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From the Front Porch: Sex Education for Teenagers


The Flirtation

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A compelling irony is that we live in an open society that inundates us with sexual expressiveness, yet we seem to have trouble discussing sex with our kids.  Moreover, there is at least some evidence that kids would prefer talking to others and not their parents about sex. One girl, cited in columnist Jan Hoffman in this morning’s New York Times, Sex Education for Teenagers, Online and in Texts (December 31, 2012) reported that her questions are “too gross to ask my parents”. Unable (or unwilling) to talk with their parents about sex, kids are turning to health organizations and public schools via text messaging and the internet for answers to their questions about human sexuality, while some parents express dismay that those same organizations are overstepping their roles in educating their children about sex.

While it is true that parents often regard sex as the most difficult topic to discuss with teenagers, it is equally true that kids don’t want to talk to their parents about sex because they fear being judged or feel their parents will regard their questions as stupid.  A third, but not often cited, reason is that children (especially teenagers) fear that discussing sex with their parents will open the door for parents to peer into their private lives.  And if there is one thing teenagers don’t want, it’s the prying eyes of their parents knowing exactly what they’re doing. Although I have yet to research this phenomenon of privacy issues related to children, this is the most often cited reason senior high school students and college freshmen give me for refusing to talk to their parents about sex.

For whatever reason, it is clear that there is a communication disconnect in the family between parents and their children about human sexuality. While some children must receive sex education outside of the home because their parents are neglectful or they live alone, it is critical that parents who have children at home can take first steps in eliminating the communication disconnect about sexual behavior at an early age by remaining open to their children’s emotional desires and needs and avoiding a judgmental attitude when discussing sex with them.

As a teacher who considers teaching a vocation, that is, a service to God, I offer some guidance about how parents should discuss sex with their children.  These suggestions come from my study of family communication as well as personal experience as a parent. Each point requires more explanation but you will get the general idea:

1. Sex is a beautiful gift given to us by a loving God who wants more than anything for us to connect with each other and Him in a deeply meaningful way. Our human sexuality provides the way for a meaningful, lasting and committed relationship with another person and with God, who is always involved in all of our relationships.

2. Within the proper context of a lifelong committed relationship (marriage), sex is not only meaningful but fun, pleasurable and emotionally satisfying. There is nothing evil about sex whatever. But, like every gift God gives us, we must learn to use human sexuality responsibly.

3. Entering into a sexually committed relationship too soon can lead to emotional trauma. When two people engage in a sexual act, they are communicating all that they are to another person at their deepest, most intimate level, their souls, which comes from and belongs to God. If the relationship doesn’t pan out–and few teenage relationships do–children suffer unnecessary emotional grief at an inappropriate time in their lives. While parents want children to have friends and fun, we should assure our children that there will be ample opportunities in the future for a serious committed relationship and that time is not in their teenage years.

4. Having sex too soon can spoil plans for a successful future through an unwanted pregnancy. Children need to know that condoms are not always a safe-sex solution. I have known seniors in high school who were on the Honor Roll and held membership in the prestigious National Honor Society who became pregnant even though they said that they used condoms and, as a result of the responsibility owed to a newborn child, gave up their scholarships to attend college and pursue a rewarding career.

5. Parents should tell their children about other obvious health risks associated with sexual activity, such as STD’s or worse, AIDS. And what parents really should push home to their children is that, as I indicated earlier, although condoms can spare them some of these health hazards, they are not 100 percent effective in preventing either premature pregnancy or other health risks. The only effective way to control both premature pregnancy and prevent disease is abstinence.

6. Parents should caution their children that sexual activity is not something they do that makes them feel good about themselves but is a serious behavioral step that they must take seriously only when they are ready to make adult decisions with their lives and accept the responsibility associated with a mature, loving, caring, committed relationship.

While there are no guarantees that this discussion will resonate with children, following steps similar to the ones I’ve outline here may at least help parents open the door of communication for their children at an early age to discuss sexual issues with them. If more parents followed a common sense approach to discussing sexual issues with their children, there will be less need for health organizations and public schools to bridge the communication disconnect.

NYT > Today’s Paper: Sex Education for Teenagers, Online and in Texts https://www.google.com/producer/editions/CAowvNkC/nyt_%253E_today%2527s_paper/CAIiEIQOqncnM_W-gnCOLgyY4FgqMggEIhDqvUSb0i44sP8Un_o3nreoKhwIACIQuyFmdF_rGhyO_CRirSEJ0SoGCAowvNkC/sex_education_for_teenagers%252C_onl

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