teens

'I had sex when I was 14': 11 people share the teenage secret they hid from their parents.

When I was 16, I led two lives.

There was the “good” Jewish boy who went to synagogue two or three times a week, for four years, to learn with rabbis and pray with the local community I loved so much.

At the same time, I had another ritual every Thursday afternoon. I’d jump on the train from the suburbs and head into the city with a school friend. I’d tell my parents “Jordan* has some really nice friends, we’re just hanging out after school”. Mum was curious about who these friends were, but I held that information close to my chest. I had a burning secret that had taken years to bubble to the surface.

Jordan’s friends were gay. He was gay. I was gay. Every Thursday, we met at a youth group for teens questioning their sexuality. A counsellor was there to guide us through our confusion and equip us with the tools we needed to come out. For many of us – especially me as a Jewish boy and my friend as a Korean guy – keeping that secret from our parents was the hardest thing.

Not every teenager has a life-changing secret to share with their parents, as I eventually did. But every teenager, from every culture and every generation, knows what it’s like to have to hide something from their parents.

It could be a little white lie to avoid embarrassment or being a letdown. Or, it might be more a more complex decision based on religious or cultural expectations. Or perhaps it’s a personal shame that you were only able to really confront in your adult years, with perspective and hindsight.

Watch Teenagers: Translated. Post continues after. 

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To understand these reasons, Mamamia asked a number of women what their teenage secret was, and why they kept it from their parents.

“I dated a boy from another religion” – Jazmin

“I was with my first boyfriend for three years, from 16 to 18. He came from a different religious background to my family, which my dad would never approve of.

“He had to keep me a secret from his family too. We thought it was true love, but eventually made the decision to split because there didn’t seem to be a long-term option.”

“I had sex when I was 14.” – Karina

“After I became ‘active’ with my first serious boyfriend, I obviously kept that from my mum… only for my crazy ex – we dated for like, two weeks when we were 14 – to come around to my house and tell my mum what I was doing. It was mortifying.”

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“I bought so many drugs I ran out of money.” – Rani

“On my 17th birthday I received quite a bit of cash from my relatives and instead of putting it into my bank account like my mum told me to, I ended up using the money throughout the year to buy cocaine. I didn’t even realise how often I was doing it until I ran out of cash. My parents have no idea I did that – they are fairly conservative Indian parents.

“I had my first boyfriend at 15, which my parents weren’t happy about, but let it slide. We weren’t allowed to see each other often so I used to sneak out during the night to meet up with him. About two months into our relationship, I realised that I had skipped my period.

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"I never ended up telling anyone about this, not even my boyfriend." Image: Getty.

"Then I began getting stomach cramps and morning sickness. I didn’t think much of this and being so young - I was very naive. I did a pregnancy test a month later and it came back positive. I freaked out so much and was crying every day. I didn’t tell anyone but worked up the courage to go to the doctor. I didn’t even know what to say, I literally just said 'I did a pregnancy test and it came back positive'. He took my blood test and sent me for an ultrasound straight away because of all my symptoms. It ended up being a hysterical [or false] pregnancy. I never ended up telling anyone about this, not even my boyfriend."

"I got my belly button pierced." - Hannah

"I secretly got my belly button pierced when I was 13 and living in Hong Kong. All my friends had piercings and my parents were pretty conservative and very risk-averse. When mum eventually found out she made me get an HIV test. Looking back I don't blame her, the place was disgusting."

"I wagged 33 days of school." - Miriam

"Semester 2, year 9. I wagged 33 days, crossed the road and caught the bus in the opposite direction to school, and went to my friend's house for the day. His mum was an Orange Person [from the Rajneesh or Osho movement], so totally cool with it! But on my end of year report I liquid-papered out one of the 3s so it was only three days absent for the semester. Parents never clicked!"

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"We ended up at a man's house at 13." - Mei

"I told my parents we were having a girls' sleepover at one of our friends' houses. We then ended up at some man's house that my friend liked. He creeped us out so we ended up sleeping on the corner of a street. Five of us covered under one blanket - we were 13. I’d die if my daughter did that. Now that I’m older I often wonder why that man wanted a bunch of 13-year-old girls sleeping at his house."

"I smoked at church." - Kia

"I lived with my grandparents – I was pretty much the 7th child. They thought I was a goody two shoes but I was a bit of a rebel. They were Catholic but because they'd had six kids already, they were pretty chill with me and trusted me. My friends and I would smoke cigarettes under the chapel and thought we were really bad-ass."

"I dated a way older guy." - Polly

"I dated an older guy when I was 16. I grew up in quite a rough area, so it was quite normal for girls at the high school to be dating older guys who weren't at the school. He was way older than school years. I used to pretend I was staying at friend's houses and go to stay with him. I'd make up all kinds of excuses to go to town and then just go to his house. We were together for two years. Looking back now it horrifies me, but it was kind of the norm."

"I had sex and messed up Year 12." - Sofia

"I told my mum everything. The one thing she asked me not to do was get into a relationship in Year 12, because it was too important. I did, and she knew about it. She then said, 'Please don't have sex, it's a big thing and Year 12 is too important'. Well, I had sex. I didn't tell my mum. My boyfriend broke up with me – it derailed me and Year 12, and it took me years to get back on track. I should have listened to her – I did tell her two years later. I just didn't want to admit that she was right."

"My friend gave up her son for adoption." - Jessica

"Not me, but a friend of mine didn’t tell her parents that she was pregnant until she was about six months along. She ended up having it during the Christmas holidays and giving it up for adoption. No one else knew. She was 15."

"I self-harmed throughout high school." - Jen

"I self-harmed all through high school and into adulthood. I was severely bullied and a complete outcast...awkward, fat and with glasses (the trifecta!). My parents to this day still have no idea. I’m still very careful about what clothes I wear, so no one sees scars.

"I didn’t reach out for help because it’s embarrassing and admitting to failure. In hindsight, I probably should have; I might’ve had a better youth if I had gotten help, but even reflecting now, I still wouldn’t tell anyone. It’s so embarrassing."

There is a common thread in all of these stories, including my own: teenage life is a minefield for both teens and parents. We may not always do the "right" thing. All anyone can hope for is that we're there for each other when needed the most.

*Names have been changed.

If you or someone you know is struggling, please seek professional help or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36, Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 or Headspace on 1800 650 890.

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