This one hit close to home.
My intention in sharing my vulnerable experience as a promiscuous teen is to help you to better understand your own teen, take the steps your teen needs to create change, and shake off more of my own shame story and deep sadness around this chapter in my life.
Park your judgement.
Feeling loved, accepted, emotionally safe, and a sense of belonging is a human need so important, it falls within Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs under physiological needs. You might hear my story and think, ‘Aw, that’s so awful for her. I totally see why she made those choices.’
But when I start talking about what your teen is currently doing? That’s a different ballgame, or even a different sport in another venue. Why? Because knowing everything you’ve sacrificed and loved your teen with everything you have so the possibility of them feeling unloved triggers your ego, building a defensive attack.
Not MY child!
The only way to hear what you need is by releasing fault or blame from you OR your teen. This is hard stuff that requires an open mind and heart by asking, “How can I help?”, beyond being right or wrong.
Blaming the ‘toxic or needy person’ your teen is with, so you don’t have to see your teen’s emotional needs is another way of avoiding the truth. If you believe it’s someone else’s bad influence, then removing that relationship makes everything better. FALSE!
You don’t know what you don’t know.
How do you find what you’re looking for when you don’t know what it is in the first place? Growing up in emotional neglect and abuse I just knew what felt scary, hurtful, alone and sad. Just like your teen, I watched TV and movies and had a pretty strong case for boys being my answer, even without social media.
I abandoned myself to feel loved.
I was kissing boys behind the school on dares at 12, going to parties without parents present at 13 and quickly became an exploration toy for boys my age. Being raised in an absolute authoritarian home, I was terrified to say ‘No’ and the idea was so foreign I didn’t know I was allowed!
Even when being physically close to someone felt like love and affection in the moment, I felt abandoned and discarded shortly after. Over time I built confidence in my ‘love’ skills and that made me more desirable. I had what they wanted and that felt like love.
It’s more than just the body parts.
Promiscuity isn’t just the physical pleasure (with or without intercourse), although the natural high of feeling so alive with another person in the same moment was hard to top and a universe away from the pain I felt at home.
Coming from a family with no hugs and little positive touch, sex was like the best massage and spa experience all in one because it fulfilled my brain’s love language of physical touch. Despite it being so awkward, there was no baggage or built-up rage like at home, so I felt free to be myself. That MUST be love!
Or maybe it was a complimentary personality style, similar values, attachment style, curiosities, etc. All things we define as love and seek out whether it’s healthy or not.
It’s not what you give, it’s what your teen needs.
Creating an environment where your teen feels emotionally safe, loved and a sense of belonging doesn’t happen overnight and it’s not about what love is to you. It takes time, trying different tools to find the right recipe so your relationship with your teen is a healthy fueling station and they don’t need to fill up elsewhere on the cheap stuff.
Take the first step
Although I cover this topic and creating healthy emotional connection in The Empowered Parent Mastermind starting April 18th you can start now by using Dr. Gary Chapman’s FREE Love Language Quiz. Find your own first and ask if your teen is willing to play too without forcing it. Dr. Chapman’s book, 5 Love Languages for Teenagers is another fabulous resource.
But what about the promiscuity??
Trying to control your teen or stop it likely won’t help at this point and just creates lying and sneaky behaviour. This isn’t a behavioural issue anyway, so focus on the emotional source and you’ll create more open conversations to talk about what’s most important.
“I was going through a very rough patch with my son. He was very depressed and sneaking out to go to his girlfriend’s house (a very unhealthy relationship). His dad was ballistic, but I shared your videos and got him on board with staying curious and keeping the communication lines open. Our son has done a 180° – broke up with his girlfriend and slowly found his self-worth. THANK YOU!!” – Tatiana S.