What Excites Us!
Episode 23 - Ask Auntie Julia - Working with Teens with Julia Sheldon
In this episode, I’m chatting with Julia Sheldon aka Ask Auntie Julia. She is is a Teen Relationship Coach who helps teens have better relationships with themselves, their bodies, and others, so that they feel seen, heard, and supported. Her goal is to help set them up with skills, tools, and knowledge that will help them for the rest of their lives. We talk about helping parents have hard conversations, how she addresses porn, what teenagers really want, Why she has hope for the future and so much more. There was a lot I cut from this episode! If you would like the raw unedited version, please join the Patreon at the Nightcap level or higher.
And if you have questions for Julia and would like me to bring her back let me know on the website, whatexcitesus.com
If you would like to see a picture of Velma the Vulva, or another adorable picture of Julia it's on the episode webpage which you can find at earthlydesire.com/ep23
Visit her at askauntiejulia.com
00:00:00] Julia Sheldon: And then we have the progress flag and then over here says get messy. And I thought I was being really clever and I finger-painted the get messy and realized that you can't tell that I was getting messy. So then I had to put my hand print on there too. And actually, I think painted the whole background. Like it was entirely finger-painted.
[00:00:20] Gwyn: That's excellent.
Hello, and welcome to what excites us, the podcast that discusses sex and sexuality throughout time and place, including the here and now, because sex is a part of the human experience. I'm Gwyn Isaacs a certified sex coach and educator who wants you to feel good about who you are by talking about our desires, interests, and expressions. We can learn about ourselves and others. This episode is so wonderful. I'm talking with Julia Sheldon, otherwise known as ask auntie Julia. Julia is a teen relationship coach who helps teens have a better relationship with themselves, their bodies and others, so that they feel seen, heard and supported her goal is to help set them up with skills, tools, and knowledge that will help them for the rest of their lives. We discuss what teenagers really want, how to help parents have hard conversations, how she addresses porn, why she has hope for the future. And so much more. If you have a teenager or even if you were a teenager, this chat is worth listening to.
Before I get it started though. I want to remind you that you can talk back to me anytime. There are several ways to do that, including an easy, free and anonymous button on the show's website at whatexcitesus.com or if you would like to have more and nuanced conversations, you can join me in Patreon and Discord. There's a link for that on the webpage too. When you join as a patron at any level, then you have access to bonus material, the chance to pose a question to upcoming guests, and a still small, but growing discord group, where we can talk about all sorts of things. And some of the shows guests are even hanging out and chatting with us in there too.
[00:02:38] Gwyn Isaacs: This episode of what excites us is brought to you by me, I'm Gwyn Isaacs. And besides being your podcast host, I'm a certified sex coach and educator. And right now I have some openings for text-based. I love coaching over email and text. It allows you to be open and vulnerable in ways that may feel too difficult in person, which lets us tackle the concerns you have at your own pace. Very few of us were taught how to have sex. Most of us are feeling our way through the dark, hoping we get it right. I can help you build skills in the bedroom and navigate your intimate relationships. I have two ways you can sign up to start texting with me right away. When you go to earthly desire.com/coaching, you will find a weekly subscription for daily correspondence and a way to schedule a live one-hour text chat. Visit earthlydesire.com to start on your path of more pleasure today, you deserve it.
[00:03:47] Gwyn: Hi, Julia. Thank you so much for joining me. This is gonna be a hoot.
[00:03:53] Julia Sheldon: I'm so excited. Thanks for having me.
[00:03:55] Gwyn: So, you work with teens?
[00:03:57] Julia Sheldon: I do. Yeah.
[00:03:59] Gwyn: So that's why I brought you on, because I am intrigued and I won't deny a little bit terrified by teenagers. I have a bunch of them.
[00:04:09] Julia Sheldon: Right.
[00:04:10] Gwyn: Which has helped ease off my, my fear of them in general. Which largely stems from being a teenager, I believe.
[00:04:17] Julia Sheldon: Okay.
[00:04:18] Gwyn: And they were very mean to me. As it happens, right. A lot for those of us who are sensitive and quirky so I truly admire and appreciate that you do this work with young people because there's so much work to be done, they need so much help. And if it can happen when they're younger, it sets up a lifelong of less anxiety and turmoil than I went through anyway. Hopefully sooner than I figured it out.
[00:04:46] Julia Sheldon: Thanks for saying that.
[00:04:48] Gwyn: Why don't you tell us what it is that you do?
[00:04:51] Julia Sheldon: Sure. So I call myself a teen relationship coach. That seems to be a more palatable way to describe what I do. I used to call myself a sex and relationship educator, and I found that when parents caregivers hear sex and teenager, they stop listening. So what I do as a teen relationship coach, kind of like a relationship coach with adults. I I have programs that are several weeks long and I also do one-off sessions, but for the most part, I work with groups of teenagers and we cover all kinds of things to do with healthy sex and healthy relationships. Mostly when I'm talking to them about relationships, we cover things like values and boundaries and how to communicate and how to move through our emotions, how to actually feel our feelings and not explode our feelings all over everyone else. We talk about emotional regulation. We talk about how to start difficult conversations and how to sit in the discomfort and work through the ick.
And in talking about different kinds of relationships, because teenagers are full of hormones, we always talk about sex. They wanna know all kinds of things. They're thinking about sex all the time. They are flooded with hormones that in their words, make them feel crazy a lot of the time. And they are looking for people who can tell them what the heck is going on. So in regards to sex, we talk about puberty and their bodies, all the changes that they might experience there is vast differences in what we experience as humans, but there are some things that are pretty common when we're flooded with certain hormones. And we talk about things like gender identity and sexual orientation and the expression of both of those. We talk about how to flirt. How to be awkward and own it. 'Cause they all feel super awkward and super uncomfortable with all this newness that they're experiencing and they want as much information as they can possibly have so that they don't feel like a fish out of water.
They all, want to appear far more experienced than they really are. One of the things that I've really noticed and the studies show us, this is that it takes about two years of talking about and thinking about sexy times before, beginning to engage in sexy times. And by sexy times that means so many things. So we talk about that a lot too. What is sex? What counts as sex? And how do we make sure that we're staying safe emotionally, psychologically, and physically? How do we take care of ourselves? How do we take care of other people in all of the relationships in our lives? And honestly, even though we can talk about sex, a lot of the time I spend discussing or they ask, Hey, can you help me figure out how to talk to my parents about this? Or can you help me? I need to have a difficult conversation with somebody. Can you help me figure that out?
They are so concerned about so many things that adults are also concerned about, and they're just starting to be aware of these concerns. So my goal, my job. Is to be a safe person for them to talk to. We know that kids need five adults, they can trust for healthy development. And if I can be one of those, that's amazing. But mostly what they wanna know is that they're normal. That they're not the only one who's going through these things. They want to be heard. They want to feel safe, they wanna know that they're loved. They wanna know that they're trusted, and how to prove that they can be trusted. So we talk a lot about accountability. They want to be seen. And, they want help figuring out how do I talk about these things. I have been told that I make it okay to be awkward and silly and funny. And I use a lot of humor and a whole lot of facial expression, and I use props like Velma the vulva here. This's a crochet vulva that I'm holding up. So I use props and I have different programs, but mostly it's just conversations that I'm having with these teenagers.
[00:09:48] Gwyn: That's amazing. It's striking at how much, what they're struggling with is often the same sorts of things that I'm helping adults with. They want to feel normal. They wanna know that they're not alone in whatever desire they might have. And with teenagers, I imagine that it's even more of everybody has that because they have no real concept of what's real and what isn't.
[00:10:15] Julia Sheldon: Right, right. And the concepts that they do have from TV shows and movies are not great for the most part. We don't have a lot of useful media when it comes to relating. We have a lot of dramatic media. We have a lot of really unhealthy relationships that we see because that makes good television, makes it engaging. So in my work, we do a lot of role play, or a lot of different scenarios. We walk through different situations. And sometimes, depending on what the teenagers are asking for, I will bring in some parents and I can help guide the discussion. And part of that is that they don't wanna feel alone. Often, I don't even have to say anything, I'm just there and it's on zoom, right? So I'm not even physically present with them, but they wanna know they're not alone.
In our first few sessions, I talk about how that is my goal to make sure that they're seen and heard. And then we go through, what does that actually mean for them? What does it mean to be seen? What does it mean to be hurt? Not just did you hear me, but were you listening? Do you remember? Did you pay attention? Do you really understand what it is that I'm going through? Can you accept all that I am? And a lot of adults also struggle with these things. I'm noticing that the things we didn't learn when we were younger are so important as we get older. And part of that, can I be trusted? Is can I trust myself? Can I feel safe within myself? And teenagers don't have yet the life experience to really move through different facets of themselves. Teenagers are just trying to figure out how to get through the day and how to get through the school year and what are the qualities that I want to embody or like, who do I wanna be?
They're encouraged to do that by society, by their teachers, by their parents. Encouraged to continue being the confident person or the patient person or the artistic person or whatever qualities the adults around them see. They're trying to figure out if those actually work for them. And, if they can trust themselves to be the person they wanna be. So my goal is to work with teenagers, to set them up for the rest of their lives so that they have the skills and the tools and some knowledge so that they know that they can figure things out, that they know how to feel safe within themselves and how to connect with themselves or reconnect when they're not feeling safe. I do know from the feedback that I've got that a lot of the time, the things that I was teaching them in the moment, either weren't relevant or didn't make sense for whatever reason. But then later something would happen and they would have the tools, or they could reach out to me and say like, oh my gosh, this thing just happened. They're just trying to figure themselves out.
And I think the scariest part for a lot of adults with working with teenagers is the hormones. We don't know how teenagers are going to respond to things. Their brains aren't fully developed. They are not levelheaded. There is no levelheaded teenager. It doesn't exist. We might have super vibrant and happy teenagers. We might have super brooding, sad, upset teenagers. You never know, they could change from one to the other very quickly. So that can be really scary for a lot of adults. It's like, I don't know which version of my child I am walking into today. I don't know what new thing they're freaking out about. Am I gonna have the answers for them? That's one of the things that I love about teenagers is just how unpredictable and creative and energetic they are. They come up with such creative solutions. And yeah, their brains don't work the way that adult brains work. And that is a thing of beauty that is so amazing to me. They have some big feelings and all their feelings are welcome. And often, and I say this often with my teenagers, if you have a big feeling and you need to express it, that is totally okay. I can take your feeling. If you become angry about something that's being said, that's allowed it's okay. You can tell me. Maybe I can do something about it. Maybe we can work through your feelings. I can give you some tools for how to release or how to move through or just how to handle it in the moment or later. And I am also a human who has big feelings and I learned as a teenager that it was okay to share those. And so I wanna do that for others.
But I'm not a parent, that should be known. I do not live with children. So I get to drop in and then leave. So my tricks for talking about sex and relationships with teenagers are a little bit different than what I might suggest for parents. Because I'm the cool aunt. I'm auntie Julia. That's my website. That's me on all the socials. Ask Auntie Julia. Because I'm Auntie Julia and I'm not the parent, I can absolutely say things like now is the time to be silly to jump into that lake, to go dirt biking, to read seven books in a night, you know, like just now is the time where if you think you wanna do something, ask yourself three questions and then go for it.
The three questions that I always say, now this started with, if you're gonna post on social media, and now it's morphed into anything you ever do. Ask yourself these three questions. Is it true? Like, is it an honest thing? Does it feel good for me? Is it you? Does it line up with who you are, who you wanna be, your values? And teenagers often are like, yes, definitely values also known as being horny. Yes. I wanna do this thing because that person's hot value. Which, okay, fine. And is it kind? Are you gonna be okay tomorrow with what you do today? So if you ask yourself those three questions and the answer is yes, to all three, I often will add a fourth. Is it safe? And we talk about the different kinds of safety. And so jumping off a cliff with no safety nets, maybe not physically safe, so maybe not your best bet. Other things. Are you gonna go see a horror movie? Is that gonna be safe for you? If you're watching horror, some people yeah, no problem. Other people, nope, hard pass. So is it true? Is it kind? Is it you? Is it safe? If your answers are yes, enjoy, and be ridiculous! If you wanna wear that tutu, wear that freaking due tutu! If you want to be your school mascot, try out, go for it. If you wanna ask that person out, go ask them out. Just know that you can handle whatever happens. It might suck. It might be terrible, but you'll be okay. And if you're not okay, you'll figure out how to be okay.
[00:18:08] Gwyn: This too shall pass, or whatever it is that they say these days.
[00:18:12] Julia Sheldon: You know, it's funny when I was a teenager, I was told you'll understand when you're older or this will make sense one day. And at the time I was like, oh, that's the worst answer. Doesn't help me right now. Why would you tell me that? That's ridiculous. So what I'm trying to not do is that. I'm trying to say, okay, here's why I'm telling you these things because A, they're interesting, B, they're important, C, they're relevant. I do my best to always make sure that I talk about why things are interesting and why they're important because our neurodivergent pals, of which I am one, we like to know why things are interesting. And our neurotypical pals, like to know why things are important. So I try to cover both of those so that everyone knows why we're talking about the things that we're talking about. When I do that, it means that I get fewer eye rolls, fewer sighs, and fewer, the fucks.
The reasons why we talk about things are really important. And one big thing that I always share is that everyone is figuring everything out all the time. We're all always trying to figure it out. And for a lot of us, I got this from Brene’ Brown. Life is better when I believe that everyone is doing the best they can. And I have seen when I say that to teenagers when it clicks for them, you know, from one week to the next they're like, you know, I was able to be so much more patient. I was able to not freak out and punch my sister. I was able to take some deep breaths. And remember that they're doing the best they can and their best fucking sucks, but they're doing their best and I'm doing my best. And our best looks different every day. When that sinks in for them. Oh man. Game changer! And it helps for them to see that I don't have all the answers. We're all figuring things out. So let's figure it out together.
[00:20:17] Gwyn: Do you find that they believe you about that part? Cause I say that to my kids and they look at me like I've grown a third head.
[00:20:27] Julia Sheldon: You're right. They don't really believe it. They somehow have this idea that when you're a grownup, you know things and you just figure things out, you know, how to everything, how to do everything you need to do. You just know! Meanwhile, we're all over here, Googling things, we're like, how do I change a light bulb when it's got this fricking socket? I tell them repeatedly that we don't know everything. But, because a lot of them have good teachers or have had some good teachers. They know that there are adults who know things and who can be helpful. And I think that saying, I don't know, let's find out is really helpful in showing them how to do it.
That's another thing I do. I go to Google and we type things in, we research together and I show them okay, if you type this in, these are the results that you're gonna get. Do we think that this is reasonable? Do we think that this makes sense? Does this feel good? I'm gonna tell you right now, these first five lies all lies. So how do you know that we figure it out together, we're learning together. And I think that helps them. It gives them some examples and it shows them that we are always learning. And also to think critically or to question, where did you get your information? Or to question, can you show me how you learned this? Or can you show me how you figured this out? I encourage curiosity and I think that more than anything helps.
They probably would look at their parents like they have three heads. It's true. But maybe just keep saying, Hey Siri, how do I do this? And eventually, they'll figure out that you're figuring things out too. I think actually it helps them to believe that you know more than they do. Cause you do, because you're older, you have more life experience. You've seen things and done things and learned things that they haven't. And I think that gives them a sense of safety. That's why we always look around for an adultier adult.
[00:22:31] Gwyn: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. I wanna pivot a little bit and talk to you about porn. As a parent and also as a sex educator, and a consumer, porn is intense these days! It is not the VHS's that I was stealing from my dad. It's really to the X extreme and so many teens and tweens are using it as education. And it's awful because something that can go horribly wrong horribly quickly. So how do you approach that?
[00:23:01] Julia Sheldon: Great question. Typically I wait for them to bring it up. They always bring it up because they wanna know. Legally, I am not allowed to suggest that they watch anything under the age of 18. So instead I suggest that they use their imaginations, that they fantasize, and that they either read or listen because their imagination is involved. And they don't like when I say use your imagination. So I say fantasize, and we talk about fantasies and we talk about the difference between fantasy and reality. And I will say, if you do happen to watch something, I want you to think about who is involved. Yes,. You are watching it. But who's made it and are the people paid? Are they consenting? Are they actually enjoying what's happening? Do they know what's gonna happen?
The feedback that I've got is okay, so I used to go to porn hub all the time and I loved it. And then you put these damn questions in my head, and now I can't enjoy any of those videos. and I'm over here, chuckling like wa ha ha. I did it. But I'm glad that they are taking a moment to research, to learn about what it is that they're consuming. And I talk about the ways in which video pornography can be great and wonderful and healthy and useful. And we also talk about the ways in which it can be harmful and problematic and not educational. And I make it very clear that porn is entertainment. It's not education, it's a fantasy.
And the reality is just different. It's not bad. It's not good. It's different than what we might imagine. Some things are gonna be like way better than what we imagine. And other things are gonna be like, well, that's funky. So, in regards to porn, when they ask me, where do I find it? I never direct them to videos. I will direct them to sites where they can read or listen depending on what it is they're looking for. So it's, it's a gray area for sure in that. I don't just say here's a website. I will ask a bunch of questions. What are you looking for? What do you wanna see? What interests you? A lot of them don't know. I ask these questions and they're like, I just wanna see two people having sex. And then I say, okay, what does that mean for you? And what is it that you want to see? What kind of body parts, what kind of body shapes, what kind of skin tones do you want to see?
And when I ask these questions, I'm having them think about what are they attracted to and what are they curious about. For a lot of them, the things that they're interested in are because other people have told them to be interested in it. So that's their first foray. And honestly, it kind of blows their minds when I ask these questions because nobody asks them, what are they fantasizing about? And it especially blows the minds of girls. The non-binary kiddos, the boys, the gender-fluid kids seem to fantasize more than the girls do because girls are raised to not fantasize, to not masturbate, to not find their pleasure, even though, and I tell them that we are sexual beings, our whole lives, like even in the womb, before you're born, you know that touching genitals feels good.
So I ask them questions about what they're looking for and why they wanna see it. And I always ask them, do you want to see how to move your body? Are you trying to learn how to either feel sexy or appear sexy or how to move your body in the way that the videos do? More often than not, yes. They wanna know how do I actually get into different positions? And how do I move my body so that it feels good for someone else? And they think that they can learn all of that from watching people on screen. I invite them to consider how they might talk about it with the person that they want to engage with. And then we can do some conversational role play like, okay, if this is what you want, how do you communicate that? If you wanna try this, how do you know? Are you figuring this out before you're naked? When you're already naked? Are you wanting? And before I say, are you wanting? They always interrupt me. Always. They're like, here's what I want. I wanna be good. And I love that. Because everybody wants to be good in bed. And that means something different depending on who you're with. So there is no one way to be good in bed. And that seems to be a huge relief for teenagers, especially the super awkward, introverted, shy kids.
Porn is entertainment when you're old enough. And then they're like, but why can't I watch it now? And what I want to say is because your brain isn't fully developed, but what I say to them is that it's important for them to have their own experience and to learn what feels good for them and learn what feels good for whoever they're with, without having outside influence. The only way you get to know your own body is by having different experiences with your body. And that means using all your different senses and trying new things and having the trust and the communication so that you feel good about what's happening? And so that the other person feels just as good and safe. We know that they're having sex.
A lot of parents like to think that their kids are not, they like to think that there's no touching, there's no kissing, but there is. Whether or not it's penis and vagina intercourse, or whether or not pants are off. It doesn't matter the genital configuration, teenagers are having sex. They're having sex and they wanna know what they're doing is okay. If what they're doing is good. And if what they're doing is gonna mean that they get to have more. Which I think is what everybody who's having sex wants. And so I encourage fantasy. I encourage self-exploration and I encourage really getting to know yourself before you get to know anybody else physically.
I always talk about the age of consent and we talk about sending nudes or keeping nudes or having nudes under the age of 18 is illegal. You can't do it. Yeah, we talk about what's legal and what's not. And I'm not allowed to suggest that they watch anything. I know they're going to so I try to help them figure out what to look for or to ask those questions. Or if they're typing in certain terms, they'll ask questions like what's a cream pie? Or like, things that they go to a site, they see that it's an option. And then they'll come ask me about it instead of clicking on it, which I'm like, whoa, that's a win right there.
[00:30:47] Gwyn: Do they come to you with there's this thing that I saw and I wanna try and do you find yourself going, oh God, no, don't do that!
[00:30:54] Julia Sheldon: Yes, definitely. When I was a teenager and early twenties, everybody was reading Cosmo and getting tips and trying to figure that shit out. And now, the equivalent is I saw this thing on TikTok or my friend told me about this. And so often I'll just be like, no, no, no, no rewind. I have questions. And I'll ask a few questions about what are you after? And why do you wanna try it? And then I'll give some tips or I'll be like, do you remember when we had that conversation about internal condoms? Do you remember when we had that conversation about the health clinic? So I will remind them of previous conversations so that they remember that there are resources and I always make them look up the different options where they live, for how to find whatever resources they need. So if they do happen to need condoms, if they do happen to need lube, if they do happen to want to read about bondage, if they do happen to want STI testing, I make sure that they know where to find all those things.
And because I'm the cool aunt, I'm not the teacher, I'm not the parent. I can be like, don't do that. That's ridiculous. You are going to hurt yourself, do this instead. I have teaching tools that are dildos, I have teaching tools that are vaginas. I'm getting an intersex genital tool which I'm excited about. So that I can be like, look, genitals will look different. Woo. And I can use different tools to demonstrate better methods than what they're suggesting. T
here's a lot of misinformation and they come up with some whackamole ideas and they're like, Hey, I heard this thing. And I'm just like, no, that is a straight-up lie. Or whoever told you that does not have a basic understanding of anatomy. So we're gonna go over anatomy again. Let's go! And tell your friends. And here's a PDF. Give it to all your friends, print this out, give them this because clearly, your pals don't understand what's going on with their bodies or how it works. We talk a lot about bodies. A lot. And mostly it's like, is this a regular thing for my body? Or is this a weird thing for my body?
[00:33:07] Gwyn: Well, I still have those questions now. What is this part of peri-menopause? What is this? what's going on here?
[00:33:16] Julia Sheldon: Yeah. You know, teenagers seem to think that at a certain point we stop growing, and then our bodies just figure themselves out because as their teenagers and their hormones, they're growing so quickly, they're like awkward and lanky and their muscles are not growing as quickly as their bones or vice versa. And so they're like tripping over themselves and their vision changes and their voice changes and they grow hair, you know, there's all this stuff that's changing. And they're like, when will it stop?
And it does which they're very excited about, but then they think that like, they don't need to pay attention anymore. And this is especially true for trans kids. Non-binary kids, kids who are really unhappy with their bodies, for whatever reason. A lot of these kids won't actually touch their own bodies. They'll like use tools and I'm like, okay, you're washing yourself. So like props for that good job. But I encourage them to actually look at their body. They don't have to love it. They don't even have to like it. They just need to know what's normal for their body or what's typical for them. And in puberty, they're suddenly, they're like, I don't know what's typical. The pimples on my face are changing every damn day. I don't know what's happening with this!
Okay, fair enough. Is it causing you pain? Is it causing you discomfort? Is there something that feels strange? Or is it, oh, look, I'm growing and I was told that there would be hair, or I was told that I would have more fat in different parts of my body. I was told that these things might happen and oh, look, they're happening. Okay. They can wrap their head around that. And then they just want all the changes to stop. But they don't stop! Humans, we're always changing. Yeah. So it's important, we just need to know what's going on with our bodies. And a lot of the time I talk to teenagers, I say the reason that it's important to know what's going on with your body is so that when you go to the doctor, you can tell them. 'Cause, the doctor can only see some things, but they don't know what your experience in your body is like. And something like pain or discomfort we can't really quantify that, so you need to be able to tell them, oh, I noticed this weird mark. Oh, I noticed that I gained weight. Oh, I noticed that now I have stretch marks and I have this pain and it's been happening for two weeks and I'm really uncomfortable in this area. Knowing your body helps you talk to adults, but it also helps you talk to the people that you are attracted to.
So that they know, Hey, please touch me here, please don't touch me there. Because teenagers think that their hormones are making their genitals feel things. And that's all that happens. So I like to tell them their brain is involved too. And the rest of their body, like we feel first. Humans, we feel, and then we think. There's this cultural idea that we are thinking beings who sometimes feel mm-hmm no, we feel things. And then we think about them. Our feelings and our thoughts combine. Those are our emotions. And then our emotions, if they repeat and repeat and repeat, that gives us a mood. And we can shift when we need to. their minds with that too.
[00:36:29] Gwyn: Yeah, that's a lot for anybody to wrap their heads around. Yeah. I don't think I got a handle on that until well into my thirties. And the concept that it never stops also did not get a handle on that until well into my thirties.
[00:36:43] Julia Sheldon: Right. We wanna tell them that all of these things are gonna be happening their whole lives and they cannot fathom that. We want them to think about their future, but they can't. We put all this pressure on them and actually one of the main concerns of teenagers now is the all of the pressure that they're feeling and how they see the dumpster fire of the world right now. So they're way more concerned about climate than most adults. They're way more concerned about their mental health, especially since the pandemic, they're seeing all of these people around them filled with anxiety, filled with depression, filled with various other mental health issues or illnesses, and all the adults around are freaking out.
So now the teenagers are grappling with the climate crises, various wars, the access to information that is at their fingertips all the time. And then now that TikTok exists having even shorter attention spans than they already did. And when their mental health goes sideways, because of all of the pressures that we're putting on 'em and the dumpster fire that they see. They either resort to self-harm, so that they feel a sense of control or they go have unprotected sexy times or they resort to substances that will change their minds, change their moods, change their thinking. They're so scared of what's coming because they can see that the adults around are messing things up for them. And because they have seen all of this ridiculousness, especially in the last few years, our teenagers don't have nearly as much hope for the future. And they are depending on adults so much to help guide them because they're so scared. And the thing is that a lot of the adults around are just as scared.
And so now it's up to those adults who really care about them to be their safe space. To be the people they can turn to and be like, I am freaking out, what the hell do I do? How do I handle this? And for the adults around them to be like, you know what? I'm freaking out too. Let's take a moment or a day. We're gonna scream our faces off. We're gonna eat a bunch of ice cream. We're gonna cry. And then tomorrow we're gonna figure out what we're gonna do about it. Our teenagers now need us to be messy. They need us to show them that it's okay to be messy, especially, when their rights are being taken away. We have to model for them how to handle it. And we may not be modeling the best ways to handle things, but we're modeling for them how we handle them.
[00:39:44] Gwyn: As a parent. One of the things that I fall back on when I feel like I'm fucking up, is that even though I'm messing up, I'm still doing a little better than my parents did, who did a little bit better than their parents did back through the ages. And I share that with my kids. Yeah, I'm messy and make mistakes, and hopefully, you'll get it a little bit better.
[00:40:06] Julia Sheldon: One thing that I hear from parents is that we're so hopeful that our kids are going to be better do better than we did. And in some ways, they will. And in some ways, they won't. And I think that that's a really hard thing for a lot of parents to accept. So we can have all kinds of hopes and dreams for our kids and they're still gonna be themselves. They're still gonna be who they are. And our job is to accept that.
[00:40:34] Gwyn: Yeah. And we're all human
[00:40:36] Julia Sheldon: Yeah. And we're messy
[00:40:37] Gwyn: and we're messy. And grace and compassion
[00:40:40] Julia Sheldon: Oof. Yeah. Yeah. And I have so many kids who come out to me about all kinds of things, and then they say, you can't tell my parents. And that to me is so heartbreaking. 'Cause what I want to say to the parents is look, if you are not a safe person for your child, then when they don't live with you, they're gonna become a completely different person and you will be shocked and hurt and confused. And I don't think you wanna feel those things. I think you want to love your child. And I think that you want to support your child. And even if you're confused by their choices, even if it doesn't make sense to you, you can tell them that. And you can tell them, it'll take me some time to wrap my head around this, but I'm really glad you told me I'm gonna have some feelings about it. I'm gonna take some time to have my feelings so that you don't have to have those. You don't need to see all my feelings about this, whether they're positive or negative feelings, whatever.
And then, I really want parents to be like, okay, I'm gonna, I, I might ask you some questions about these things you're telling me so that I can wrap my head around it. And you might not like the questions that I ask. You might not like the feelings that I have, but I hope we can keep talking about it. Also, I think it's really important that they say something along the lines of, okay me taking time to think about this should not be perceived as, 'oh no, I shouldn't have told you.' I'm really glad you told me, it's gonna take me some time. And that is modeling for your kid, how to process and that it's okay to have your feelings. It's okay. To take time. It's okay to change your opinion. It's okay to not understand things. And often this will be about something like coming out about one thing or another, but sometimes I've seen parents respond that way when their kids like, look, I know you really want me to like soccer, but I just hate it. And I wanna dance instead.
It's hard for a parent to hear that. But if those parents can be like, okay, my kid feels comfortable telling me a truth about themselves. That's amazing. And my kid knows that I'm gonna have some feelings. I'm gonna have some reactions. It's gonna take me some time. And then I'll be on board or I'll be like, okay, this thing really bugs me, but I still like you, or I still love you, or I still care. And I'm glad you told me. And then you can set boundaries. Maybe you don't want your kid talking to you about sex. That's okay. Send them to me. I really applaud you. And any parents who are listening for being so open to figuring out how to be gorgeously, messy people that you are, and to model humanity for your kids. It's about helping them to figure themselves out. It's really what it is. My gosh. I imagine that for you, as a sex educator with your kids, there are some very interesting conversations that occur.
[00:43:38] Gwyn: Yes and no. I'm the parent, so they don't necessarily wanna tell me the things. But yeah, I try to be very open and, and available. And I've gotten better at a poker face for the things that I don't wanna know. Because you know, sometimes a kid will come and be like, will you put on your sex coach hat for a minute. And I'm like, okay, just gimme a second. You know, let me go get a drink and compose myself 'cause, they're gonna come and ask me about some fetish that they might have or be interested in or something that their friend said and I can steal my face so that I don't slip into mom mode But yes, for the most part, we do our best at being open. Is there anything else that you feel important to share that you wanna get out before we officially wrap things up?
[00:44:31] Julia Sheldon: One thing that is really surprising me, this is a sign of the times clearly. So this year, the teens that I've worked with, the things that they wanna know from their peers from me in the icebreakers or like we're getting to know each other, the things that they ask what's your star sign. What's your Myers-Briggs personality.? And what are your love languages?
[00:44:57] Gwyn: Wow.
[00:44:59] Julia Sheldon: How, did we get here? Like, it's amazing that these are the things that they wanna, I don't know why, like Starsign, I'm like, okay, if that gives you information, that helps you. Cool. Cuz some people know all about astrology, the Myers Briggs. Actually, no, they call it that MBP I don't know. They mush four letters together but these are like 14 and 15-year-olds who, upon meeting new people, what are your love languages? What? That's amazing. They wanna love up on their friends in the way their friends want to be loved. That is so amazing to me, that is so powerful! They want to know how to communicate well with the people they care about. They wanna know what's your sign, as in, are you like gonna be really fiery about some things? Are you gonna be the caretaker in this situation? Can I lean on you when I need something? They are learning immediately how to relate well or better. They blow my mind. They care so much. They're so scared about everything that's going on around and because they're so scared, they care so deeply about one another and about protecting each other that it fills me with so much hope and so much joy.
[00:46:32] Gwyn: Yeah. That's mind-blowing. That's really, that's really amazing. Yeah.
[00:46:37] Julia Sheldon: I love the people that I get to work with. It's so great. Oh, and not just work with I volunteer as well and I get to volunteer with awesome people. Now, there are people whose first question is not, what are your love languages or maybe like the third question. But I think what we're seeing from teenagers is more and more if our teenagers are asking these questions, they're gonna teach their parents these questions. They're gonna teach the other adults around these questions. And then we're going to have more care and that can only be a good thing.
[00:47:14] Gwyn: Oh, this has been absolutely wonderful. How can people find you? [00:47:20] Julia Sheldon: I am Ask Auntie Julia on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and my website askauntiejulia.com. Everywhere. Ask Auntie Julia. I am not the best at posting regularly. I will say that. But if anybody wants to help me I'm game. Specifically, if you're a teenager, come help me.
[00:47:47] Gwyn: So I forgot to ask Julia the last question that I usually ask folks, which is what excites her. I did so via text and she sent me this reply.
[00:47:58] Julia Sheldon: What excites me. Oh, goodness. So many things. Well, it's officially summer. We're in July, so that's exciting. I get to participate. In a couple of camps, one as an actual participant, and I'm also directing a camp this summer and queer Scouts just started, which is a super cool new initiative that I'm a co-founder of. And that means I get to spend a whole lot of time out in the. Forest whip kiddos. So I'm very excited about, getting out in nature, not being in the suburbs all of the time, getting to be in the forest and then also getting to be an adult participant at a camp for adults. It's gonna be so much fun. Thanks for asking.
[00:48:50] Gwyn: Man. I am so glad Julia is doing the work she's doing. Like she said, kids need at least five safe adults in their lives to talk to about the hard things. And sex is one of the most difficult things there is. And she's right there with them, helping them navigate through their changing bodies, social sets, and drives. Find her all over the socials with her amazing photo series called what I wish I knew where she dispenses info that we all wish we had known when we were younger and go to her website, ask auntie julia.com to learn about the various ways she can work with your team, including virtual pajama parties for groups individually, or with group programs. She even works with adults too.
If you enjoyed this episode, please be sure you are subscribed and tell a friend so we can normalize talking about sex. If you would like to learn more about working with me other episodes or how you can make this a two-way conversation. Please visit what excites us.com. What excites us is produced, edited, and hosted by me Gwyn Isaacs. All the music used is under the creative commons attribution license this week. That includes The Vendetta by Steven Kartenberg, Harmony by PolyPlus, and this is Modern Electronica by AlexiAction. The podcast is hosted by tickle.life, where you can find lots of great podcasts and other sex and sexuality content too. And don't forget. I appreciate you. Thanks for listening.