Who jumps first?

One of the things I talked about in my presentation last week was the difficulty of starting conversations about sex.  This is only exasperated, of course, when you’re trying to have the conversation between generations rather than within the generations.

I talk with my friends, my peers, about sex.  Most (although not all) teenagers and adults talk with their peers about sex, sexuality, romance, dating, or something along those lines.  But very few of us talk with substantially older or younger people about these topics.

And why not?

The sense of awkwardness that is so present between the generations pushes away acceptance and support and love and knowledge that could surround and support this life passage.  Through talking with adults and teenagers alike, I have seen so much desire for increased communication.  We all want more talk, more compassion, more acceptance, between the generations!  So if everyone wants it, why do we not have it?

Because no one wants to jump first.

Teenagers who have never had open conversations about sex, sexuality, romance, can not be expected to bring up the topic of their own volition – they have never learned how!

But adults who never had a conversation with older people when they were young – how can they be expected to start the conversation with young people – they never learned how either!

It is a dilemma.  And yet.  And yet, it must be the responsibility of adults to jump first.  We are not living up to our own full adult developmental potential, and in doing so we are short changing ourselves and the generations who come after us.  The problem is that without having learned how to do it, starting the conversation – jumping into it – is scary.

So here it is, here is where you learn how to do it.  Say:

“I’ve been thinking about sex recently.  Kind of funny that we both think about it, but we never talk about it, isn’t it?”

So you don’t actually have to say just that, but if you can’t think of where to start, it is as good as any.  The point is to just start somewhere, even if that somewhere is talking about your discomfort talking about the topic!

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. It is, of course, important to set strong, healthy boundaries to prevent sexual tension from entering the conversation. This is also true with friends our own age, of course, but in those instances the stakes are lower.

  2. Good advice! Also, I think injecting some humor into the opening is a good way to ease into a conversation about sex.

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