doing what used to be called “heavy petting.” Do your best to find out what he is up to.
Give him condoms and tell him that if and when he chooses to be sexually active, he needs to be protected 100% of the time. Tell him if you think he is too young to be sexually active, and that he needs to be safe. Be explicit when you tell him why, including preventing sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
You shouldn’t be harsh in this conversation. Instead, be informational. You should also emphasize your beliefs about when it is appropriate to have sex. You must remind your son of your family’s values even as you can see that he is exploring and trying to figure out what he is willing to do.