What We Parents Want for Our Teens
Parenthood – what a responsibility … but what joy! It’s teaching our children to walk and talk, tie their shoes, throw a ball, ride a bike, recite ABCs, and love to read. As they grow, it’s teaching them to drive a car, handle money, cultivate wise friendships, and value themselves.
We’re there for monumental milestones: the first day of school, first recital, first ballgame, prom, graduation. We’re there to teach them patiently, love them abundantly, do all we can daily to grow our children into kind and responsible adults. We want our sons and daughters to experience happy, healthy, and fruitful lives with minimal difficulties and pain. No contest, no dispute! As parents, we’re united in these aspirations.
Yet, when it comes to something as frightfully important and life-changing as sex, there seems to be an innate disconnect between parents and their teens. Parents often assume that their teens are going to learn about sex – somewhere, somehow, or from someone, rather than considering it a privilege to be the one leading the discussion. In today’s sex saturated climate, it’s definitely going to happen, but will the outcome be the one we hoped for? From a parental perspective, it takes far more than just good wishes and inspirational thinking to guarantee our teens will end up on the healthy side of this topic.
What Our Teens Face
In This Sex-Saturated Culture Teens in today’s highly sexualized environment thrive through social networking and other forms of media. Flagrant promiscuous messages bombard them in movies, music, television, and on the internet. Others are less obvious, such as sexual innuendos, stereotypes, and accepted expectations like oral sex, “hooking up,” multiple partners, and living together. These popular sexual trends are alluring to our teens and can change everything about their future in ways that are easily recognizable – broken hearts, teen pregnancy, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and in ways that are more subtle, such as dysfunctional behaviors, addictions, post-abortion syndrome and relationship issues. A teen’s innocence can be easily washed away with the tide of our culture, leading them to believe the propaganda that teen sex is just a normal part of growing up and is consequence-free.
What Our Teens Need
The realization that our young, sweet, innocent sons and daughters will become sexual beings living in our homes with a mind of their own can be a very scary and difficult realization to fully grasp, let alone accept. During this precarious time, our teens need guideposts and warning signs to help them navigate through successfully. But, many parents stand by silently, fearfully hold their breath, and hope their teens will come out of this hormonally-driven stage of life intact. Yet, these are precisely the times when we need to be the most diligent about actively communicating with our teens, even if it’s unpopular, uncomfortable, and – let’s just be honest – tiring.
What Our Teens Want
Teenagers want straight, truthful answers! The old one-time talk about the “birds and the bees” doesn’t adequately cover the true ramifications of teen sex. Your teen will make a decision about sex! Parents can’t wish their way out of this reality. So, consider the consequences of not discussing it. Will teens make an informed decision, or will it be based on hormonal-driven passion of a brief moment? The best protection for preventing such heartache is to break our silence and talk about sex, our values, and our hopes for our teen’s future. A positive and constructive approach to this topic sets the stage for developing open and ongoing conversation. This is crucial, because, let’s face it, the prevention of teen sexual activity yields greater results than risk reduction or even the highest quality of crisis care.
A Bit About This Blog
I am a parent myself, of three daughters. I also direct two medical pregnancy centers; hence I talk to a lot of teens and parents about sex. I know what questions teens are asking, what concerns parents are expressing, and what raw topics our sexualized culture is raising. This blog is to equip the everyday parent to calmly yet confidently have conversations with their teen about sexual activity.
My main goals for this material are to:
- Inform you of current, important facts pertaining to teen sex.
- Remove barriers that keep you from discussing the importance of healthy sexual boundaries, self-respect, and respect for others.
- Equip you with relevant, creative concepts and tools.
I’m keeping the posts short to make them easier to absorb and refer back to specific topics when necessary. I’ll share relevant research, some statistics, and cultural trends. I’ve sought to make this as practical as possible, so I have some bullet-point lists, illustrations, and questions. It’s also important that this be personal. So, I’ll be sharing a few stories from teens and parents who gave me permission because they felt it would be valuable for others to learn from their experiences. Hopefully these frank snapshots of real people I’ve met will encourage you to be proactive in your parenting approach and compassionate to families that are struggling through such scenarios.
Here’s the vulnerable personal story from Suzy, a client I cared for a few years ago. This is a bit heavy, but she felt led to share to her hoping her story might change someone else’s life for the better:
My Message to the Parents of Teens
I’m only 17 years old and I had an abortion this past spring. My baby would be a few months old if only I had the strength to stand up to the social pressures and just give it a chance at life and love. I know a lot of teen girls are either considering abortion or trying to understand it. I hope my willingness to tell my story leads parents to seriously take some time and talk to their teens about sex. When the crisis started I wasn’t able to process through everything the way that I needed to, the way I wish I would have. I made a serious connection with the baby living inside me. I promised I would love it even if its father didn’t approve of its being. But, I aborted when I was nine weeks along.
I am from a solid family, I attend church on a regular basis, and I live in a “good” community and go to a top-notch school. To put this into perspective, I was planning on going to one of the most popular universities in the Southeast, which was one of the major reasons I panicked, when I found out I was pregnant. The other major reason was the father of the baby is Catholic and admitting he got a girl pregnant would not be accepted in his family.
I seriously regret my abortion. It caused me to be depressed and change as a person. I stopped hanging around my friends who tried to make me feel good or happy, because I didn’t think I deserved attention or love. I didn’t tell my parents, they still don’t know, but I’m pretty sure they are wondering why I’m so different. I have increased my alcohol intake significantly, my hope is that it will ease the pain and stop me from remembering what I did.
I wish I would have had the guts to place the baby for adoption, but instead I am unhappy and heading toward a drinking problem, which produces mood swings and depression. I also experience serious anxiety issues. Sometimes I wake up crying and end up missing regular stuff, like my senior graduation party. I have serious sleep issues, I try to shake it off and smile and act like I’m okay, but I really am not.
If you are a parent of a teen, please talk to your son/daughter about sex, before they are pressured to have sex. Encourage them to talk to you about everything and make sure they know that if they get pregnant to tell you, even though it will be really hard. I thought I could live with my abortion, but six months later I’m still upset and I cry a lot. I can’t escape the reminders of what I did. Something will trigger an emotion, even when I’m not thinking about it. Every day I say over and over, “I killed a baby” … seriously, it’s rough, unpleasant, and I can’t escape it. It’s all around me and it will not go away. I still talk to my baby, I think it was a boy, but I will never know. “He” is in heaven now, which is what I tell myself all the time.
I hope someday I can get pregnant and make this all right. I wish I would have not gotten pregnant, but the problem existed before I got pregnant. I wish I wouldn’t have had sex!
What this young girl wanted at the moment outweighed what could have been in the future. The desire to feel wanted and loved became an obstacle in her path. Suzy had to learn some really important life lessons at a very young age and in an extremely difficult way.
Thankfully, there is hope, she is currently looking forward, willing to learn and working on a new outlook on life, one day at a time. Notice her comment directly to parents. She says, “If you are the parent of a teen, please talk to your son/daughter about sex, BEFORE they are pressured to have sex.” Suzy’s challenge for parents to be proactive and discuss sex with their teens incentivized me to simplify the process for parents.
There are times when I’ll be rather blunt, because there is no other way to equip parents to discuss these crucial issues without doing so. We need honesty and candor in a conversation as serious as this for the sake and safety of our teens, and even for the future well-being of our grandchildren. It may be hard now, but as we guide our teens through the minefield of sexual temptation and changing cultural mores, we should be confident that someday, probably a little later in life, our teen will appreciate that we had enough courage to do so.
Onward and upward!
|A teen can choose their sexual choices, but can’t choose their consequences|
|A teen can choose their sexual choices, but can’t choose their consequences|