DEAR HARRIETTE: My family visited with another family this weekend. At a certain point, things got awkward. The wife started talking about her teenage life and then shared that she was 15 when she first had sex.
My daughter is 17. While she certainly knows all about sex, I doubt that she is yet sexually active.
I have no judgment of what this woman did in her teen years, but I do not appreciate her sharing this story, unprompted by anyone, with my teenage daughter — without checking with me first.
How can I address this?
Drawing the Line
DEAR DRAWING THE LINE: What’s done is done. It’s more important for your communication with your daughter to be open and honest.
Ease into a conversation with her about sex. Rather than focusing on your friend, get a sense of what’s happening with teenagers in her peer group today. There are many unusual factors for teens and intimacy.
The quarantine shut down a lot of interaction of any kind. Some kids have hardly seen other people for more than a year. Others have had a lot of latitude of engagement. Get your daughter to talk about her peer relationships a bit if you can.
Do your best — gently — to learn where her head is around sexual intimacy. Let her know you want to support her as she is navigating this period. Remind her of your family values without being heavy-handed.
Regarding your friend, if you visit with her again, ask her to curb the sex talk around your daughter in the future. Leave that area to you.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I consider myself pretty liberal politically. I stay up to date on current events and history. So I was a bit taken aback when I was talking to a colleague about a somewhat political topic of the day and she scoffed and told me she didn’t want to talk about it anymore because she didn’t agree with me.
Clearly, she was implying that I wasn’t radical or strong enough in my views since my ideas didn’t match hers. Really? It seems like everything is so politically divided now that it’s not possible to discuss ideas.
People seem to want you to choose their side, or they shut down. I would like to debate ideas and talk about different perspectives. Am I being unrealistic?
DEAR POLITICALLY ACTIVE: It is important to be able to debate the topics of the day, especially when the outcomes could have a dramatic impact on all of our lives. It is also important to note that there is a broad range of views on many hot topics, and you can never be sure where people land on these ideas.
You may want to frame your political discussions differently. Let people know that you appreciate learning about how they think and what their views are on different ideas. Do not presume that others share your opinions, and make it known that you want to learn from differing perspectives. When conversations get heated, make it a point to say that you hope people will go for it and express their views, as this is how we learn and grow.
You may want to state that you appreciate creating safe spaces where people feel free to express themselves without judgment. Welcome the intensity, but ask participants to challenge you and others without being rude or disrespectful. Some people may not agree with you and clam up anyway, but at least you can do your best to create a safe space for dialogue.
Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to [email protected] or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.