Talking to you about talking to your teen.
- Do you know what media your teen is looking at
- Do you know your teens friends
- Do you know about frontal lobe development and other developmental markers
- Do you know your teen wants to talk to you about sex
Teens today have so much more to overcome than did earlier generations. If you said yes to sex in the 70s or 80s and feel hypocritical telling your teen to abstain now, know that it's a different world . Parents teach their children to avoid their past mistakes in other areas, why not with sexual activity.
Kids today are connected to so many different media outlets. They are exposed to approximately 40 hrs of media per week. Media is sex saturated, and pornography is easily available. Your kids may be learning things about sex from TV that you don't approve. A Rand study showed adolescents who watch large amounts of TV containing sexual content are twice as likely to begin engaging in sexual intercourse the following year as their peers who watch little TV.
Their biology is also working against them. One hundred years ago the average age of menarche was 16, today it's 12. One hundred years ago the average age of marriage was 18, today it's 26. We are complex beings: physical, social, emotional, and spiritual. The physical develops first and we have to wait for the rest to catch up. Today we are asking young people to wait much longer.
There is also new data on frontal lobe development. We now know the frontal lobe isn't fully developed until mid 20s. This is the area of the brain where decision making, weighing consequences, impulse control and delayed gratification and many other functions occur. Some parents think they can step back on parenting when their child becomes a teen, but they need your guidance and direction well into their 20s. Directive education means pointing them in the direction you want them to go, letting them know abstinence is the best choice.
It is important to know who your child's friends are. Peer pressure can work in both directions. Peer pressure can be a positive influence if your child has friends who have the same values as you want for your teen. Get to know your child's friends.
In the 60s there were only two STDs and they were both easily cured with a shot of penicillin. Now there are more than 25 significant STDs and there are new found consequences to known STDs. Today there are bacterial, fungal, protozoan, parasitic and many viral STDs. Some bacterial STDs are becoming resistant to antibiotics and viruses have no cure. Some viral STDs can cause life threatening diseases such as AIDS and cancer. Teen age girls bear the brunt of the damage from STDs suffering cervical cancer, and PID pelvic inflammatory disease which can cause infertility, chronic abdominal pain and ectopic pregnancy. Teenagers make up only 25% of the sexually active population but are infected with half of the STDs. Condoms offer only limited protection against STDs. They may reduce the risk for some but they don't eliminate it. The only 100% effective prevention is abstinence until marriage.
When a teen gets pregnant there are no good choices. Statistically speaking 50% parent, 20% abort and 14% miscarry 10% place for adoption. All choices have difficulties, and our staff at the pregnancy center would be happy to walk you through the pros and cons if you need this service. Again it's the girls who bear the weight of a teen pregnancy. Most teen fathers do not have a relationship with their children and only a few will marry the mother. More than 80% of teen mothers end up on welfare and 7 out of 10 never finish high school.
The emotional and social consequences of teen sex are not often addressed. Science is just beginning to understand the biochemical and hormonal effects on bonding and imprinting. It is known that oxytocin and vasopressin are hormones that play a role in bonding as well as neurochemicals dopamine and serotonin. We do know that bonding and attachments happen in relationships and when the relationship breaks the brain registers emotional pain the same as it does physical pain.
There are some protective factors that research has shown. Parent child connectedness is strongly related to adolescent delays in first sexual intercourse. Religious training, positive peer influence and school connectedness are also important predictive factors. The parent-child relationship is the key. You must connect emotionally with your child, they must feel loved. Josh McDowell, a nationally know youth speaker and author, has famously said "Rules without relationship equals rebellion." Children are more likely to listen and adopt your values if they feel you care about them and have a strong relationship. It is a fine balance between being supportive and monitoring behavior. Too strict or too permissive lead to increase in risky behavior.
Because their frontal lobe is not yet fully developed, they need guidance and direction. Help them practice refusal skills at home. Give them practical advice and dating guidelines. Debunk the myth that everyone is doing it, the reality is that more teens are choosing abstinence. Teach good character and morals, it doesn't just happen, it has to be modeled and purposefully taught. Put abstinence in a positive light. You want what is best for your kids, you are not trying to take all the fun away, you want them to be free to be the best they can be, to reach their full potential, to pursue their goals and dreams in life such as education, career, and family.
You do matter. Your teen wants to talk about sex with you and learn your values, and many teens say that their parents had the most influence on their decisions about sex.