Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

It’s Time To Talk to Teenage Son About Protection

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.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I’m meeting my boyfriend’s family for the first time, and I’m extremely nervous about it. I want to present myself as best as possible, but I’m worried that I will be grilled too hard and say something I shouldn’t. How can I be more confident in this situation? -- Meeting the Parents

DEAR MEETING THE PARENTS: Interview your boyfriend about his parents. Learn about what interests them -- and what irks them. Find out what their favorite things are. Bring a gift for them that reflects their interests.

Take a deep breath and remind yourself of why you like their son. Be prepared to say that out loud if it comes up. Agree with your boyfriend about what you want to share with his parents about your relationship and what, if anything, you want to keep private.

Dress modestly while maintaining your style. Set an intention that you will be comfortable and at ease with them. Answer any questions they ask, and be ready with stories that bring your world to life for them. As long as you tell the truth, you shouldn’t have to worry about saying anything inappropriate. But if you do say something that they don’t like, you can apologize -- if the moment calls for it.

Practice mindful breathing. Whenever you feel uncomfortable, take a few breaths and trust that you will be OK.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)