In Part 1, we discussed why itís important to talk to your teenagers about sex, and for good reason. Recent studies by the Center for Disease Control and Stanford University predict that up to 50 percent of todayís college-aged young adults are destined to get an sexually transmitted disease (STD) by the age of 25, and the United States still has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the developed world, accounting for 10 percent of live births in 2010. The most important bottom line of all these recent studies is that these eye-opening statistics are a direct result of a lack of basic sex education. Face it, no one is in this country is comfortable when talking about sexÖ especially to your children.
The Problem With Schools
While schools try to educate our teenagers, they are limited by the conservative backlash of our cultureóand as we all know, education begins at home. Your kids, no matter how old they are, should value your opinion and trust you to have all the information they need. When it comes to reliable and accurate information about sex, they need to be able to turn to you and your spouse. Yet, todayís young adults do not feel comfortable asking their parents about sex, so itís important that either you or your spouse start the conversation. More importantly, you need to be prepared to deliver that information with confidence and without judgment. The time has come for you and your spouse to build the bridge between you and your teenaged children, creating the bond of trust and honesty that will forge your new relationship, as adults to adults.
Getting to the Point
We realize this is easier said than done. For some of you, this discussion is riddled with your own fears about them becoming sexual before they are ready, as well as the possible moral dilemma based on religious beliefs. We want to make this clear: there is absolutely no statistical proof that talking to your kids about sex will encourage them to become sexual. There is proof that not talking about safe sex can have disastrous consequences, like the fact that 26 percent of kids who take a vow of abstinence become pregnant within one year, and the fact that the fastest growing risk group for all STDs is kids 15-24 years old. The "Just Say No" attitude doesnít work, and results in young people doing their own research using unreliable sources including porn, the internet and each other. Information is power, and you should be their source of accurate information, whether you get that information from your own experience or from your local family planning center.
So how do you start this conversation?
First, you and your spouse need to decide whether to have this conversation as a team or if the same gender parent of the teen is more appropriate for you. Itís important that your teenagers see you as a happy, romantic and sexual coupleóthat is one of the joys of marriage.
Second, do your research. The most informative and accurate resource for all things sexual is Planned Parenthood or your local family planning or STD clinic, and all of their brochures are usually free. You will also find information for lesbian/gay/bisexual teens to keep them safe and healthy. Brochures are great because they are short, filled with content and get right to the point. Teenagers donít have the time or patience to read a whole book, even if itís about their favorite topic.
What to Talk About and How to Talk About It
The topics that need to be covered include touching genitals with hands, oral sex, anal sex, vaginal/penile intercourse and the proper use of barrier protection (condoms and dental dams) for all of the above. (FYI: Oral sex is not safe sex and STDs can be transmitted and carried by either gender. Many young people today are practicing anal penetration in heterosexual relationships because they think this will "preserve their virginity." This is a dangerous practice, because the anus has no natural lubrication, making it a perfect host for injury and the spread of disease. Safe sex is mandatory for anal sex!) You need to read these brochures first, so you can answer any questions that might be put to you after they are consumed. You are opening up the lines of communication, not having just one conversation, so be prepared to continue this dialog over time. If you find that you are confused, imagine how confused teens are with all of the mixed information and mixed messages about human pleasure.
There is also sexual information that your kids want and need that may not be in the brochures. Most conversations do not include information about the clitoris and how itís the main focus of female pleasure. For those of you with daughters, itís vital that you talk about understanding where female pleasure comes from. Masturbation is vital for young women to understand how their bodies work, and itís just as normal for girls as it is for boys. Placing the responsibility for female pleasure on her partner has cost previous generations of women the opportunity to take responsibility for their pleasure, as well as the opportunity to celebrate their sexuality. It has also led to increased divorces from lack of sexual compatibility.
Heterosexual young men need to understand how womenís bodies work too, so they can learn to slow down and take the time to explore a partnerís body at her pace. Masturbation for young men is a great way to control their urges, lessen aggression and take the hormonal urgency out of their interactions with possible partners. For young adults, understanding how their bodies work is one huge step towards valuing themselves. Boosting their self-esteem is a huge part of navigating adolescence, and learning to love ourselves is the core of sexual pleasure for both genders.
Talking to teens that are questioning their sexuality can be difficult, but may save your teenís life. Gay teens are four times more likely to attempt suicide and twice as likely to succeed as their straight friends. From a sexology perspective, questioning sexuality while going through sexual development is normal. You still have to talk to them about sexual responsibility and they will choose their orientation when they are ready.
More Than Just Facts
There is another part to this conversation that is more than just giving them facts. Itís vital that you attempt to teach your teenagers about the difference between being sexual (hooking up) and making a connection with another person. While their bodies are screaming with the urgency of rushing hormones, many young adults are not mature enough, emotionally or psychologically, for a sexual relationship. Unfortunately that wonít stop them from being sexual.
Making wiser decisions comes from having accurate information, so you need to communicate how being sexual with another person directly affects your self- esteem and leaves you vulnerable. Sharing your body means that you open yourself up to the possibility for pleasure, as well as the possibility of being emotionally hurt. Itís important that young adults understand that being sexual feels great, but when you care for someone and they care for youówhen you can trust that person with your heartósex can be magical. If youíre comfortable doing so, now is a great time to share your personal experiences with your young adults. Explain to them how incredible the combination of love, commitment and sex is and how itís worth waiting for. They may not wait as long as you would like, but they will remember what you said. Be honest and open with your children, and they, in turn, will come to you with their questions and concerns in the future.
The key from this point forward is to keep the lines of communication open. Young adults need to feel like they can come to you no matter what, and that you wonít freak out or lock them in their room until they turn 40. We know you might want toójust resist the urge to retreat. Stay committed to keeping your kids safe and informed and you will enjoy a long and happy relationship with them that is based on honesty and trust. And donít be surprised that when the time comes your kids will come to you when itís their turn to talk to their kids about safe and healthy sexuality. Your babies donít stay babies forever.