Q&A: I found an open condom wrapper in my 17 year old son’s pocket

Hi there.

I just found an open condom wrapper in my 17 year old son’s pocket while I was doing laundry. Lots of crazy feelings coming up for me. I don’t know how to handle it. Back in February I found a receipt for condoms that he carelessly dropped on the floor in our computer room. He knew I found it then. Now I am glad he is being safe but still annoyed.

He has a girlfriend who lives 3 hours away and she absolutely was not here this past weekend. So I don’t know who he has been with locally. I really don’t know what to do. It angers me that he is cheating on his girlfriend, yet with the distance relationship I am pretty sure they agreed not to be exclusive. It saddens me to think of him as irresponsible with the feelings of others, yet I don’t know this is the case.  I also know that I was having sex at that age.

I want to tell him he has to do his own laundry from now on but don’t want it to sound like a punishment. Yet I also know his dad and I have been doing way too much for him. I also don’t want to put any lingering anger I have towards my husband, because of his past infidelities, onto my son.

Any advice on how not to screw this up or scar my kid about sex.



Dear K,

Thank you for reaching out to me about this. I think it’s great that you didn’t act out negatively towards him and took the time to pause and ask for help in how to have a conversation with him about sex – in an effective way.

I would approach it by first regulating your emotions so that you can talk to him from a place of love – not fear. By this I simply mean doing whatever it takes to calm yourself down. If you react and lash out, he will likely retreat and not be open to sharing with you. Sometimes – especially when we have strong personal feelings and hurts from our own experiences – we can project our pain onto another. Doing so isn’t fair to him and won’t end well for either of you. I can tell by the self awareness expressed through your question that you don’t want to do that.

When you are ready to approach him in a calm manner, I’d begin by telling him what you found and that you’re glad he’s being safe. Then ask him curiously (not judgementally) about it. Does this mean he and his gf aren’t exclusive? If so, does his gf understand that he is having sex with someone else? I’d also gently explain that when it comes to sharing our bodies and our hearts with someone else, they have a right to know clearly what is true or not and that they are safe. I would also explain that condoms don’t prevent all STI’s.

As for your comment that you and your husband are doing too much for him and you want to set boundaries around house hold tasks – I’d bring that up separately on a different day so that it has no connection to a conversation about sex. His sexual experiences have nothing to do with you doing too much for him and wanting him to do his own laundry.

You’re a great mom to be carefully considering how you approach this topic and being mindful of not creating scars around sex.

Good luck and let me know how it goes!