While I understand everyone’s frustration and anxiety in regards to a Teen’s sexuality and pregnancy, I think the general idea that is being construed amongst adults is: Our teens are sexually inactive…until they turn up pregnant.
Yes, you may have the talk with your teen in hopes to scare the bejesus out of them or give them an iota of common sense and decency, the reality of the matter is, they will still be curious, they will still feel pressure, and they will still act.
I think in order for us to control this epidemic, we must first come to terms with the fact that teens have more on their minds than academics and make-up.
For instance, I grew up in Brentwood New York, where teen pregnancy, even ten + years ago was an issue and more of a normal way of life. I am not condoning it by any means, but I did work for my high school in the counselor’s office setting up meetings, writing passes, and making up reading packets for the pregnant teens at my school.
Some of the young girls, mostly the Hispanic girls, were married young and were starting their family with their husbands. They were finishing school and would soon go on to living their lives as is natural for their culture. The Black pregnant teens were either conned by some Casanova roaming the halls looking for his next victim, abused and/or raped and forced into their pregnancy, or suffered from lack of a father figure and searched for love in the wrong places. While the groups were always of mixed nationalities, there was always a unique story behind their predicament and it helped to serve as a mental birth control for myself.
Around that time I had been going through my own inner battle. I was blossoming and my nerves were on edge. I was becoming aware of my body and a new craving to me known as desire.
Every teen goes through this but at different times based on their body’s schedule. I experienced it from the age of fifteen, but due to my own personal demons I mostly ignored it until I was about seventeen and my body was persistently telling me what it wanted.
It was a blessing to me to be able to work with the pregnant teens in my school because as they say (and I can attest to how true it is) mind over matter. And my psychological recognition of what was going on around me empowered me to abstain.
However, that can’t be said for all teens. What we as parents and all other adults need to realize is not all teens can control their urges. More often these urges mixed with peer pressure, lack of self esteem and motivation can have a disastrous outcome. And parents aren’t always to blame.
I hate it when people say “it’s a lack of home training” or “what are their parents teaching them?” or “where were their parents? Why can’t they control their kid?”
We as parents, can give our children the “talk” the “tools” and the knowledge. But as the saying goes- You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. There are countless parents who do give the talk, who give their children promise rings, take the pledge and try motivational tools to help them abstain. But you can’t control or influence every aspect of the child’s life, especially when they are not within your care 24/7.
Teens go to school, they have friends, and they may or may not partake in after school activities. And if they misbehave what options of punishment do they have? Take away the x-box, take away the cell phones, ground them, take them to counseling….that’s all well and good if you have a child that will react positively to these punishments and actually listen. But what if they don’t? What happens? They end up humiliated, regretful, pregnant or with an STD.
This is life. And what we have to understand is sometimes you can give your child the best of everything- education, love, materialistic items, care…but ultimately it is their life and they will live it regardless of their parents beliefs, rules or thoughts. And we HAVE to let them make mistakes. If you have given them every bit of knowledge you possess, what else can you do?
You can’t lock them up, that’s child abuse, and endangerment and lord knows what else. You can’t slap the crap out of them or they will run away and call CPS. You can take away everything that you worked so hard to give them, but ultimately what is that solving? What will that do but give the hormonal adolescent more ammunition to go out there and do horrible things to themselves and their lives to spite you as a parent?
So instead of focusing on what is out of our control, let’s focus on arming ourselves with the proper knowledge, advice and ways to give them one thing we can do- Make them aware by being aware ourselves.
We have already come to terms with the fact that with their body’s changes they will experience different thoughts and desires. What we need to do now is familiarize ourselves with these desires, their world and come up with the best informative tool to give them a better perspective. What I see this as, is giving them “Life Priority Goals” something like a life schematic to help them find reason and rationality when faced with their teen life obstacles.
1) Hormones, cravings and desires- give a detailed explanation for what this is, what it may feel like and how to determine if it needs to be satisfied. As parents we know what this feels like, our bodies are used to it but it may be frightening to them. And if not properly explained the minds curiosity may get the best of them and they could act.
2) Peer Pressure- Let them know that they don’t have to do exactly what their BFF is doing. Set rules and goals. Example- Cary may be able to wear make-up at 16 because her parents allow it, but we had a talk and our household decided that seventeen is the best age for us. If you stick to that stipulation and aren’t doing it behind my back but being honest, withholding and listening to our households guidelines, not only will you be able to wear the make-up we allow, but we can also add a trip to the mall for a make-up lesson at Macy’s and I will allow your curfew to be amended with an extra half hour.
In other words give incentive for positive milestones and obedience.
3) Predator awareness- Now I don’t mean the predators we worried about when they were young children, although they should still be weary of them. I am talking about that over hormonal boy or girl in their school that bounces from victim to victim, telling them what they want to hear, buying them things and then ultimately professing their love or hate when they are ready for the consolation prize. This goes a long way with arming your teen with positive body image, self esteem and verbal/visual cues to look for in this type of predator. Teens are naturally unsure of themselves, especially in this day and age where looks are a deciding factor in friendships and courtships. Unhealthy relationships flourish when one is in self doubt or hatred and we must recognize any signs of this in our teens in order to prevent it.
4) Mental/Emotional/Physical priority- I waited until my early twenties when I was in college to finally allow myself to wallow in my urges. By making teens aware of their mental state, emotional state, and physical state in that exact order, they will be able to make a better judgment call for when they are ready. Explain that while their body may be ready, they need to be absolutely sure they can mentally and emotionally handle it. If they have any type of doubt then they are not ready. They especially need to be aware that once they open themselves to sexual activity at such a young age they are setting themselves up for disappointment, heart ache, lack of commitment, and ridicule. This would be a great time to include cyber bullying, reputation and rumors, and the mental affects serious relationships, attachments and remorse will have on their psyche. Also explain the pressure one is putting on their body’s expectations for more and how the lack of a committed partner can adversely affect them. Relationships come and go but dealing with lack of fidelity or frequent partners will ultimately hurt them more mentally and emotionally than they are ready to acknowledge.
They may even try to argue that they have had “boyfriends” or “girlfriends” and can handle it. But adding sex to an already emotional mixture is not healthy for them or their frail egos. Hey, even adults can’t handle break ups mixed where they had an intimate relationship. How can they expect to handle it? I am not downing their intelligence or maturity in no way, but they have enough time in their life to experience this part of adulthood. Express the need for time and exploration. Enjoy the milestones of being a teenager without adding more stress to it.
5) Birth control/STD/Pregnancy- I believe after you have the most important talks as listed above, you can then broach the subject of Birth control, protection against STD’s and pregnancy. I believe this should be saved for last because ultimately we have to consider that sometimes when broaching this subject teens might take it as a “hall pass” to perform the act- go out and just do it. By tackling everything else first, we have led the way to a more open minded, thought provoking stimulant that may very well make them think twice and give them the tools needed to make an adult-like conscious decision to abstain.
6) Sex on Life’s Priority Goal List- Once the talk has finished, have them write down goals for their life. And once they have thought and focused on the path they want to be on, ask them to write where on that priority list they see themselves fitting in sex. You may have asked yourself why would they do this or will they answer honestly. They may or may not, but I will tell you this, they will have thought it through enough by writing this list to see what means the most to them and if ultimately sex can wait.
With me, I waited until I was out of high school, away from friends who were active, away from pressures of being a teen and focused on new pressures like college, work, and finding myself before I thought about doing the deed.
When you have your life in perspective you will have a better idea of what milestones are important to you and where everything will fit in its own time. By sharing this tool with our teens and loved ones, we are giving them a moment to sit back and see their life the way they want it. We aren’t forcing our views on them, demanding anything of them, or pressuring them to do anything other than look at the bigger picture.
By giving them an in-depth talk, we are also opening communication on topics that they may feel scared or worried to approach. We don’t want them going to friends; unless they have their path all together and prioritized they won’t be able to give solemn advice.
Also remember as a parent we experienced these same feelings ourselves, we made our own mistakes, but it is a way of life and showing our teens how to manage is the best tool we can give them. They don’t need criticism or harsh words. If they have already had sex, say you just want to make sure everything is alright, mentally and emotionally, because who knows, they may have met their first predator and need a shoulder, not a wagging finger of judgment.
The major thing we have to tackle with our teens is lack of communication because of misunderstandings. Teens have so much pressure, judgment and insecurities from their peers, they don’t need someone who is supposed to love them to kick them when they are down. They need love, support and guidance.
Some of the things I didn’t cover in this article is Religious aspects and reports on teen pregnancy. While I feel they are important, I wanted to give an authentic and genuine article of a different perspective. Not another read filled with ratios, statistics and garble nobody is really interested in. However, if you would like to know what we are up against, take a look at the CDC website for information on the epidemic- http://www.cdc.gov/teenpregnancy/
Some other good articles and sites on the topic:
Sex education: Talking to your teen about sex
Books for having the talk with your teen:
The Teen Code: How to Talk to Them about Sex, Drugs, and Everything Else Product Description: In the first book to ever take us inside the teen mind to help us understand these topics their point of view, parents will discover how to establish an environment of honesty and open dialogue in their homes so they can better guide their kids through the rocky road of adolescence.
How to Talk to Teens About Really Important Things Product Description: Advice for adults hoping to talk with teenagers on such sometimes difficult subjects as depression, ethics, prejudice, sexuality, and violence.
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk Product Description: There is a way to bridge the generation gap, say child experts Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, and the methods they describe in this book have been used by many parents. They teach communication and discipline without alienating kids and aggravating the problem.
Xtreme Talk: Real Answers to the Issues Teens Face Straight talk can be found in this book for parents.
Talking with Your Kids about Sex
Getting Your Teen to Listen Without Eye Rolls, Sighs, and Tmi
How to Talk with Teens about Love, Relationships, and S-E-X : A Guide for Parents - 02 edition by Amy Miron and Charles Miron http://www.textbooks.com/BooksDescription.php?BKN=561671&kpid=9781575421025M&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=9781575421025M&utm_source=googleshopping&kenshu=687e30c0-db87-5068-a23b-00001400a7da&gclid=CMWUo_2cjLkCFRGg4Aod2QgAZg
I Want to Talk with My Teen About Love, Sex and Dating By: Dr. Karl Wendt, Shannon Wendt
More in I Want to Teach My Child About... Series
Take the pledge as a parent taking an active role in making your teen aware. We can give them they tools, show them how to fly, but it’s up to them to make the effort and succeed in their life.