Dear Carolyn: I am 28 and have a brother who is 16. He is smart, funny, kind and an all-around good kid. He is in a relationship with a lovely young lady.
They are probably going to have sex soon. Our parents are open and have discussed sex with my brother many times. I want to be someone he can come to with the gory questions and concerns that may be uncomfortable to bring up with the parents. But I have trouble bringing it up because … well … I dunno … it just weirds me out.
How do I open up a dialogue so that he is comfortable talking to me? – Skeeved-Out Sister
Garsh, I can’t see why he hasn’t consulted you already.
I’m laughing with you, not at, I hope; I do think it’s great that you want to help your brother.
But, being accessible isn’t a matter of writing up the right proposal and pitching it just so. It’s about who you are.
Namely, it’s about how you respond to someone’s “gory questions and concerns.” The person who doesn’t stammer, retreat, judge, scold (unless you really really must), or serve an agenda – that’s the listener of choice when the going gets awkward.
It’s not realistic, obviously, to believe you can become that person by flipping a switch, but you can give some thought as to why you’re so spooked by sex as a conversation topic. Can you talk about it easily with others, and just not a sib? Change the “why” and you have a real chance at changing the “what.”
And pay attention to what you can learn from him. From your letter, it sounds as if you’re approaching this as a younger version of a parent.
Even parents, though, are well-served to remain mindful that the teaching-learning current doesn’t run only one way. Appreciating what a smart, funny, kind and all-around good kid has to offer you will make it a conversation, not a lecture, should the opportunity arise for you to send some guidance his way.