Confessions of a Dreamer
It is because of this that talking to your daughter or son about sex and being proactive instead of reactive when it comes to their sexual health is so important.
Long before we experience sex, we begin to have thoughts and feelings that unless addressed can often be misinterpreted as shameful or wrong. Without the chance to talk to role models like our parents, teens are left to try to sort out and often act out on these feelings. It is the equivalent of doing the high dive off a tight rope with no safety net to catch you.
Talking about basic things, like good oral hygiene, dressing properly for the weather and doing your homework are as natural to a parent as breathing. When it comes to the topic of sex, however, many of us are suddenly filled with trepidation and worry.
Many of us grew up in a don’t ask don’t tell household, where sex was a taboo topic whispered about in the corner with your brother or sister but never spoken about directly with your mom or dad. We get that knot in our belly with the very thought of our little girl or boy leaving childhood behind and forging straight ahead into adulthood. In a perfect world, teens would wait until their minds have caught up with their bodies. They would wait until they could mentally process the conflicting emotions that are part and parcel with being sexually active. Sadly, however, most do not. Take a look at some statistics from a recent study on teen sexuality:
As frightening as these statistics are they are proven, documented facts. Do these mean that your child is among them?
Is he or she one of the 50%? Perhaps yes, perhaps no, but opening the door to talk about these issues is always better than guessing.
Sexual messages from print campaigns featuring half-naked models to innuendos in commercials are not random instances or isolated cases, they are part of every day 21st century living. Giving kids tools to be educated, informed and empowered tells them we trust their ability to make smart, informed decisions about their own bodies.
Reflecting on my own experiences as a teen parent has given me a unique perspective on this issue. A junior in high school, barely 16, I had to grow up fast trading in my cabbage patch dolls for baby strollers and diapers. Working a full-time job, dealing with 3 am feedings, getting up at 6 to get ready for another day of high school, even being emancipated….these are the realities of adult decision-making without understanding adult consequences. It is not the glamorous version that you see on MTV or in sitcoms. Add into the equation the large number of kids who go each year with undiagnosed STD’s and the need for dialogue is not just needed, it is necessary.
So mom, dad, in conclusion, don’t be afraid to talk about sex. Your kids want to know what you think. They may act goofy, or embarrassed or even roll their eyes but this is one issue where you voice does count, where it truly does matter.
Whether you feel strongly about teaching abstinence or educating them on ways to protect themselves, they can and do want to listen to what you have to say. Sex will always be an integral part of human nature, it is up to us to get the conversation going in the right direction.