Leah's Story: #TalkingIsPower
Growing up in a very strict religion, I was taught not to talk about or ask any questions related to sex, love, or relationships. I'm sure I could’ve talked to my older sisters had I needed to. But at that time, I just didn’t feel comfortable enough with myself. I moved away from home at age 17 and dropped out of school. By the age of 18, I was pregnant and terrified; I knew absolutely nothing about anything. But several people in my life helped shape the person that I am today.
My boyfriend’s mom supported me in every single way possible and was my biggest champion. She let me move in and helped me when I got sick from Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which is severe morning sickness that required hospital visits and sometimes stays. She would take off work most days or was there as soon as she clocked out if she couldn't take off. She was there for me in the room when my daughter was born and would wake up with me throughout the night when I was overwhelmed—even though she had to work in just a few hours.
During my pregnancy, I was introduced to a non-profit called J.A.M.E.S. INC. I met an educational doula through that program who then became my trusted advisor for 3+ years. She got me back to high school and helped me with the everyday struggles of sex, love, or relationships and parenting. She and others helped me realize that I could also be a trusted source for information to other teens who had questions about sex, love, or relationships and teen parenting.
I don't understand why in this society the topic of sex, love, or relationships is so "hush-hush." Why do we as children, teens, and even adults feel so uncomfortable talking about it with others? Honestly, I wish I had known that it was nothing to be ashamed of and I wish had been able to talk about it with the trusted adults in my life. Once we get rid of the notion that SLR is unmentionable and unthinkable, we could educate and empower so many of the young people who look up to us.
Here is the advice I would give to parents who want to talk to their children about sex, love, or relationships: you have to build the "you can talk to me about anything and not be judged or uncomfortable" atmosphere from a very young age. It’s vital for creating a foundation that encourages open communication with your child. I’m a mom to a two-year-old. I know she is young, but I really do believe that if I can teach her now that there are no off-limit conversation between she and me, and that she doesn't need to be uncomfortable asking me about all the things that cross her mind, I'll be giving her the most powerful tool a parent can give their child—her voice.
To be comfortable in your own skin is to be confident enough to break the taboo that sex, love, and relationships are "weird" to talk and think about. We have to talk about it, teach it, and acknowledge these topics. Conversation is the glue that fixes the broken lines of communication. Believe me, #TalkingIsPower!