Given that we live in a culture saturated with sexual messages, talking with your teenage kids about sex is a crucial part of supporting them in passing through the teen years as unscathed as possible. According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly 1 in 2 high school students have experimented sexually at least once, and 14% had four or more sexual partners. Some parents would rather do anything than talk to their kids about sex. Teen sex is their nightmare, and they hope that by not talking about it their teens will never have it during these hormonally turbulent years. However, accurate, informative, realistic information is their best way to increase their child’s wisdom surrounding the decisions they make about romantic relationships, as well as to increase the trust they have in you. Not talking about sex with your children doesn’t’ stop them from hearing about it; it just stops them from hearing about it from you.
Time Your Timing
Keep in mind that your teenage son or daughter is likely juggling a hundred things that you are not aware of. Don’t expect them to be ready to talk about sex whenever you are. Bring the subject up at a time and place where you both will feel comfortable and free to speak your minds. Broaching the subject just before their date on Friday Night, or right in the middle of their favorite television show isn’t the best timing and will not grant you the open communication that you had hoped for.
Don’t be put off by your teens attempts to shut down your overtures. Many adolescents have told me that even though they acted embarrassed and uninterested in their parents’ efforts to engage them in these difficult discussions, they appreciated their parents’ concerns and efforts to guide them in this confusing area.
Share Rules, Limits & Beliefs
Informal talks with your daughter and son shouldn’t focus solely on the “how-to’s” of sexual facts and scare tactics. Target the emotional and social factors of teenage sex and sexuality, in addition to your own values regarding sex within a committed, caring marital relationship. Be willing to say to your son or daughter, “I want you to have the best in life! Your body is moving faster into adulthood than any other part of you. Because I love you, I will always be honest with you; I want to earn your trust so that you can come to me with any questions. I see that you and so-and-so are continuing to get closer and closer. I wanted to be certain that you and I had talked about something that I have coined “the point of no return.” Because sex is such a powerful experience, there are going to need to be limits that you and I need to chat about that keep you going down the path you want most.” Tell them what necking is and that there are erogenous zones that add to the excitement and can cause you to feel swept away because it is such a god feelingÃ¢â?¬Â¦..used at the right time and in the right place. Be clear what petting is and the appetite and drive that it induces and why we are more successful in keeping sexual urges in line with they are bridledÃ¢â?¬Â¦.not killed!
Widen the Circle
A common mistake we make as adults is thinking that we can control teens by putting our foot down and forbidding them to see someone they have feelings for. One of my family’s is going through a tough time with their 18- year old daughter who was reportedly seen by her little sister making out in the car with her new boyfriend. This younger sister ran to her mother and said, “Mom, it was so grossÃ¢â?¬Â¦Ã¢â?¬Â¦.they were kissing so much that it looked like he was trying to inhale her from the inside out!” So, the whole family is now upset; this boy is not of their religion and the parents have forbid her to see him. (You can imagine how effective that demand was, right?) So, now we have this young couple sneaking around and lying to her parents about her whereabouts.
When we push away our daughter’s boyfriend, we push away our daughter, as well, and right into the arms of the one person you’d rather she not have feelings for. You’ve heard the saying, “Keeping your friends close and your enemy’s closer?” Invite your child’s boyfriend or girlfriend over to dinner. Dad, look that young man in the eyes of be very clear about what your expectations are of him when he’s with your daughter. Fear and clear information are wonderful motivators.
This daughter was finally able to say to her father, “Can’t you hear me. I’m afraid of sexÃ¢â?¬Â¦.I don’t want to have sex before I get married. So now why don’t you help me achieve that Dad instead of just being a jerk and pushing Ryan and me away?”
Define “Sex” Without the Shame
Many teens don’t think that oral or anal sex is sex at all. “If it isn’t intercourse than it isn’t sex.” Although parents may be hesitant to discuss specific sexual behaviors with their teens, it’s crucial that they do. With oral sex, while we can guarantee that there won’t be a pregnancy, we can’t guarantee that there won’t be a Sexually Transmitted Disease.
Be clear with your teen that what they see in videos, television shows or movies is NOT how sex always is. A married couple who met when they were 16 or 17 shared how their first sexual experience together was “really stupid.” They were embarrassed, it was uncomfortable, they felt bad because it wasn’t how either of them had been raised. It is never too late to have a different experience. If your child has experimented with sex, don’t shame them; they need you now more than ever. My mother beautifully handled a situation with me when I was 18 and had my first boyfriend. I remember kissing Mike Johnson for the first time our senior year and I thought, “WowÃ¢â?¬Â¦ what is this THIS feeling? This is amazing.” I enjoyed kissing Mike hello and goodbyeÃ¢â?¬Â¦it never occurred to us to do more than that (at least it didn’t occur to me, anyway, because I was clear about the path I wanted and withholding sex for marriage included was part of direction.)
I was mortified when one day I noticed a red mark on my neckÃ¢â?¬Â¦..I was so ashamed because I associated red marks with loose girls. Concealers and turtlenecks became my ally for a few days. However, shortly after the appearance of this shameful hickey, I was on a walk with my mom and she suddenly turned to me and stopped dead in her tracks and said, “Your neck!” And, I said, “My neck!” Here was the crossroads of all crossroads. My mother could have shamed me and forbid me to see Mike Johnson again. But she didn’t; and her softened understanding response and instruction made all the difference in my view of myself and opened up more dialoguing about my first relationship.
Engage Newton’s Third Law
Your teens are learning about Newtown’s third law in science class at school. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. It is not too far a stretch to relate this to your lives in other ways. Discuss the consequences of sexual behavior. Some outcomes are wonderful when they happen at the right time and under the right circumstances. Pregnancy is wonderful when you’re all grown up and married; it is difficult at best when you’re a teenager. Your life will not be ruined but it will be forever altered with the decisions you make now.
Along the lines of actionsÃ¢â?¬Â¦.I have a message especially for fathers of daughters. It’s not all uncommon for a man to notice the beautiful development of his daughter; the female body is lovely. But in the noticing of his daughter, there can be an automatic shameful response that says, “I must be a pervert to even notice these new curves on my own daughter. There must be something wrong with me.” The response to the shame then is to reject his daughter, avoid hugging her, and even project his own shameful feelings onto her. When she no longer feels her father’s adoration, she can start looking for another place to feel that warm, loving comfort.
Bottom line: Preparing your teens to make smart decisions about sex is also preparing them to make smart decisions about life. Help them to be confident in their ability to stand up for themselves, make their own decisions and act on them, and they’ll be ready to strongly face the world.