When I was about 19, I had the following conversation with my grandfather (GF) and great-grandmother (GG) about my same-age cousin:


GG: Well, your cousin just moved in with her boyfriend.

Me: Oh, that’s nice! Good for her.

GF: Yes.  She’s told us that she is sleeping in her own bedroom and he is sleeping in his own bedroom.

GG: And I just don’t know, but I think her parents actually believe her! But we all know that’s not really happening!

(GG and GF cackle delightedly.)


I have to admit – I was astounded at this rather benign joke coming from several generations up. I had never talked about anything sexual with anyone older than my parents before – and even that was under duress.

But I’ve got grandparents on the mind today, because today is Grandparent’s Day at my daughter’s school. So we have quite a few grandparents in town – including that same grandfather – now great-grandfather.

Several months ago in one of my classes for parents on adolescent sexuality, I had a grandparent attend. He wanted to know how he could help his grandchildren learn about and process their sexual development. Specifically, his biggest question was this:

“If my grandchildren come to me with questions or advice about sexuality, am I morally required to tell their parent (i.e., my children) about our conversations?”

I had to think through that question for some time. It’s a good one. Generally I say that a non-parental adult needs to tell the parents of a teenager if the teenager comes to that non-parental adult to talk about sex. (Unless, of course, the parent has given the non-parent permission to have a confidential relationship with the teenager. Which is something I highly, highly recommend.)

But as I thought more in-depth on the issue, I do think that there are a few relationships that may allow a non-parental adult to choose to not inform the parents of on-going conversations about sex and sexuality. Here is my list of those relationships:

  • siblings
  • grandparents
  • teachers
  • church youth advisor/minister

There may be a few others, depending on the people involved.  So to all the grandparents (and great-grandparents) out there in Internet-land: Go talk with your grandchildren about sex!  It’ll be good for both of you.

However, before I head out, I want to point out that taking on a role of adult confidant of a teenager has serious, and imperative, responsibilities associated with it. I’ll expound on them sometime in the near future – right now I’m off to hang out with seven of my children’s grandparents and great-grandparents.  (There are four not in attendance – yes, my children do have too many grandparents, the lucky ducks!)