Why would someone want to talk to a bunch of teenagers about something as intimidating as sexual activity? It’s hard enough to talk to my own teens about it and they usually want me to move on quickly as they spout out, “That’s awkward, Mom!!!” I admit my first thought about becoming an AWARE presenter was to have all the right talking points ready for my kids when I needed them. Yet, as I’ve delved into the deeper reasons, it wasn’t hard to see that my own childhood survival experiences could be a motivation for me to speak hope.
Growing up, probably my most shaping moments involved witnessing the devastation of divorce. In my case, I watched as marriage after marriage failed and hurt ensued for all. Each relationship was different, but the result was always painful. In the end, I was shuffled between my mom and dad, often ending up the casualty of their conflict, wanting to defend each of them. My heart felt literally split. Now this place of hurt is a point where I connect with many hurting young people.
Recent studies show that divorce has steadily been on the decline but peaked in the 70’s and 80’s when I was growing up. As a child of divorce, I felt insecure and vulnerable about life and helplessly watched my family suffer. I adapted, as kids are quite capable of doing. I’m thankful for the lessons I learned from the pain, even though I often wondered where I would be in life if I didn’t have to merely get by for so many years. I know my marriage of 26 years to my husband is partly due to applying the lessons I learned from those challenging years of my life. Though the reasons for the decline for divorce are many, I would like to believe that those growing up in my decades also learned some lessons like me and determined to live differently.
I try to encourage young people to learn from these lessons too, always covering my parents with much love as I share, because no one ever plans to divorce. The answer is not marriage alone but building relationships that will stand the tests of life. Feedback from the students has shown that one of their favorite parts of the presentation centers on the characteristics of healthy relationships. Unfortunately, many of them have never witnessed this kind of relationship but are hungry to learn how to avoid the pitfalls of breakup.
There is no shame for those of us who have gone through divorce. I like to share hope for this generation instead. The reasons and situations are complicated and varied but when we surround children with empowering information, and encouragement to make good choices for their futures, a seed of hope is planted. If the message can just grow in a few, it can ripple and multiply to many generations.
I am privileged to be able to share a difficult but needed message to today’s youth, to reserve their sexuality for that marriage relationship or a life-time monogamous relationship. What lessons have you learned from the hardships you have gone through in your life that you could share with someone that could help them make difficult life decisions? It’s worth the short moments of awkwardness to build bridges with our youth and inspire them to leave a lasting legacy for their children.