Giving advice to teenage girls about sex is tricky. The are laws about the age of consent but 15 is a really murky and grey area. As a Head of Year, you can refer to services but they don’t usually tackle the underlying issues. Sex for teenage girls is tied up with romance and love but it usually brings heartache and can spell disaster for a reputation which can lead to bullying and self esteem issues.
I first met N when she was in Yr 9, she was refusing to come into my class. The boys were calling her a slag and a slut, she was completely beside herself. I let her sit outside but under the proviso she would talk to me when she felt able. N had slept with an older boy who she thought was her boyfriend but he had dumped her soon after and was now spreading the news. Her real mum had left her when she was a baby, her dad remarried and she had no real relationship with her her step mum. The older boy was a substitute for the love she felt lacking. I listened to her story, she told me the gruesome details and the shame she felt. I hugged her tightly and asked her to write a letter, one to her mum and one to the boy. Not to send them but just to release her emotions. She did and a few weeks later she said she felt better. I asked N what made her sleep with the boy, she knew his reputation and she couldn’t answer. I asked her if she thought she was special and she laughed awkwardly and said no of course not, why would she be special? So I took off my ring and asked her to keep it she said no. I asked why, she replied it was mine. So I put it back on. I pursued it further and asked her if I gave her a diamond ring what she would do. She said she would treasure it, look after it always and never lose it. So I said to her, if you can do that for a ring- why can’t you do that for yourself? Why are you not as special as a diamond ring?
She burst into tears and I told her to remember she was special and precious and not to give herself to just anyone especially one that didn’t deserve her.
A few years later, I got a letter from N to say she was at university studying to be a mid-wife and how my heart wept for this beautiful girl. She said her family relations had improved especially with her stepmum. I have still got the letter. N inspired me to be a Head of Year and on the odd occasion when I wanted to drown myself in a bucket of vodka, I remember N and if I ever need reminding why I do my job, I read her letter.
But the true allegory is that young people are all like diamonds, rare, unique and incredibly tough.